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Reporter's Notebook: Summaries of Monday ATD 2019 Sessions

Monday, May 20, 2019

Manage Your Stress and Happiness May Follow

On Monday, Barbara Teicher, international keynote speaker, author, and coach, led a quick “Bring Home the Bacon Without Getting Fried Yourself!” that was held on the Wellness Stage in the EXPO hall. During the session, Teicher offered tips on how to reduce one’s stress level—and potentially the level of those around you. She also spoke to making small differences, echoing some of Oprah Winfrey’s themes of the morning.

Doing small acts of kindness can make a difference in both your life and others’ lives. Teicher gave an example of ordering a latte and having her credit card turned down because of fraudulent charges. She handed another credit card to the barista, but the coffee worker told Teicher not to worry about it. Teicher assumed the barista thought Teicher couldn’t afford coffee. After intermediary discussion, the barista finally said, “Maybe I just want to!”

Those small acts of kindness are best done when it feels good. When it does, “you’re doing the right thing,” she said. When you’re feeling like you’re doing too many, you’re adding additional stress to your life. One tip to reduce stress: at least once a week doing one thing you love that doesn’t cost anything.

Managers can have conversations with their direct reports, who may be overdoing it. The manager should first show appreciation of her staffer and then talk through some ideas for alleviating the workload.

Do You Get Tech?

Digital technology has become essential to L&D. In “Learning in the Age of Immediacy: How the Digital Transformation Transforms Training,” Brandon Carson of Delta Airlines discussed many of the challenges learning leaders have with digital technology and the steps they must take to overcome them.

Carson noted that artificial intelligence (AI), cloud, and big data must be integral parts of an organization’s strategy. When used effectively, adaptive learning has the ability to increase revenue, decrease cost, and reduce risk; yet, many companies fail to do so. In his session, Carson noted a survey report, which indicated that only 53 percent of responding chief human resource officers are reasonably or highly confident in their ability to capitalize on these capabilities, but these are needed for them to effectively lead L&D.


Among the trouble spots that Carson mentioned were the use of too much training content, bad data with a lack of insight, lots of technology with little time for them, and small teams with big ambitions. He recommended pushing for AI-driven learner personalization, better-informed data, learning ecologies, smaller teams with executable strategies, and new roles that emphasize data analytics and automation.

For more insight on the topic, check out Carson’s book, Learning in the Age of Immediacy: 5 Factors for How We Connect, Communicate, and Get Work Done.

New Methods for Managers

In “10 Surprising Things Highly Successful Leaders Do Differently,” Kevin Kruse, CEO of LEADx, debunked many of the myths surrounding business leadership. Kruse believes that, while some rules are necessary, they are generally counterproductive.

Rather than setting boundaries, many rules serve as permission to approach the brink of the threshold without surpassing it. They also take power away from employees. In lieu of rules, people should have conversations about whether something is right or wrong. Often, rules are discovered to be in place because they were once needed but have since become outdated. He even uses this rule-less technique with his children—including no curfew—and said it is remarkably effective.


Kruse also discussed how leadership isn’t optional—any situation in which you have influence is an act of leadership. Your action and inaction toward an issue will always have an impact. He also mentioned that leaders should strive to be likeable, not liked. Many young leaders, in particular, tend to be people pleasers instead of addressing the “need to lead right.”

In addition, he advised closing your open-door policy and promoting office hours and weekly meetings instead; playing favorites by focusing on developing high performers; and being transparent to build trust. More of his techniques are also detailed in his book, Great Leaders Have No Rules.

Believe in the BLA

Trainers and instructional designers are increasingly finding their roles shifted toward a consultant focus, presenting many challenges within talent development. Kevin Metsers of Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Marie Wehrung of Rice University led ATD 2019’s first Forum session, “Business Learning Advisors: Impactful Upskilling,” which focused on the need for a business learning advisor in organizations, along with how to develop them. The Forum is a consortium of senior talent development leaders who come together to connect, collaborate, and share learnings.

At the core, BLAs are trusted, go-to business guides who add value to driving performance using a deep knowledge of learning theory and practices to develop people. They should have a keen understanding of the organizational system and market trends that influence enterprise results, ultimately driving long-term success, not simply addressing ad hoc issues. Since the BLA position is a fairly novel concept, the session included a group activity of creating personas for what this role may look like.

One of the major gaps that BLAs are currently faced with relates to aligning the learning product and services with organizational strategies. Among the resources available to overcome the existing deficiency is ATD’s Managing Learning Programs Certificate program, as well as the TD at Work issue “A Strategic Approach to Talent Development.”

About the Author

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.

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