2011 Resolution Reality Check

As I gleaned my Google Reader for interesting things to report to the Workplace Learning Today readers, I noticed a few predictable patterns in early January posts. I found could classify about 50% of the blog posts I surveyed into 3 categories: the past year in review, predictions for the new year and of course, new year resolutions. The latter category was the one that really caught my attention, as it seems to be the one area where I see many people, myself included, shooting themselves in the foot.

The following are a sampling of the well intentioned personal and professional improvement 2011 resolutions posts that I found:

There are even smart phone apps that claim to help reinforce new year resolutions. But I couldn’t help wonder if making resolutions is such a wise thing to do. So I kept searching.

I came across a post by corporate consultant Stephen Shapiro who discovered in his research that New Year’s Resolutions just don’t work.

According to our study, only 8% of Americans say they always achieve their New Year’s resolutions. The way it seems to work now, setting a New Year’s Resolution is a recipe for defeat.

He goes on to write that people eventually put an end to the misery of trying to keep up the resolution and call the whole thing off. One of the core issues, according to Shapiro’s research, is that when making a resolution, people focus on where they want to be rather than enjoying where they are right now.

We sacrifice today in the hope that a better future will emerge — only to discover that achievement rarely leads to true joy.

Now Shapiro isn’t against self-improvement, but rather provides detailed guidelines for making more sustainable resolutions. The headlines are:

  1. Choose a broad theme rather than specific measurable goal.
  2. Choose an expansive and empowering theme.
  3. Reflect on the previous year.
  4. Develop your theme jointly.
  5. Remind yourself of your theme.
  6. Remain open to new possibilities and to changes in direction at any point in the future.

Personal growth blogger Tina Su echoes this type of resolution in posting how she will approach and envision her 2011 year:

The commitment I will make today is to relinquish an idealistic definition of perfection that has bubbled up empty goals, with only a façade of meaning. I can, then, wholeheartedly make room to embrace true commitments that honestly serve who I am; even in all of its imperfection.

These are truly phenomenal tips for steering resolutions down a more successful path. In addition, I’d add the following bit of advice from Derek Sivers: Keep your goals to yourself.

I guess that I already broke that rule once, stating that one of my resolutions was to blog more.

References:

Rules and Incentives are not a Substitute for Practical Wisdom

In a recently posted Talk on Ted, Barry Schwartz shares his reflections and finding on the power of virtue, or what Aristotle called practical wisdom, and how it is the key element required for real change and the betterment of our society.

Through poignant examples, he demonstrates how in today’s society, the change agents must work against the current system managed by a script which is tightly controlled by rules and incentives. He also claims that this way of making small, incremental change is not only slow but that it isn’t sustainable in the long run.

Let’s see if some of Schwartz’s wisdom might rub off on all of us in 2011.

Reference:

Do Your Users Understand Your Content?

Not only is this blog post by Angela Colter a great reflection piece on the difference between liking content and understanding it, it also is chock full of tools to help you analyse your content and better it. In addition, the pros and cons of these tools are outlined.

Though primarily targeted at Websites, this article gives a series of instructional techniques to help test the understanding of your content.

Reference:

Initially published on Brandon Hall’s Workplace Learning Today

Dare To Be Unrealistic

Jacob Sokol asked the following question to 48 online experts:

What is the most “unrealistic” thing that you’ve ever accomplished and what did you learn from the process?

I highly recommend reading through the whole post but here are a few of the most inspiring highlights for me:

When you choose the “unrealistic” choice every day, you’ll be surprised how uncrowded and welcoming it is.
Derek Sivers ··· CD Baby

I learned that if you REALLY REALLY REALLY want to do something and you’re committed to going for it and willing to work on it thru the inevitable “WTF am I doing moments” you can pretty much do anything.
Brian Johnson ··· Philosopher’s Notes

What I learned (or rather, an affirmation of what I knew before that): Focus on value, and money will fall in place itself. While I track my income, I have never once set income as a primary goal and have always focused on coming up with best ideas that will bring the best value for my readers instead. This has translated itself into results in all areas.
Celestine Chua ··· the Personal Excellence Blog

You have to take the first step. Then, do that everyday until you reach your goal. If you keep moving, you can do anything – write a novel, be a good parent, quit your day job, get out of debt, lose weight. Just focus on one step. Repeat.
Melissa Gorzelanczyk ··· Peace and Projects

As for myself, I feel some unrealistic things brewing. Last year, my Master’s thesis was reformatted and published as a book. Now I have the desire to author more content. I got more serious about blogging and found myself as a guest blogger on Brandon Hall’s Workplace Learning Today. This is just the beginning for me and it has opened up other opportunities which I am exploring.

