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Reporter's Notebook: Highlights of Monday's ATD21 Education Sessions

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Mon Aug 30 2021

Reporter's Notebook: Highlights of Monday's ATD21 Education Sessions
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ATD21 continued on Monday with a full day of education and networking sessions. Here's a recap of just a few of the many learning opportunities.

Nuts and Bolts of Developing a Community

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In the virtual session “SMEs as Trainers: 5 Steps to Creating a Virtual Community of Practice,” Darlene Christopher, CPTD, recounted in a step-by-step manner how she started a community of practice at World Bank. As the senior knowledge and learning officer, she focuses on internal training and works with subject matter experts. She launched a CoP so that trainers could connect with each other, share resources, discuss training techniques, find out about operational updates, and celebrate their successes.

She detailed that developing any CoP starts with three Ps: purpose, people, and practice. To explain purpose, she walked through a value chain, illustrating how the CoP could positively affect business outcomes. The second building block, people, is where the group organizers clarify who community members are and identify those who will support the group. And practice is about the services the group will make available to members, such as monthly meetings, happy hours, and newsletters. She also advised CoP organizers during the practice step to determine the best platform to host the group and its resources, such as Yammer or an intranet site.

She then outlined two steps to keep CoPs engaged and learning: skills and incentives. Those are unique to the target community. For her CoP, she and her team interviewed trainers, the learning team, and participants and created a five-component skill profile for trainers based on the findings. She said her inspiration came from the Talent Development Capability Model. To support each skill area, Christopher curated links to resources, including a self-assessment, which enables community members to identify areas of focus to improve their training skills. Incentives, the final element, is designed to motivate group members. For Christopher’s program, incentives included recognition, career support, and special training opportunities.

She closed her session by speaking to lessons learned, which included being flexible, the need for ongoing communication, and how essential it is to keep a pulse on community members’ needs by listening. ATD21 participants can watch Christopher’s presentation on demand and download the complete presentation from the ses­sion’s page and resources section in Pathable, the conference platform.

Be Influential

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How can you be a person of influence? It’s about how you live, rather than what you do, explained Vivian Blade, president and CEO of Experts in Growth Leadership Consulting, during Monday’s virtual session “SCALE Your Influence.” She said it’s “the fabric of who you are and how you operate” each day.

Before beginning her explanation of steps to being influential, Slade described what influence is not: It’s not about manipulation, one moment in time, nor making a transaction. She noted that some people treat interactions as a win-lose game—they win and others lose. Similarly, others may feel it must be their way rather than working over the long term to gain loyalty, which requires a value-add to the relationship.

Slade then outlined the steps of SCALE and posed insightful questions for participant reflection.

Social capital. To determine how you can selflessly add value, consider your special skills or expertise. In what domains do you have specialized knowledge, including certifications? Do you have access to resources that others may find helpful?

Courage. Influencing isn’t without its challenges. Learn to step out of your comfort zone and “be open to new ideas and constructively work through the messiness,” Slade said. That includes being accountable not only for successful outcomes that may ensue but also for failures. Further, Blade encouraged talent development professionals to support each other during times that require courage.

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Authenticity. This is about having genuine motives. “Be aware when you’re stressed so you don’t become the person you don’t want to be,” stated Blade. To help during those times, she encouraged attendees to check in on their values.

Leaning in with passion. This enables you to give your best and sparks curiosity. That will lead to the greatest possible outcomes for you and your team, Blade noted.

Engaging a diverse and inclusive workplace community. This final step means encouraging everyone to share their narrative—it’s about building a tribe. Blade shared how that attendees can do that by inviting learners to contribute to what they want a training to look like and share their unique stories and experiences.

Learn Management Skills

During her Monday afternoon session “Brain-Based Manager Training: Insights From an ATD BEST-Award Winner,” Britt Andreatta, CEO of 7th Mind, shared four case studies about management struggles—in varied businesses of construction, legal, tech, and media. She also asked attendees what struggles they faced. Common challenges for managers leading teams arose: change management, dealing with difficult conversations, development of direct reports, and managing in a hybrid work environment.

Those familiar challenges point to six critical management skills: the ability to pivot from being an individual contributor to being a leader, coaching performance, building positive relationships, creating high-performing teams, leading change, and executing strategic goals.

The good thing, Andreatta stated, is that management skills can be learned. She shared 12 brain-based concepts to teach managers to improve the ability of teams and organizations to work better. The first is understanding how humans are wired. We have three fundamental needs: surviving, belonging, and becoming. While people in Afghanistan and Louisiana are focused on their survival right now, Andreatta said there’s a different kind of survival that occurs during performance reviews—survival grounded in a paycheck, which provides for our food and shelter. The second need, belonging, is about community and being accepted. The final need is about becoming our best self—learning and growing.

The second brain-based concept Andreatta shared is that our brains are malleable. We can learn new things throughout our lives. To that end, Andreatta teaches managers about psychologist Carol Dweck’s growth and fixed mindsets, which managers can extend to their direct reports.

Andreatta likewise covered the three sources of workplace conflict—values, triggers, and workstyle. Having a grasp of those can help teams understand each other and work better together.

Be Prepared for Anything

In presenting for his 44th year for ATD, Bob Pike, CPTD Fellow, provided tips for how trainers and leaders can add value. His session was aptly titled “Tough Times Never Last—Prepared Trainers Do! 7 Strategies for Adding Value and Making a Difference in Turbulent Times.”

The founder and chairman of CTT Press and 3P Associates explained that the first strategy is about changing one’s mindset from “have-do-be” to “be-do-have.” In the latter, you work on yourself to become what you want to become rather than wishing “If I only had …, then I would ….” In sharing what the revised mindset looks like, Pike shared a story of how he used visualization and verbalization to mentally rehearse and affirm skills and abilities he sought.

What’s important to you? That’s the essence of the second strategy—to clarify your values. To visualize that, Pike showed the Iceberg model of human behavior. What others see is the behavior you’re exhibiting. On the waterline is the choices that we make. But underlining everything is our thinking patterns: What are we telling ourselves? Further, does the way we spend our money and time align with what we purport to value?

The third strategy Pike presented is about becoming a participant-centered presenter. For that strategy, trainers can use the importance of the four CORE elements: closers, openers, revisiters, and energizers. While some trainers launch right into their content, Pike reminded attendees of the need to use openers. Even if participants are physically in the room, he said, they may not be mentally there. As to revisiters, Pike noted that learners need to move information from the short-term memory to learners’ long-term memory. Participants do that by practicing.

Pike concluded by describing his final four strategies:

  • Understanding your purpose as a trainer or leader

  • Incorporating his 10 top lessons, which include using the dynamics of the group, using the experiences that adults bring to the training, and helping people learn how to learn, among others

  • Allowing time for reflection

  • Tapping the power of one. “Never underestimate the power of one person,” he said.

To personalize his final strategy, he told participants about the importance of his grandmother and how she loaned him money even though none of the other men in the family had ever repaid her. She told Pike that she trusted him. And Pike lived up to that trust.

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