What Is Your Why for Learning?

What is Your Why for Learning?

Guest writer Kari Bogdan creates this week’s blog on lifelong learning with her article, “What is your why for learning?”

“You can have anything you want if you want it badly enough. You can be anything you want to be, do anything you set out to accomplish if you hold to that desire with singleness of purpose.” Abraham Lincoln

The reason(s) why we choose to learn should be personal and unique as each of us.  Before you start on the path to learning something new, try setting an intention.  Setting an intention is different from setting a goal for learning, because it focuses on “the why” and your return on investment.  It is about the person, place, thing or maybe even the feelings that you are striving for.  It’s about finding purpose. 

The odds of accomplishing your goals will be more realistic and more satisfying if you define your intentions. Here are things to remember when you begin to determine your purpose for learning:

  1. Take time to reflect. When you consider your purpose, a good place to start is asking yourself some questions like, “What do I value?”  “What do I believe?” “Who and what are the things most important to me?” This video could be helpful as you start to explore your why: What is the purpose of learning? 1 https://youtu.be/8BILZNnz0uE
  2. Shift any limiting beliefs 2. If you have doubts about what you can achieve, you will not able to get very far. Get out of your own way. 
  3. Make sure it comes from a positive place 2Your intention should start with “I will”, rather than “I will not.” Research shows negative emotions can overpower their positive counterparts. 3
  4. State your intention 2. Write it down.  This will help you be accountable and take ownership. It can also serve as a reminder if you post it somewhere that you can read it each day.  You may even want to tell someone who cares about you about your intension.
  5. Be clear 2. The more specific you are, the more focused you will be. Remember, it’s about results.
  6. Keep it simple 2. It should be a sentence. Like learning, intentions can also be broken down to make them more manageable. You can start with your ultimate intention. Then, set a daily, weekly or monthly intention that will help you get there.

Once you declare your purpose, continue to reflect on it. You may even find that your purpose will change as you move forward. Remember, that through the process of learning you are growing. Do not be surprised if your “why” becomes something different along the way.

References

  1. Harvard University Online. (2017). What is the purpose of learning? Youtube.com. Apr 19, 2017. Accessed November 28, 2022: https://youtu.be/8BILZNnz0uE
  2. Houlis, A. (2021). The power of setting intentions — and how to do it correctly. Self Magazine. Accessed November 28, 2022: https://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/mental-health/how-to-set-intentions

Vaish A, Grossmann T, Woodward A.  (2008). Not all emotions are created equal: The negativity bias in social-emotional development. Psychol Bull. 2008 May; 134(3): 383–403. Accessed November 28, 2022: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3652533/

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Coaches Corner v.12.01.2022

Coaches Corner v.12.01.2022

The Learning Without Scars coach, Floyd Jerkins, is back with Coaches Corner v.12.01.2022: How to Handle An Argumentative Person on Your Team.

Building a team with diverse personalities requires a leader who can handle them. There will be days when you’d like to fire all of them and then others when you couldn’t be prouder. Let me share some tips and strategies to handle an argumentative person on your team so you create more days when you are excited to witness the team in action serving your customers.

Argumentative Dave or Sally

In building a team, there usually is at least one of them that can argue with you about most anything. And they can argue with other team members about most anything. This can be exhausting to work with but does not mean they don’t perform well in their role.

The first goal is to discuss the specific behaviors this person displays and the effect on other people. Be realistic about your expectations going into this conversation. You are not trying to change the person. You are trying to change the way they handle certain situations. As a leader, you have to set that expectation, or the employee will continue to do what they do. And over time, this type of behavior will grate on everyone they come in contact with. It can tear the team apart.

Explain the issue clearly and concisely. Let me know that the constant push back on every issue takes up a lot of time and energy. It is disruptive to the team. Encourage them that when they have questions, please let you know. You are always open to hearing the questions and coming up with progressive solutions, but you need them to stop being so aggressive and pushing or debating every item that comes around. Let them know you appreciate their passions and you want them to stay focused on the work at hand.

New Behaviors Need Reinforcement

Now, just because you say this in a coaching manner, the new behavior you’re expecting will need reinforcement a few times for it to stick. The first time this person gets out of line, you have to correct the behavior. You can’t let it slide, or you are reinforcing the old behaviors and will need to start all over again.

If their outburst happens in a meeting, immediately shut it down. Let them know that you’d like to talk about that in a one-to-one session so the group can stay on track. I think there is a difference between someone like this complaining or having a concern. Someone that is always complaining is the issue. If they express genuine concern and constructively, then it might be time to say, ok, you disagree with the solution; what other solutions do you think would be better for the company and the customer to consider? Essentially, start focusing on the solutions vs. rehashing the problems.

