Everyones a Learner – Even Learning Professionals!

How often do we get the opportunity to take on role reversal? To switch places – rarely. Recently I got to step back from being the facilitator of an initiative to being the participant, the delegate, the learner. This is what I call ‘me’ development time.

Before I attended the course, I spent some solo time thinking about what it was I wanted to get out of the three days. The question I asked myself therefore was ‘What does that Laura look like post attending?’ There was nothing complex about how I went through that thought process. Simply a bit of space, pad and pen to think it through. That works for me.

Taking three days out of the office in any job is a big commitment. Even more in today’s world when people’s time is becoming far more precious. The response I often hear is ‘I don’t have the time!’ How do I make sure I don’t fall into the same trap? There’s also the cost to the organisation for the course, of allowing you to take the time out of the office – ‘Best get something out of this then!’

There were three main learning experiences for me. None of them were the theory or models that we covered off, which yes were necessary to do. However, my main learning came from practical experiences.

Firstly, on day one we came in with a 10 minute section of a session ready to run for 13 people we hadn’t met before, although actually I didn’t feel that nervous about doing it. I knew that I was confident with my content and we were all in the same boat. I didn’t go first but equally I didn’t go last, I put myself in at 5th – straight after lunch, so I didn’t get chance to slip into a food coma. We each watched each others presentations and to show each other moral support we clapped and ‘whoop’d’. However, we were all there because we wanted input on our delivery so we were asked to give everyone feedback, looking at what we loved, would steal and then do differently. Feedback is crucial in learning, in moving from that fixed to growth mindset space. We only see what we see through our lens, but what about someone else’s perception? It is then within our power to decide what we do with it.

Our second practical experience was day three, this time doing a 20 minute session putting into practice some of the techniques and theory we’d talked through. I struggled initially between two ideas, and our facilitator just asked me a few questions and it helped me to see what I should do. One was more me now, one was more future me. I needed to work on future me. So I delivered a session virtually. A session that I’ve only done once in that way and with half the number of people. Now the nerves really set in. I had that slight sick feeling in the pit of my stomach (know the one I mean?) and because of that I knew that it was the right thing. How else am I going to get the best out of it or being in such a safe space unless I just throw myself into it? Who said stretching yourself was easy or comfortable?

I knew it wouldn’t be perfect, and it wasn’t, but it was 100% the right decision. There are so many more things to juggle when something is virtual with the technology (being a huge one!), the chat and other functionality such as polls, the slide deck, the energy it takes from you, the concentration I put into speaking and my intonation because I couldn’t see faces or read body language – the list goes on and on. Hats off to those people who I’ve experienced doing it well. I’d underestimated quite how many balls would be in the air at one time. I got some really valuable feedback from the group and I made so many notes after about how it was for me and what I noticed ready for next time. The nicest peace of feedback I got was about being brave – I’m pretty proud of that. Onwards and upwards!

The third greatest value add came simply from learning from others in watching different styles and seeing what other people do. Simple, but powerful. I collated a list of the things I liked that other people did so I won’t forget.

Over three days, I got a wealth of tips and resource suggestions too, so for those people who I work with and deliver for without realising it over the coming months, I will be delving into my new toolkit of stuff I’ve learnt. Feel free to ask me about it or call me out on it if you are interested. As L&D practitioners we have to practice what we preach about how we put our learning back in to practice in the workplace. I’m now thinking about how I can do that soon so I don’t forget and how it can be seen by manager, colleagues and those who experience my facilitation regularly.

A fab three days of my life went well. What are you going to do to stretch yourself next week? How will you continue too?

About the author – Laura Emson:

Laura is Group Talent Development Consultant at Cambridge Assessments. Currently working towards her CIPD Advanced Level 7 Diploma in HR Management with ICS Learn.

Finalist in the category of Rising Star 2018 LPI awards. “Every  opportunity is an opportunity to learn something new”

Connect with Laura on LinkedIn

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