Another relatively unrealistic thing I did was a few years back when I lost a great deal of weight, 75 lbs in fact, and I felt fantastic. Unfortunately, life took over and I lost that focus and I gained quite a bit of it back. But I’ve done it once and I can do it again. But this time, I’m wiser, I’m stronger and I can anticipate hurdles. I’ve got practice and experience on my side and there is no reason why I cannot do this.

The most common question I get is: How did you manage to accomplish this? and the answer is simple: I set a goal and just do it. I combat resistance daily, but I keep my eye on the prize. Also, I reflect regularly on what kind of person I want to be. The following quotes are some of my mantras:

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
― Seneca

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
― Gandhi

Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.
― Steven Pressfield

Reference:

Stop Interrupting Employees and Let Them Work

The main reason why people can’t get work done at work are managers and meetings. That’s Jason Fried’s take on things as he exposes it in his latest TEDx Talk. He lays out the main problems to getting work done and presents three suggestions to making work work.

No Talk Thursdays: He actually suggests a compromise of one Thursday afternoon a month where no one disturbs anyone so that all can focus on getting things done.

I am fortunate that though I work in an office, it is a small office and I can often get quite a few hours of uninterrupted work time. I can actually sometimes get 3 to 4 hours without being disturbed, usually about once a week. This uninterrupted time is necessary for me when I need to analyse complex problems or systems, or work on a larger, more complex project.

Passive Models of Communication: Instead of interrupting people to have a face-to-face discussion about something, send an email or an IM. This reduces the instances of interrupting reflections, thoughts, a creative moment. The passive model allows for people to respond when they are ready to switch gears and respond to you.

This is my preferred mode of communication when dealing with dispatching tasks or requesting information. I had received a comment earlier this year that it could be perceived as impersonnal, which is a valid remark. I therefore took the time to approach the individuals that I exchange with to explain to them why I preferred communicating the bulk of work related information by email. They agreed and even told me that they appreciated the lack of interruption, especially the administrative staff who work in the open spaces and are constantly interrupted.

Cancel the Next Meeting: He doesn’t suggest postponing it. He suggests cancelling it all together. According to Fried, managers call too many meetings which are a waste of employee’s productive time. He relates that what managers talk about at meetings is usually not as important to company productivity than the managers think it is.

On this one, I only meet Fried halfway. If we are going to move to a mode of passive communication and no-talk periods to let people focus on their work, there needs to be a moment where we all get together and communicate face-to-face. That said, I think that the face-to-face time needs to be used wisely to do the things that are less well done in writing.

Reference:

Initially published on Brandon Hall’s Workplace Learning Today

    Stop Recognizing People for Doing their Job

    “Is she out of her mind?”,  you ask yourself. Nope! And neither is Stephen Shapiro who wrote a great bit on How To Motivate Innovators.

    Stop recognizing people for doing their job. When you hire someone to work for you, it should be expected that they are competent.  When you recognize people for doing what they are hired to do, it reinforces a “culture” where the status quo is good enough.

    Instead, recognize (and reward) people for going beyond their job; for doing things that are unexpected.

    If you wish to develop a culture of innovation within your organization, you are going to have to reward what I call productive disruption. Productive disruption, in my mind, is an attempt at doing things differently while taking into account risks and with the mindset of wanting to improve upon something. It isn’t always successful, but it always generates discourse and reflection.

    If you want to encourage open innovation or cross-business unit collaboration, then recognize people for that.  If you want employees to take risks, make a big deal out of individuals who do that.  If you want to let people know that failure is ok – when done the right way – then promote situations where something didn’t work as planned yet powerful lessons were learned and risk was mitigated risk.

    Define what your organization values and then reward on that.

    Couldn’t agree more. The idea that errors aren’t punished but rather become case studies is refreshing. I have been fortunate to work in such environments where I can learn from my errors and in looking for solutions to overcome them, learn and innovate.