Repetitive Bad Behavior

A key in all this is that you want to make sure you are clearly and concisely stating the type of behavior you expect from this person and under what conditions. If these issues keep happening, then you have to become more formal in the exchange. The previous discussions can take place in the corner of a room, or by the break room, or most anywhere. The new discussion needs to take place in your office. You are at your desk, and the employee is sitting in front of you. The tone of the conversation needs to become firm, no joking around or anything like that. This is becoming serious, and you want to convey that.

Ask the employee if you have clearly communicated the new behavior you are expecting. Listen close to them, but don’t let them ramble to other subjects or other team members or get you off track. Repeat what you have stated previously and be clear about specific instances where you want to see them handle situations differently. 

This whole meeting shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes or even less. Gain an agreement from them that they understand and will work on it. The first time you catch them doing it right, praise them because that’s the behavior you want them to adopt.

If the bad behavior persists, then give me a call. There are other steps to take, but it sounds like they are obstinate, and that’s another issue to contend with differently.

Be Careful About Consuming All Your Time with a Problem

The team members who are easy to get along with often go unnoticed. Make sure to recognize them because they normally shine with praise. Praising should be a natural thing to do from a leader’s perspective, but it isn’t.

Offer sincere appreciation for something they’ve done that aligns with your customer service expectations. Maybe they handled a difficult situation with grace and poise; point that out as why you share the compliment. Take care of the people who take care of the customer.

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Why Does Business Acumen Really Matter?

Why Does Business Acumen Really Matter?

Guest writer Stephen Haines gives us an overview in this week’s blog post: “Why Does Business Acumen Really Matter?”

The current business climate has executives seeking more employees with a broader range of business expertise. The constant wave of disruption from startups and advances in technology is wreaking havoc with just about every industry. Corporate leaders report they need people – at all levels — adept at comprehending, valuing and contributing to strategic initiatives and systematic improvements.

Leaders want managers to focus on the big picture of the business, cultivate relationships across the culture, and contribute to the advancement of the firm’s goals.  It’s not simply a matter of subject-area expertise, but an individual’s ability to understand various dimensions of a business that are in play as situations arise.

The concern is growing, as the Career Advisory Board announced last month nearly half of business leaders surveyed report a gap in business acumen with new talent. Another recent study from the Economist Intelligence Unit finds 65 percent of leaders believe insufficient business acumen limits a strategy’s potential.

Business acumen is not one thing. Rather, business acumen refers to the portfolio of attributes and skills that every business person needs to understand so they can effectively contribute to the goals of the company. It’s also important because it helps to guide the business employee in how they can purposefully chart their business careers.

So, what exactly is involved with mastering business acumen?

  • Communicating clearly with all levels of people in every functional department and earning their respect.
  • Collaborating creatively across departments to recognize and solve problems.
  • Understanding the drivers for profitability and growth.
  • A keen awareness of external threats and how to align internal processes to overcome them.
  • Being a self-starter who takes initiative when appropriate.
  • A willingness to shift strategy and goals to leverage market disruption.

And why exactly do these abilities matter?

When people are brought into a business role, either because they’re new to the company or because they shifted roles, it’s like they’re asked to jump on a moving train when they start. It’s clear that a sharp sense of business acumen allows them to adapt from day one.  Veteran employees also need to sharpen their agility at pivoting from the work in front of them to other areas.  Customer problems tend to trump the daily plan, but not everyone is adept at shifting their focus.

The business section is replete with articles about new competition emerging so quickly, incumbents are often caught off and their market share dissipates at an alarming rate. But when employees possess the above-listed skills and work across disciplines, businesses are better positioned to react to disruption, innovate, meet customer demands, avoid costly delays, and possibly, disrupt a market themselves.

As business consultant Ram Charan once explained, “Success depends on a leader’s ability to recognize such moments of disequilibrium in advance — and to have the courage and business acumen to chart a new course in the face of them.”

Business Acumen is missing link to long-term success

Ray Reilly, a professor of business administration at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, consults with corporations and has reported his surprise at how few executives know what business acumen is or why it’s important. He describes one with business acumen as someone who understands the key things they need to know to make a decision, to synthesize complex and apparently unconnected data, and react positively to events when they do not happen as expected.

An individual with a thorough grasp of business acumen, will establish the context for their work day, so others don’t set it for them.  If business people have sufficient preparation when they encounter the unexpected, they’ll be able to set the stage to deal with these issues.

