Why? It's a classic image (nowadays) representing the start of the hero's journey: the hero in his ordinary world, before adventure's call.
If you're not familiar with the term "hero's journey," it's a phrase coined by American mythologist Joseph Campbell, whose book The Power of Myth you may have read in one of your English classes, or watched as a PBS documentary. For the hero's journey, Mr. Campbell describes a cycle found in myths and stories across language and time in which the hero of the myth follows the same basic steps.
Map that circle to the plot for Star Wars (Episode 4 - 6), and you'll see that Luke Skywalker's story follows this path quite closely, which both George Lucas and Joseph Campbell acknowledge in the Power of Myth documentary.
This month's presenter, Eric Kaufmann, applies this cycle to the development of the leader. And why not? Often in organizations, leaders are people who have attained some sense of the ordinary in their work. That ordinary has been acknowledged by the rest of the organization, and leaders are then challenged with a call to adventure -- a promotion, for example. Or a new project. So there they are, standing atop a rise overlooking a vista that they'd walked past every day but never really seen, wondering what happens next. From that point on (with perhaps a skip over step 3) the leaders will find themselves beset by obstacles and uncertainty, perhaps awash in office politics with allies, enemies, and the occasional test of one's resilience.
Not sure if Mr. Kaufmann will be including any Star Wars references in his June 24 presentation, but I'll probably be softly humming the Skywalker theme during dinner.
It's hard not to create an allegory out of the absence of our scheduled May presenter, Devon Scheef, and her topic of Knowledge Sharing. Ms. Scheef is someone who has developed an expertise in the topic, and quite suddenly, unintentionally, she was unable to join us. President Elect Jeffrey Hansler stepped in to take her place.
And here's where the metaphor comes in. 48% of managers and supervisors are eligible for retirement this year. Does each of those managers have someone who is able to step in and fill their shoes?
"Why haven't two decades of sustained knowledge-sharing efforts been more successful? " asked Beverly Kaye, Ilana Maskin, and Devon Scheef in their 2011 article: "Knowledge Transfer as Wisdom Sharing." The article points out all the repositories of expert knowledge, from databases and wikis to communities of practice, lack a human element. For his part, Mr. Hansler was prepared with sheets of presenter materials and leaders notes.
The meeting participants we interviewed believed Jeffrey did just fine.
"I really liked the risk profile," shared ASTD-OC Past President Rhonda Askeland. "Identifying the potential knowledge pits was helpful and something I will share with my clients."
"I gained insight about limitations of information shared based on people "staying in the box" of what they should/could share." added Rhonda. "It was also helpful to reinforce the internal/external knowledge sharing paradigm."
Angela Vanhorn walked away from the event inspired to demonstrate and model the value of sharing and mentoring in the workforce. She saw that doing so would "create engaged employees who will collaborate and relate their ideas and wisdom."
As always, our community shared their wisdom during the meeting. "Participants shared several creative ideas that appeal to the audience’s “human side,'" said Angela. "Which can be utilized when presenting or facilitating to a diverse group of participants."
Which brings us back to the allegory that so neatly leapt into our lap -- good documentation may be a fine starting point for the person taking over someone else's role, but it's the combination of that knowledge and experiences that provides for better learning opportunities.
Did you attend May's Knowledge Transfer Learning Event? Share your insights in our comments.
My mother retired years after her 65th birthday. When she did, she took with her well over 30 years of knowledge on the "Proper Way To Get Things Done" - techniques that were a combination of job knowledge and the relationships she had built with vendors and with her coworkers. I'm significantly biased, but those were some pretty big shoes to fill.
A lot has been said about organizational brain drain over the past few years, and a lot of the focus has been on the Baby Boomer generation retiring. Here's an interesting realization: brain drain doesn't just occur when the Baby Boomers leave - it occurs when any employee leaves, especially with the rapidity that knowledge is created and altered in today's work environment. When the average length of time an employee holds a job these days is between 2 to 5 years, and as technology and networks shift just as swiftly, organizations need to place a priority on capturing and maintaining all their intellectual capital.
Consider this: what would happen to your department's workflow if your LMS Administrator were to leave? Or your Training Coordinator? Let's say only one person on your team is able to facilitate a course -- what happens then that person leaves (our Total Trainer design team can serve as a case study for this last "what if"). These people might be retiring Boomers, but they just as easily can be Gen X'ers or Millenials seeking a different challenge.