    Reference:

    Initially published on Brandon Hall’s Workplace Learning Today

    Tips to Stop Sucking at PowerPoint

    The title is bold and direct, I know. I like it actually, because when a PowerPoint presentation sucks, it really, really sucks. So sometimes, we just have to call it what it is.

    The bottom line is that we cannot escape PowerPoint in today’s business and/or academic world. And as Jessee Desjardins wrote, it’s really not a bad tool at all. In fact, I think it is a fabulous tool. One just needs to learn how to use it efficiently and effectively.

    About 3 years ago, I read Edward Tufte’s The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint, and though he did not convince me to abandon PowerPoint completely, I did take into account his main criticisms of the tool—such as it being a tool used to support the presenter on what s/he wants to lecture about rather than supplement with supporting visuals—and try to find ways of working around them.

    Reference:

    Initially published on Brandon Hall’s Workplace Learning Today



    Reading Breeds Success

    “I wish I had more time to read.”

    Do you find yourself saying the above? I definitely do. It seems that when I make the time to pick up an article, a book, anything, I become engrossed in it and can’t put it down. Though conversations and interactions have the power of being enlightened, nothing pushes my analytical buttons like reading a well developed argument. But I have to remind myself to make time to do it. Too often, when I get home from a long day at work, I want to just “shut off my brain”. But the reality is that reading is like exercise for the brain, it reenergizes it.

    In his blog post entitled The Most Important Thing You Can Do…, Mitch Joel explains how some of the most successful people he encounters are avid readers, and even writers. I particularly appreciate when Mitch shares the following observation:

    The majority of newspaper and magazine articles are probably right on the edge of valuable reading, but the guts of reading that will truly make you smart and successful comes from the high brow stuff. The books, periodicals and longer thought/research pieces.

    Mitch goes on to write:

    The depth, the journey, the time alone that allows your own brain to wander and think is a critical part of where creativity and originality come from.

    Kudos Mitch! I truly relate to this statement and feel too many people become satisfied with surface knowledge of things and neglect to dig deeper. Granted, we cannot be experts in every field, but specifically in our professional field, we must ensure that we include quality pieces in our reading diet.

    Reference:

    This post is cross-posted with Brandon Hall’s Workplace Learning Today

    CSTD Quebec Chapter Book Debate: Training Professionals who Blog

    (Republished from The CSTD Website)

    CSTD Québec is proud to announce the launching of its book club: a new series of events where we invite a distinguished author to deliver a brief presentation of their book that discusses hot topics that have a tremendous impact on the T&D industry. We then open the floor to debate the ideas and concepts brought forward in the book.

    Our first author is Kristina Schneider, a Montrealer whose first book, Edublogging: A Qualitative Study of Training and Development Bloggers, has been well received by the educational community since its March 2010 release. Painting a unique portrait of five bloggers who post about instructional design and training issues, Kristina tackles the key phenomena of motivation, writing style, community building and other general practices that define the blogging professional. She also provides insight on how training and development professionals can take advantage of the blogosphere and defines the edublogger. Kristina continues to write about edublogging by; you guessed it, blogging about it. You can follow her discourses http://edublogging.com/.

    Kristina brings over ten years of professional training and development expertise to the table. Currently, she is the Director of Operations at Aviation Strategies International (ASI), a highly-regarded Montreal-based aviation management consulting and training firm. She is also pursuing her doctoral studies, focusing on knowledge transfer and professional communities of practice.

    To prepare You do not need to read the book to enjoy the book debate. However, you will get more out of this session if you do.

    Date and time: 19 October 2010 · 18:00 – 20:00

    Location: BDC Building · 800 René-Levesque West, 2nd floor, Room 250, Montreal, QC

    Register here: http://bit.ly/CSTD-BookClub

    For the Love of Meetings

    According to Ron Ashkenas, most managers actually like meetings, and he enumerates the reasons in a recent blog post entitled Why We Secretly Love Meetings.

    His key arguments are that:

    • They encourage social interaction
    • They keep everyone in the loop
    • They often represent status

    He also remarks that though we all know the rules of conducting a good meeting such as being upfront and clear about objectives, making sure the right people are attending, having an agenda in advance and so on, we often fail at respecting these rules.

    Reference:

    Initially published on Brandon Hall’s Workplace Learning Today