For strategies to stay on track, everyone attached to its execution should master these skills or risk allowing dysfunctional to rule.  Now more than ever, millions of dollars are lost and businesses shutter when business acumen is not emphasized beyond the c-suite.

To encapsulate the various levels and the range of attributes and skills, the Business Acumen Institute created the Business Acumen Canvas. 

 https://business-acumen.com/business-acumen-skills-canvas/

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Get Scripted

Get Scripted

Guest writer Isaac Rollor walks us through scripted conversations in this week’s blog post: “Get Scripted.”

Think of the last Hollywood action movie you attended. Have you ever noticed what moviegoers say when they walk out of a movie theatre? Typically, they talk about how the movie made them feel or reenact their favorite scenes Have you ever heard moviegoers say that the movie wasn’t any good because all the actors were “using a script”? Probably not. A great script is a key component of a great movie.  

Here is something most people don’t think about, as a consumer you are part of scripted conversations and interactions more often than you may realize. Have you ever dialed 911? I can guarantee the 911 dispatcher was reading questions from a script. Did you order the special from your favorite restaurant based on the waitress’s wonderful description?  Your waitress used a script that was powerful enough for you to abandon your usual choice and upgrade your dinner to something that you have never experienced. Here is my point. A script is a tool that once mastered can allow the user to experience powerful and repeatable results. The best part about mastering a script is that if you don’t tell customers that you are using a script they probably will never know. 

My first experience with scripting came from my work as a technical training instructor and course developer. I am grateful to have spent a great deal of time with some excellent course creators. I quickly learned that the best course creators were masters of scripting. During my first few years as a mechanic, I never thought about the painstaking work that went into creating the diagnostic and troubleshooting information I was referencing in the OEM’s service manual, and technical training videos. I never realized that technical trainers and course creators spent weeks or even months creating scripts related to print, video and instructor led training content for product launches and other important initiatives. It wasn’t until I was hunched over a keyboard typing the process for reprogramming a controller or replacing a component that I fully realized the power of the words used to guide thousands of service technicians through a complicated process. When service personnel are troubleshooting components or replacing warranty items, they are executing a script. The wrong choice of words can easily create confusion and frustration for service and technical personnel, resulting in inefficiency and additional costs. The best technical trainers and course developers always tested their instructor led commentary, video content and technical writings on a pilot group before publishing. Typically, this pilot group was comprised of master technicians or fellow trainers who could help provide expert consulting on how best to make alterations, edits or improvements.  Not only does this pilot process provide mastery of the script but it also confirms that the word choices and patterns achieve the desired result. 

If you are in sales your mastery of scripted responses to known objections can provide a noticeable advantage. A clear, concise description of the highly technical product or service you are selling will certainly allow your buyer to better understand the unique advantages of your product. An effective selling script should be delivered in a way that feels organic and natural to both the seller and the buyer. A product demonstration is a perfect example of how a script can be implemented in construction equipment sales. A well-choreographed and scripted product demonstration can provide undeniable evidence of your products superiority in comparison against the competition. Maybe you are reading this blog right now and agree that a script can be implemented in sales and training but you feel that your area of expertise or job function cannot be contained within a script? I would encourage you to think about the high frequency tasks you complete and the conversations that you have in relation to these tasks. Do you provide a monthly presentation on the same topic? Do you type a weekly report? Do you wish your team was all on the same page after your morning meetings? If you answered yes to any of these questions then a script will most likely provide you with an efficiency boost. Here are a few things to keep in mind while creating your script. Think about what you are already saying. Write down verbatim the words that you find to be most effective. When writing the first version of your script don’t worry about spelling, punctuation or capitalization, simply write the words in the best possible order and complete a beta version of your script.  Once version 1.0 is complete, read it aloud and see how it sounds. If you are moderately happy with version 1.0 then make any corrections or adjustments needed for punctuation and rename your script version 2.0. Find a peer to review version 2.0 of your script, only allow them to read it or listen to your presentation of the script one time. Once they have consumed the content, ask them for feedback and be specific with your questions. This will allow you learn if the words and word patterns you chose were effective or still need work. Take the feedback you receive and adjust the script then rename it version 3.0. Once you have renamed to version 3.0, its time to master your script. Don’t be alarmed. Mastering your script doesn’t mean you can recite it blindfolded but it does mean that you can recite key sentences of the script within a moment’s notice. The best way I have found to master a script is to record yourself reading the script and then listen to your recorded voice after each reading. When you have mastery over your script you will be amazed at how you can command a room during a sales presentation or quickly get everyone on the same page during a monthly meeting. Your confidence and process will actually help you feel comfortable or maybe even enjoy interactions that were formerly dreaded due to a lack of process and a struggle to communicate effectively.