Intellectual capital is not limited to one generation, and its importance is not limited to those employees with significant tenure. While presentations such as Devon Scheef's May 27 Learning Event may be couched as a preventative for the loss of legacy expertise, it would behoove all of us to consider applying her approaches with the mindset that each employee is host to a unique bit of wisdom critical to the operation of the company, and to find a way to build a community that embraces the ready sharing of that wisdom.
When Ferril Onyett and Mazen Albatarseh tackled the challenge of delivering impactful training to 150,000+ employees across the globe, they walked away with a case study that focused more about the analysis of their dispersed workforce needs, and less about the solution.
Their solution: to train Taco Bell's front line employees, which turns over at an astronomical rate of 140%, the company uses eLearning combined with on-the-job observation. This shouldn’t surprise us. Google "training dispersed workforce," and the use of some form of eLearning resource -- be it an online library or an LMS – will appear somewhere on the blog posts and web sites that populate the search results.
What resonated with our members, however, was the approach that Ferril Onyett (Director, People Development and Global Learning) and Mazen Albatarseh (Director of Management Systems and the Customer Engagement team) took to hone their program. Turns out, they were using eLearning before. It just wasn't effective.
"The most important take away for me was seeing the way that the Taco Bell team had graphed the behaviors/experiences of the customers, the front line workers, the assistant managers, and the managers into one document,” shared Laurie Reinhart. “This helped them clarify exactly what was valuable and what added no value in terms of what the company was requiring of franchisees.” Laurie appreciated that methodology so much that: “I have adapted and applied their grid-based analysis to the development plan for my own consulting group."
A key component of that grid-based analysis was a focus on Taco-Bell's customers. Mazen took great care to show that everything, from the training of the front line employees to the training of the restaurant managers, was tied to the customer experience.
Mary MacKey appreciated "how they detailed each step of the process for each level of participation (manager, team member, and customer and showed the relationship among them all) – work as a team. This was a good reminder to focus on in some current projects."
So if Taco Bell was delivering eLearning before the time period addressed in their case study, and continued to deliver eLearning afterwards, what differed? Training's focus on the essentials.
“The response from everyone that there are approximately 1000 acronyms and 200 some-odd amount of things a manager needed to do was a loud cry to how out of control things can become if you don’t look at the big picture," commented Mary. While neither Mazen nor Ferril did anything to assure us that the number of acronyms had diminished (indeed, Ms. Onyett added a new one during her presentation), they stressed multiple times that the key measurements that both the company and training were focusing on totalled 26. This reduction of information overload most impacted the new hire training program, reducing the time spent in front of eLearning content more than 60%.
Ferril and Mazen’s story showed that the key to training a dispersed workforce has less to do with the solutions you provide than everything else that comes before it.
As you can see from the list, the methods by which a leader can coach an employee are plentiful. Our attendees would point out, however, that those techniques fit within 2, perhaps 3 of the seven coaching process steps, and by themselves would not succeed in improving employee performance.
Laurie Reinhart led ATD-OC's Structured Networking topic for March, asking: Who was the professional coach who most inspired you? What did he or she do that impacted your performance?
"The manager’s challenge is to build individual capabilities at the same time he or she encourages individuals to tackle new challenges that build their competencies in preparation for the future." from the Dale Carnegie Training whitepaper: Talent Management.
If your company's performance review period is like mine, you're just wrapping up your mid-year reviews. And if you're company's like mine, you're realizing that performance management is still driven primarily by deadlines.
Maybe you've grown accustomed to that.
"Coaching is a small part of the job description for most managers. Nearly half spend less than 10% of their time coaching others." reported Forbes.com back in 2010. Wonder if that number's gone up in the past four years, or down, or remained about the same.
Coaching is widely recognized as an important component of performance management. Articles in Forbes, Inc., and Harvard Business Review (to name a few) all study how strong performers can grow and improve when coaching is done well, and the impact of coaching when done poorly or not at all.
Just as equally recognized: effective performance management requires ongoing coaching discussions.
The Dale Carnegie Perspective: "Most development occurs on the job and in the context of work activities. It is not limited to off-the-job training."
This perspective is evident in Dale Carnegie's Growth and Change cycle. It's a little different than the performance management cycle you may have shared with your managers when kicking off another "performance year," but it similarly establishes an accountability between manager and employee for the employee's development. It also points out where most performance management stops -- at least until new goals are set.
You can learn more about Dale Carnegie's Growth and Change Cycle at this month's ATD-OC Learning Event.
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