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How to Make Bold Moves as a Learning Leader

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Tue May 14 2024

How to Make Bold Moves as a Learning Leader
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It was October of 2020—the full-blown COVID era—and I was contacted by a colleague I’d met through the iPEC certification process. She was returning to work from maternity leave at a major tech company, after giving birth to her third child. At the time, she was responsible for L&D for 12,000 leaders in a global organization.

She had an IDEA.

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Our meeting spot was her front porch with a four-month-old adorable baby in her car seat, rocking just six feet away from my reach. That restraint was brutal!

How to Make Bold Moves as a Learning Leader -Ramona Arora.jpg

The idea was to transform antiquated animated video training developed for rising leaders, and to convert effective messaging into live-action film (because the current delivery method was unengaging, uninspiring, and outdated). She gave me her budget and timeline, which were both a massive stretch. But we did it—on time and within budget.

I’m talking about Ramona Arora, formerly the chief learning officer at Dell Technologies, now the vice president of learning & talent solutions at Disney. In 2022, she was awarded Chief Learning Officer of the Year.

Why is Ramona so stellar at what she does? The simple answer is that she thinks and behaves like an entrepreneur, and she makes bold moves. Instead of questioning, “Why should we do this or that?" she challenges with, “Why shouldn't we?” She takes calculated risks and gets others excited about their work. And, she sees her vision through.

There are four characteristics learning leaders should emulate if they want to make a difference. (Isn’t that what we’re here for?) The four characteristics are ways of thinking and being:

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  • Innovative

  • Daring

  • Energetic

  • Accountable

If you want to make a difference at your organization to inspire others to take action and to “move the needle,” then these are the behaviors that you should consider adopting.

BE Innovative: This word can be overused but should not be underestimated. In observing Ramona, innovative behavior looks like this:

Ramona: “Hey I saw this piece, and it got me thinking. I have this idea that I think can work.”

Then Ramona talks through her idea, and the idea is not random. It always maps to her strategy, and by the time she verbalizes the idea, she has baked it for a while and has thought it through.

BE Daring: Making the parallel to entrepreneurship, entrepreneurs at their core are risk takers. Being a risk taker does not mean betting the farm with wild abandon. Risk taking is being comfortable with the unknown, and betting on yourself and the team around you. Being a risk taker also requires confidence and thick skin.

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Be confident in your decision making, and not influenced by naysayers who either don’t have the guts or the data that you do. They also may be more comfortable with the status quo and playing safely.

BE Energetic: There are few people I know who have the capacity for consistent high energy like Ramona. But the magic in her energy is that she energizes others with her vision and enthusiasm about the possibilities. She believes in people and shares her enthusiasm freely. If you can’t get excited about the work you’re doing, then why should others?

BE Accountable: Ideas are free, and people have lots of ideas. It’s the ability to execute those ideas that makes the difference. Execution requires accountability, and seeing ideas and projects through entails heavy lifting.

Be “pot committed” as they say in poker. A funny definition of pot committed is that “you know your odds of winning the hand are good, and that you are somewhat competent at math.”

In closing, sometimes working in big organizations can drain the entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to feel nimble. But you’re different, and you want more. Take a page from Ramona’s playbook and go for it! Now what’s your big idea?

In my next “episode” I interview Ramona to understand her perspective on the top three skills a learning leader should develop to be on top of their game.

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