Here is my challenge for you: pick one interaction in your work life that could be smoother if you created a script. Follow the simple steps provided for creating your script. Once you feel you have mastered your script, execute the script and take notice of the results you achieve. Don’t be afraid to keep editing your script after version 3.0, remember that the words you choose are important to the success of your script.

Need some extra guidance on scripting or want to share a success story involving one of your scripts? Please reach out to me: https://www.linkedin.com/in/isaac-rollor-335b6876/ 

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Make It Intentional

Make It Intentional

In this week’s blog on Lifelong Learning, our curriculum designer, Caroline Slee-Poulos, advises us that we need to “Make It Intentional” when it comes to learning and to life.

Last week, our guest writer Steve Johnson advised our readers to “…make continuous learning intentional… ” This week, I would like to challenge you to bring intention into your family, your education, and your professional life.

What is intention, really? It’s certainly a word we hear when people accidentally hurt someone’s feelings: “I didn’t intend…” Of course, we also hear it in that old adage, “the road to Hell is paved with good intention.” In both of these cases, we are looking at intention as something passive, a thought or an idea. I would like to help you to make intention more of an action.

According to my favorite dictionary, Merriam Webster, intention is defined as “a determination to act in a certain way: resolve.” (Source)

If you bring intention into your everyday actions, you will see your life transformed.

To expand upon this a little bit… every class we create at Learning Without Scars is made with intention. Very deliberate intention. We analyze the needs of our students (professional and academic together); we create learning outcomes for each class; we gather feedback on sample class materials from Beta users; we adjust the materials based on your survey data. Our courses are adaptable to your short-term and longer-term goals and needs, just as you would experience in the traditional face-to-face classroom.

We intend for you to build a successful future with the tools you gain from your continuous learning.

The only missing ingredient is you! What is your intention?

It’s not the easiest question to answer. You have to look to the present, the immediate future, and the longer-term future. Where are you right now? Where do you see yourself in 1 year? In 5 years? In 20 years?

What personal goals and wants do you have for yourself? What will help you bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be? I am challenging you, TODAY, to sit down and take stock. Write it all out: today, 1 year, 5 years, 20. What do you need to do to reach those milestones? What actions do you RESOLVE to take in order to make it happen?

The advantage of continuing your education as an adult is that you can determine exactly what benefits you want to receive from your efforts and analyze what steps you are willing to take in order to reach your goals. When we are younger, life seems to start while we are just along for the ride.

In this phase of your education, you are the one driving that journey.

So, tell me, what are your intentions?

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Coaches Corner 11.24.2022

Coaches Corner 11.24.2022

In this week’s installment, our designated coach, Floyd Jerkins, walks us through Psychological Income. Please read on in Coaches Corner 11.24.2022 to learn more.

Can You Improve Your Employees’ Psychological Income?

One of the most profound human characteristics centers around our need to be appreciated. When we are in a relationship where we feel appreciated and valued, our self-esteem rises, and we are much more open to making changes and being part of a team. Leaders know this and work to create an environment for people to be recognized.

Employees need economic income and psychological income. To reach peak performance, both are needed to have balance in life while the business pursues high profits. When employees enjoy the economic portion, a question is how much more commitment could they make if they had the psychological income to match?

Managers Becoming Experts in Finding the Things That Go Wrong

More often than not, managers are on the job to find the things going wrong and fix them. Many become experts at this. One of the most serious challenges in motivating people is that over time if all they hear are the negatives, it breeds a less than average mindset or one that goes all out to protect themselves from ridicule. It’s hard to build a team of high-performing champions if all they hear is what they are doing wrong all the time.

The “emotional bank account” is a theory and a practical application. The theory suggests that the more deposits you make into someone’s emotional bank account, their self-esteem increases, trust builds and makes them more open to changes. You are overdrawn in the account if you don’t make purposeful deposits. The person then closes down and isn’t up for much of anything because they are always suspicious of your motives. The practical application is to be well invested in the emotional bank account with your teams through your leadership and communications style and the consideration you show.

Catching Team Members Doing Something Right

Many times, all a leader hears in a day are the negatives. Some staff will bombard you with every negative there is. As a leader, you are often the center of communications, and this can become draining if you don’t frame these issues correctly.

