It’s not about the journey

Boarding Pass Brussels to Kigali

When I’m training I’m often inclined to impress upon course participants that the learning that takes place is throughout the course. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve urged aspiring trainers to remember that the course is not about the destination but about the journey. We need to give attention to the things that are happening along the way and learn from what we notice, discover or rediscover as we move through the event. Reaching the end may well be a relief, we may enjoy some form of certification or recognition of the completion but the learning has occurred as we travel along.

Well, I will continue to be a journeyer – at least when it comes to my own learning. Indeed, I invariably learn as much as the course participants as we travel together through a course.

Today, I checked in online for my next piece of travel. Nothing terribly unusual, at least not for me, although this represents a new country to add to my list of visits.

I was, though, struck by the fact that it is easy to present travels as some form of justification or evidence of the value of the work I’m doing. ‘What is it that you do, Andrew?’ May be the question. The answer is not ‘I’m going to Kigali.’ Nor is my boarding pass evidence that I am doing something worthwhile or important.

To keep telling donors and supporters that we are travelling again is akin to the office worker that is always seen walking around with a piece of paper in his hand. Plenty of activity but, perhaps, not much return on the investment in the training work we do.

So, yes, another trip is about to get under way. This time the plane will take me to Kigali to meet with others who are also journeyers in training. We try to meet annually to plan, share ideas and offer advance notice of training that we will be offering so that others can help, take part, send participants  and even help to fund the events.

It’s not about the journey – it is about the destination.

 

 

These shoes again…

shoesI’m on the road again and one of my early challenges was a shoe lace failure. Just when I am out of reach from my usual supply. Fortunately you can get most things in an African market and I was quickly on my feet again.

I looked at my well used friends and recalled that I blogged about them before. September 2013 to be exact.

There is something about a trusty pair of shoes. They become more comfortable as we walk in them. They mould to our feet supporting what needs support and protecting from stubbed toes, stones on the pathway and clumsy feet as others pass and stand on our toes.

They walk the journey without complain and with little maintenance except, perhaps a little polish and replaced shoe lace. Eventually they will benefit from new soles.

With modest attention they will, as I have just realised provide service for years without complaint or argument.

They are like a good colleague and friend.

I take my shoes for granted. They sit in the shoe rack until needed and go back when I return home.

Sadly, it is easy to treat colleagues and friends in the same way. We forget that they, too, need encouragement and thanks. Like my shoes, my colleagues and friends will and do go the extra mile without complaint or demand.  Unlike my shoes they don’t even need an occasional ‘polish’ or new set of laces.

But friendships do need care. A little thanks, some giving and some receiving will enable them on the journey too.

 

Don’t believe your own publicity

sheep

Last year a friend and colleague approached me to ask for advice. He and his wife were leaving their current jobs and moving to a new role in their organisation. What, he asked, from my experience would be my advice to them as they moved to new challenges.

I was honoured to be asked but uncertain how to respond. I found myself saying: “Don’t believe our own publicity.”

Those of us who work in charities and non-profit agencies often tell stories to convince the donors and supporters that what we do is worthy of their generosity. So we tell the stories, which become merged and embellished. If we are not very careful we speak hubris.

The bigger the teams we work in the greater the risk – although individuals and lone-workers can be just as guilty. In teams, though, the danger of groupthink is ever present. Groupthinking encourages lack of critical thinking. It demands uncritical adoption of ideas and acceptance of ideas and stories.

The world of politics seems to be even more inclined to groupthink. Watching the nomination of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate in the USA, and the hyperbole of the so-called Brexit campaigners in the UK, I find myself amazed at the attempt to get the respective campaigns to go along with the dominant rhetoric – regardless of whether it is true, exaggerated or even fanciful.

It takes courage to challenge the group but anyone who does so should be encouraged even if their challenge is ultimately unnecessary or mistaken. We need to hear the voices that stand off and speak caution. Like the Old Testament prophets that saw themselves as watchmen even though their warnings were not heeded.

Writing in Training Zone, Joe Britto notes: “When the drive to conformity means we want to surround ourselves with like-minded people; when we decide speaking out is akin to getting out of the business; and when different views are seen as disloyal we’re fertilising the ground for groupthink.”

 

 

Making good use of my time

In the late 19th century Brother Charles of Jesus wrote from Nazareth: “Since my arrival in the Holy Land I have become a servant or rather a labourer, a day labourer, with the Poor Clares of Nazareth; I have the independence of a labourer, working in my own time and accepting only the work I want, like Mary’s workman-son. I organise my time so as to earn my bread honestly, and the rest of the time I spend in front of the blessed Sacrament …”

There is a small truth in this man’s spiritual reflections for those of us who work independently. There is a great freedom in planning our own work and scheduling our time. For Brother Charles, the remainder of his time after his working hours were spent in spiritual matters. The important question for me is how am I going to spend my time? How much in earning my bread honestly adn what to do with the rest.

It is easy to fritter the time away.

 

Keeping Up To Date

Newspaper stands

A quote often attributed to Henry Ford but often quoted by others says “I know that only half my advertising is effective, the problem is that I don’t know which half.” You could make the same claim for the information that we gather in our role as professionals in learning and development.

This weekend I found myself pondering the need to keep in touch with current ideas and thinking in the world of learning and development. If I’m honest I reckon that there can never be too much information. But like Henry Ford and the others who have used variations of the quote, I know that only half of the information I gather is likely to be of real use.  In fact if the 80/20 principle applies then the truth is the probably only 20% of the information I gather is likely to be useful. The question is which 20%?

I have subscriptions to range of Email lists and newsletters from websites. All of them are useful some of the time but not every part or all the time. So I was mulling over how I process the information so that I am not overwhelmed.

I use filtering fairly heavily. Do whatever works for you but keep your Email inbox free from this information.

You could create an Email account which you use specifically to collect the newsletters.  I do this for subscriptions to services that I buy from so that their business and sales newsletters never come my way until I have time to dip in.  In variably I just click the unsubscribe link but there’s no rush because these Emails never intrude in my mailbox.

You can use filtering in the mailbox to move newsletters into a newsletter folder. They can sit there out of the way until you are ready to review them. Or you can follow my current favourite approach and forward them to a service like Evernote and read them there.

I recommend Evernote (or similar) as a place to collect all the information I think will be useful. It is easily searchable.

When I do go to read them I am, generally ruthless. The delete button is my favourite resource. I try to be courageous and delete anything which doesn’t immediately resonate.

Occasionally something will tickle my interest or give a glimpse of something I feel in bones I should follow up on. They stay in my reading folder or Evernote until I know I have time to follow up.

There are some resources that I know are more consistent in providing useful resource – I give them higher credit in my reading. One of those is the newsletter from Michael Hyatt. It so happens that Michael dealt with this same issue in his podcast this week. Great minds must think alike. Or at least be inspired by similar influences. Michael also commends the delete button. HYe makes the point in his podcast that whatever you delete can be searched for and someone else is bound to have it.

In addition to some of the same ideas as me, Michael recommends scheduling the reading and acting on the information as soon as you can.

But whatever you do to keep abreast of the information you are receiving or capturing be sure to keep on top of it. If you haven’t read it within a week then just delete.