How Being a Mom Made Me a Better Facilitator

happy-18th-birthday-Meghan

Today – January 28th – is my daughter’s 18th birthday. As this milestone has approached, I have been exceedingly reflective (read: sappy and emotional). Naturally, I’ve been thinking of how quickly she has grown up and what an incredible young adult (gulp) she has become, and how many exciting things are in store for her this year – a trip to Haiti in March to work in an orphanage, high school graduation in May and starting college in August, just to name a few.

Also, while I’m reminiscing, I’ll put this out there: I actually went into labor with her on Sunday, January 26, 1997 – Super Bowl Sunday (yes, it took that long). The New England Patriots LOST that night (!!!). So, no offense to any of you New Englanders, but maybe history will repeat itself THIS weekend, even though they’re playing the Seahawks this year; in 1997, the Green Bay Packers hoisted the Lombardi trophy.

Yes, I’m from Indy and a big Colts fan. No, I’m not rooting against the Patriots because of the now-infamous “Deflategate” controversy. I’m rooting against them because that’s what we do here in Indy…we love the Colts, and whoever beats the Patriots.

I digress. This post isn’t about the Colts. Or the Patriots. Or Deflategate. This one is dedicated to my best girl, Meghan.

mom-and-meg-january-2015

Meghan was a very little girl when I began my career in workplace learning. I’ve learned so much since those early days. Technology has changed as well – making our jobs easier in some ways, more complex in others. Through it all, the fundamental rules of adult learning and leading engaging training experiences haven’t changed that much, but I have learned how to be a more effective facilitator…and I believe being this girl’s (and her brother’s!) mom has contributed to this in a few ways:

1. I’ve learned how to prioritize.

Whether managing the day job + kids’ sports + household chores + homework + this blog + a multitude of other activities, it’s critical to prioritize the need-to-happens and balance the want-to-happens. The same goes for leading a training session – often, we are faced with more content than we have facilitation time. Or more requests than we can allocate resources. We must be skilled at not only asking good questions during the needs analysis/instructional design processes, but carving out learning opportunities to maximize the time spent with participants.

2. I’ve learned how to put others’ needs ahead of my own.

As a parent, it never really seems to be about you, does it? The same goes for facilitation…sometimes, facilitators tend to embrace the “stage” aspect of the job. While that’s great, it’s important to remember that we are there to support and engage learners. It’s all about them. All the time. The best learning professionals understand and embrace this.

3. I’ve learned how to listen. Like, really listen.

Sometimes, it’s not about what’s being said….it’s about what’s not being said. I’ve been there for my kids through sniffles and puppy love, homework stress and sports drama. Kids don’t always just come out and say what’s on their mind (particularly when they become teenagers!). Consider your participants…they don’t always speak up when they don’t understand. They don’t always know what to ask. Anticipate this, be observant, and listen with intention.

 

I don’t know if Meghan will ever see this post…high school seniors aren’t exactly the target demographic for this little blog. But this post is dedicated to my beautiful, dynamic daughter. Pretty much the funniest person I know. Wise beyond her years. Responsible AND adventurous. Happy 18th birthday, sweet girl!

Meg-18th-birthday-collage

5 Leadership Lessons from Peyton Manning

leadership-lessons-from-peyton-manning

Playoff time has arrived, my friends. Regardless of what team you might be rooting for, I don’t think anyone could argue that the Denver Broncos are having an impressive year. At the forefront of this franchise is the one and only Peyton Manning, QB extraordinaire.

You could say I’m a little bit of a Peyton Manning fan. I know I’m not alone. I live in Indianapolis, home of the Colts, where Manning led the team for well over a decade and brought our team back from near-obscurity.

But now he’s with the Broncos….sure, it was a sad day in Indy when he left, but I think a lot of Colts fans understood the succession-planning move by letting him go. And I’d have to say people are pretty pleased with the new kid on the line of scrimmage, Andrew Luck. (Sidenote: Did anyone see that Colts/Chiefs game the other night? What a win!)

andrew-luck-touchdown

But this one is about Peyton. Over the years, Peyton Manning has demonstrated impressive leadership qualities; both on and off the field.  Regardless of what your role is in the learning industry, or whether you are a even a football fan at all, there are 5 simple leadership lessons you can apply:

1. Know your craft, inside and out.

Who will go down in history as the “greatest QB of all time”?  There are a number of opinions on that one. But few players are students of the game like Peyton Manning. On the sidelines, you will see Peyton studying plays, reading the defense, anticipating what will happen next. Off the field, he watches film and studies his opponents to a degree that few match.

How well do you know your role? Your team? Your company? Your industry? Your customer? As learning professionals, I think we can all agree that there is always something to learn.

2. Be open to coaching and feedback.

I often wonder what a coach thinks about being Peyton Manning’s coach. Like a trainer leading a classroom full of SMEs, wondering, “What am I going to teach these people that they don’t already know?” But if you see Peyton on the sidelines with his coaches, you often see communication and dialogue. It’s a mutually respectful relationship.

Even after being in our field for many years, we should always be receptive to feedback – whether about how we facilitate, develop content or lead teams.

3. Don’t let setbacks or mistakes define you.

Peyton Manning will not go down in NFL history books, remembered for throwing the occasional interception. He won’t be remembered (negatively) for his neck injury, multiple surgeries or being released by the Colts. He will be remembered as a consistently impressive performer on the field. As a philanthropic member of his community. As an intelligent, well-spoken person who represented his team with class.

The point here? Even when your project or role doesn’t progress the way you anticipated, don’t let that define your career path. Learn from the mistakes and move past the setbacks.

4. Raise the bar.

Just like I wonder what it’s like to be Peyton Manning’s coach, I also wonder what it’s like to be a teammate. I mean – you’re out there with Peyton Manning. How does that NOT motivate a player to do his best?

How are you raising the bar on your team? Do you motivate others to do their best?

5. Have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously.

Let’s face it. He’s a funny guy. We cracked up watching him host Saturday Night Live, and he has been on more television commercials than I can list. The guy has a good sense of humor, and can poke a little fun at himself.

That’s important for a leader. Lighten up – have a little fun!

So whether you’re a facilitator, instructional designer or training manager…or maybe you’re not even in the learning field at all…consider these leadership lessons and what you can bring to your role, team and organization.

And while I’m certainly okay with Peyton and the Broncos doing well in the Playoffs, I must end with this:

Go Colts!!