This is one of the biggest keys to making happy employees. As a leader, we often forget to praise someone when they do a great job. Our heads are into other business-related issues. I don’t bet but only on sure things. And I’ll bet your business has all kinds of positive service points of contacts every day. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t last long in the business. Do you see them? Can you make it a daily practice to praise your staff when they perform the correct customer service behaviors you want to see?

A client of mine owns a few McDonalds. They installed the “thank you” process. Each employee was to say thank you when another employee did something for them, or they witnessed a fellow employee performing an uncommon act of service. All the managers started the process weeks before they rolled it out with all the staff. My friend said it was amazing how quickly this caught on and the improvement it made to the attitudes of the staff. It became contagious.

An example from another client. If an employee goes over and beyond to help a customer or assist a teammate, they will get a “good job card” with their name on it at their monthly manager’s meeting. These cards can come from managers, other employees or from customers telling management. They then would get to put their cards into a box. The manager would draw a card out of the box with a name on it. That person would then win a gift of $100 in value. A few of their people didn’t care about getting a card until they saw the same people winning. Then they joined in by trying to go over and beyond at customer service or helping another teammate to win. It became contagious.

Strategy to Make Emotional Deposits: The Magic of Dimes

Business owners go to great lengths and expense to recruit and hire the right people. I’ve always wanted people who worked for me to come to work and enjoy what they are doing.

As I mentioned in this article’s opening lines, we all have basic human tendencies. As a leader, we can nurture people through our leadership style and grow the talent we need to continue to achieve the goals and mission of the company.

Try putting ten dimes in one pocket and moving them to the other pocket one at a time with each positive message you give to someone throughout the day. The idea is to try and break old habits, and I am sure that is what many of us have. How many dimes do you have at the end of the day? Track this for a couple of weeks; you’ll be surprised. If you do well, you will also notice a change in the people around you. It is magical.

You can’t be fake about this, nor be insincere. Remember, in the absence of leadership; people will follow the strangest things. With leadership, ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

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Talent Shortages and Inflation

Talent Shortages and Inflation

Guest writer Ed Gordon gives readers an overview of American companies that offer training and professional development to their employees in this week’s blog post on “Talent Shortages and Inflation.”

About 20 to 25 percent of U.S. businesses provide training to their employees. This management commitment cuts across all types of businesses of all sizes. Here are some notable examples: 

Large
Airbus, Amazon, American Airlines, Boeing, CVS, KitchenAid, Lowe’s, Marriott, United Airlines
 

Medium
Abt(IL), Bell & Howell, Birmingham Water Works Board (AL), CCA, Global Partners, Cracker Barrel, Intermedia, Seattle Genetics (WA)
 

Small
LaSalle Network (IL), O’Shea Builders (IL), Pierce Manufacturing (WI), Pulse Technology (IL), Staub Manufacturing Solutions (OH)


Among the talent measures used by these companies is investing in entry-level job training often through partnering with local technical or community colleges. They also offer continuous employee development to increase productivity and profit, attract and retain talent, and raise employee commitment and satisfaction. In the short term, training creates a pipeline to fill vacant jobs. In the long term it helps to nurture talent for the innovation and leadership needed for success in the future.

 The Perils of Short-Termism

At the start of the 1990s about 40 percent of businesses offered employee training. This began to slip during the mid-1990s when many companies cut training as the trend in management strategy became maximizing short-term profit by cutting costs in areas deemed non-essential to the core function of a business. The idea was to cut your way to greatness. Wall Street rewarded those businesses that kept profits up quarter after quarter.

 A big reality check began in 2019. The cumulative effect of global crises (i.e., COVID-19, the Ukraine War, rising inflation, demographic change) has intensified the need to rebuild U.S. talent resilience. Yet this is fundamental socio-economic issue that is largely being ignored. Despite the changed skill demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, many still cling to the 20th-century perspective that only one-third of the labor force needs a better education and specialized career training. Technology has advanced; social perspectives remain largely unchanged.

 At the same time. the U.S. labor force is undergoing a profound generational change. The 76.4 million baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 have caused big problems coming in and going out. They overwhelmed educational facilities and then flooded the job market causing over one percent annual growth in the labor force. Now they are retiring at an unprecedented rate. Between 2010 and 2020 over 28 million boomers retired; the remaining cohort will leave the workforce by 2030. Currently about one in four U.S. workers are boomers. This massive wave of retirements is generating a huge demand for workers to replace them.  Rising skills requirements are making this process more difficult.

 Today the official U.S. unemployment rate is very low, but the labor participation rate is more than one percent less than at the start of the pandemic. In my over 30 years as a workforce consultant, I have never seen so much skilled talent sitting on the sidelines. Perhaps as many as 20 million workers have the skills-base needed by many businesses and organizations. Yet these employers are not investing in training to give these workers the skills they may lack to obtain a precise fit for open positions.

 Central banks around the world are raising interest rates to control inflation. Demographics and acute skill shortages are among the factors stoking inflation as employers struggling to fill positions raise wage offers. Companies are likely to pass rising labor bills along to consumers in the form of higher prices. In the long-term, term how much will this continue to fuel inflation?  The United States is imperiling its future by ignoring education deficits in schools and training needs in workplaces. Short-term fixes including raising interest rates will not solve our nation’s long-term need to better prepare our citizens for the education and skill demands of advanced technologies.

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Getting Better

Getting Better

Guest writer Alex Kraft faces a topic we all think about in our day-to-day lives: improvement. How do we go about getting better?

I’m a rookie at social media.  While it’s never been that appealing personally to me, I do recognize how it can be beneficial for companies to build awareness, brands, and interest.  Companies can share their successes and promote key customer relationships in an informal way that resonates much differently than the email marketing blasts.  For whatever reason, there is also a steady diet of inspirational/motivational cliché posts.  Every time I log on, I’m hit with posts from people telling the world to “get better every day,” “get 1% better today,” “crush it today.”  But these comments are empty statements.  For those of us who actually want to improve, how does one get better?  

I have a habit of always wanting to go deeper on a subject.  Two common answers to this question are practice and experience.  Both are important components but don’t tell the whole story.  How many of us have worked with someone who doesn’t hesitate to let you know, “I’ve been doing this for 26 years”, and they are mediocre at best?  Experience provides context and can help individuals be prepared for situations that arise.  You are less likely to encounter a scenario that you haven’t seen before, but that doesn’t make you better at your job.  As for practice, I’ve learned how you practice matters more than the time spent.  As an avid golfer, I was stuck at a 15 handicap for ten years, spending hours at the driving range.  It got me nowhere until I learned the art of purposeful practice.  I cut my range sessions down to 15-20 minutes with a specific goal and did it more frequently.  I dropped my handicap in half within 18 months.  What can I say, it only took me ten years to figure it out.

Within the last few years, I’ve come to understand the other pieces to what drives improvement.  In my opinion, personal growth and improvement comes from four areas: (1) trying new things, (2) forcing yourself to do things you don’t like to do, (3) having humility to recognize that you don’t have all the answers, and (4) losing.  How did I come to this understanding?  Fatherhood.  Experiencing these with my kids as they’ve grown over the past 4-5 years has helped me realize the blind spots that I had personally.  As I introduced new activities or sports to my kids, it was important to encourage them and provide support in the form of: “no one is an expert when they start”, “it’s ok to fail; we can practice tomorrow”, “the only way to know if you like something is to try it out”.  Next, I forced them to do things they didn’t want to do.  It’s funny how the things we avoid have one thing in common—they are usually the best things for us.  Whether it’s eating healthy foods, daunting exercises, hard tasks that will take a ton of time and effort, all these examples generate the most benefits.  Humility naturally comes from the flurry of questions that young children will throw at you.  As tempting as it can to be respond with “Because I said so”, a parent quickly learns it’s the least effective response.  I was forced to search for answers and come back prepared.  Lastly, losing is the best impetus for improvement.  Winning, while it feels great, often breeds complacency.  It can be taken for granted and very few understand ‘why’ they win.  No one wants to hear any critiques either—you’re a total buzzkill if you go down that road.  When you lose?  Suddenly people are more attentive during those car rides home or at those next practices.  Losing teaches us lessons, if we care about improvement, we take to heart and use as fuel to get better.  We don’t want to feel that pain of losing again.

I guess I’d found myself in a rut.  Despite plenty of ambition, it’s difficult to know whether you are improving at one’s occupation.  It doesn’t just come from more experience and more time.  I needed the refresher that fatherhood brought. The reminder of children being a blank canvas.  It’s helped me tremendously, not just at home, but professionally.  It dawned on me that I was giving advice that I wasn’t living myself.  Embracing that beginner’s mindset has encouraged me to implement new ideas at work without fear of them succeeding or not.   I’ve learned that pursuing new skills actually transfers into other areas that I didn’t realize would benefit.  For example, I find myself calmer when unforeseen issues arise.  I’m more comfortable in these uncomfortable situations, whereas my younger self probably wasn’t as helpful when problems arose.  Anyone who’s worked at a start-up is well acquainted with searching for answers and losing.  Creating something from scratch begins with an idea, but you cannot go to market based solely on what you think will work.  It’s imperative to research other company’s journeys to foresee any potential vulnerabilities or pitfalls you may have and how to navigate around these hurdles.  In this process one must put aside ego and remove confirmation bias.  Losing comes in the form of the constant ‘no’s you hear from potential customers and investors.  Ultimately losses (if you pay close attention and don’t make excuses) help build a better product, a stronger value proposition to the customer, and a better company.

To summarize, improvement is an active pursuit.  Personally, I never lacked the desire or the will to get better, but I needed to remember how it happens.  I’m confident that any parent reading this will agree that we can learn just as much from our kids as they learn from us.

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Continuous Learning – Learning Without Scars’ Centers of Excellence

Continuous Learning – Learning Without Scars’ Centers of Excellence

In this week’s installment of our blog on Lifelong Learning, our guest writer Steve Johnson gives us this cutting-edge blog post of the way our education programs are taking shape: Continuous Learning – Learning Without Scars’ Centers of Excellence.

Why continuous learning should matter to you…

The Learning Without Scars website makes the statement that, “we know that ‘better’ is the enemy of ‘best,'” and “that everyone needs the knowledge, skills, and tools to continually elevate their own personal and professional development while contributing to the success of their companies and careers.” Learning Without Scars’ business is all about continuous learning: lifelong learning.

Continuous learning is essential for those employees who want to remain valuable to their employers, and advance both personally and professionally. That’s true whether you are climbing the corporate ladder, developing in-depth expertise in your chosen career field, or just want to be a better-informed human being. There are many reasons for you to invest your time and money in yourself through continuous learning. 

Keeping your skills and knowledge current strengthens your value to your employer. If you are not always learning, you’re not even treading water: you’re actually falling behind. In any work environment, development of new information and technology is rapid, and that pace keeps accelerating. At some point in the future, you could find out that management no longer feels you are relevant to attaining the company’s goals. You could find out that the job market feels the same about your resume. 

Continuous learning provides you with more professional resilience both at your company and in the broader business environment and marketplace. It ensures that you have or obtain not only the knowledge and skills requirements for your current job, but also lays the foundation for the next steps in your career path. It can help you stand out among your peers as an important part of the future of your company. It’s not a bad thing to be one of the “go to” people. Sometimes it can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations of your company and lose the big picture of the environment and markets within which you work. Continuous learning can ensure that you exit that cocoon and keep informed of current trends as well as what may be impacting you in the future.  

Your company may be an excellent source for continuous learning, especially in such areas as company culture, products, IT systems, and best practices. They may have both formal and informal opportunities to develop your interpersonal and management skills. It makes good sense to pay attention in your day-to-day work for learning moments, and also for occasions where you can get out of your comfort zone and learn. Networking in your company will allow you to track the pulse of important activities, events and company direction. Networking through professional and industry organizations will give you a feel for the pulse of your industry and the economic environment.  

Take advantage of it when companies offer to enroll you in formal training, within or from outside the company. Alternatively, you can seek out specific education that aligns with your individual needs and goals. For example, I’ve read that many consider one’s personal oral and written communication skills to be critical to career success, and the importance of those skills increases as people pursue their career paths. Maybe “Toastmasters” is in your future. 

Learning Without Scars’ Centers of Excellence

Our efforts to encourage greater continuous learning in the industries we serve continue. A recent focus for Learning Without Scars is developing relationships with public higher learning institutions where these schools will also function as our Centers of Excellence (COE). 

Online, you will find a number of definitions for a COE. Wikipedia says it is a “team, a shared facility or an entity that provides leadership, best practices, research and support or training for a focus area.” It also can be a “network of institutions collaborating with each other to pursue excellence in a particular area.” The Cambridge Dictionary defines a COE as “a place or an organization that is known for doing a particular activity very well, and that is involved in new developments, new ways of working, etc.” We can add to the above, but I think you get the idea. Learning Without Scars is working to develop a network of schools to achieve the above goals and offer excellence in delivering education where it is needed.  

Our plan is to have ten of these Centers in the U.S. and Canada. Courses include new online certification programs offering comprehensive content in equipment dealer parts management and service management. The courses are applicable for heavy equipment dealers, including construction, heavy truck, mining, forestry, light industrial, and agriculture. We are working to soon provide automotive aligned versions of the programs. In the near future, we will also be able to provide dealer sales and marketing programs. Benefits of the new programs include: 

  1. High quality comprehensive curricula from a well-known industry expert; accredited by the International Accreditors for Continuing Education and Training (IACET); and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant.
  2. Content that is current and reviewed annually with IACET.
  3. Assessments are delivered throughout the learning process to measure learning progress.
  4. A Learning Management System available to dealer employees/students that allows both self-paced progress and 24/7 access to courses.
  5. Programs that result in industry credentials to employees and students upon successful completion.

As a final note, make continuous learning intentional and give it high priority. Continuous learning is your responsibility, not the responsibility of your company, your supervisor or anyone else. To be able to effectively manage your career, you need to plan your future, that is, identify your goals and chart your path for reaching those goals. An important part of that path is going to be continuous learning. Plan your educational future now. In doing that, we encourage you to explore educational opportunities at Learning Without Scars for high quality industry- and position-specific education. 

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Coaches Corner v.11.17.2022

Coaches Corner v.11.17.2022

Guest writer Floyd Jerkins shares how leadership is like playing the guitar in Coaches Corner v.11.17.2022.

I started playing the guitar when I was about 12. It was easy to fall in love with it and played nearly every day. In those days, Ted Nugent, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and the Beatles were among the day’s rock musicians. One of my favorites was the Beatles. Even then, I loved playing the songs and found it pretty easy, so I thought I was pretty good. I knew I was going to be a rock star.

An older friend of mine, who I always admired, created a “paradigm” shift about my perceptions of music one day. At that time, I had no idea what a paradigm was. One day, we got into a lengthy discussion/debate about music. I thought I made a convincing argument.

He started me listening to Buddy Guy, Larry Coryell, George Benson, Jim Hall, Chet Atkins, Glen Campbell, and a host of other guitarists that I had never heard of before. I heard chord progressions, riffs, and sounds coming from a guitar I hadn’t even imagined. I couldn’t even figure out how to move my fingers to play such sounds. The new information rattled my cage for sure.

All I know is after those few days, my whole world opened up to listening to and finding value in all kinds of music. I also found my friend to be even more interesting than I ever thought. Every time we got together, I started to listen first to see what I could learn.

Leadership and Playing a Guitar

In all the hype today about leadership, I found myself thinking – “OK, Floyd, you’ve been a student, and a teacher, and practitioner on this subject for decades. What’s new around the topic of leadership? What are the paradigm shifts? Are there any?” I guess it all depends on what you listen to.

Oprah Style of Leadership- You get a class, and you get a class!

Part of what’s new is that thousands of people are offering information on the subject of leadership. There are books, podcasts, online and live classes you can attend to teach you how to lead. Numerous materials on the subject can be found by your old or new favorite host. There are thousands of old and new ideas and practical solutions offered. What an exciting time to have instant access to more information at your fingertips than you can digest in a lifetime!

Separating Fact from Fiction

Because of so much available information, I work to narrow down the volume of who influences me. Some seem to have hollow words or not near enough depth on the subject. A good sound bite without the substance to back it up is relatively common today. Sometimes I have to read deeper or check out the credentials to know more about where this information is coming from.

What is not new, is that there is still no shortcut to becoming an effective leader or developing an enduring organization. Sorry, there isn’t any silver-bullet to learn how to become an influential person. Never let anyone tell you there is. It takes a lot of hard work, self-analysis, and honesty. Yes, you have to be a useful person to become an effective leader. And that doesn’t mean you’ll ever be perfect. You will make a ton of mistakes and have scars and flaws, just like everyone else.

The Principles of Life and Business are Like Chords on a Guitar

When you learn to play chords, then playing a song becomes easier. You can actually hear the music as it’s played and visualize what chords are used and how it’s strummed. You can then play any kind of music as long as you can hear it. With practice, you can start to create your own music.

When you learn the principles of living a dynamic life or building a company, it’s like learning the guitar’s chords. The principles are tried and true and will never let you down once you master them. You have to practice because you just can’t become a master of them until you do. You will fail occasionally. There will be people who say it can’t be done.

You can learn the principles of leadership and model them to find what works for you. As I tell my grandkids, just be you and don’t try to be someone else. Embrace and love yourself.

Principles are like gravity. You can try to defy, change, or ignore them, but they are always there doing what they do. Learn them, and allow them to be a guiding resource in your life and business journey to reach your fullest potential.

Today, I listen to all kinds of music. My taste is wide and deep. Oh, I can play some on my “64 Fender Jazzmaster,” but my listening skills are much better. I still debate with people I don’t agree with, to learn. Mostly, I enjoy listening to a lot of people because I know I can learn something from them that I didn’t know before. You know, I never want to be that person who thinks the Beatles are the only music there is.

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