Reflections of a reflector…

Firstly, thank you to all of the people who have nudged and cajoled me into blogging. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while and recently had the headspace and impetus to start this.

I often get asked how I got into the L&D space and the skills required — this post is a bit of a homage to that but in typical Babs style, I’ll answer that slightly differently. I’ll share 4 key things that have shaped my thinking; huge life lessons which translate to what I’m doing professionally.

In no particular order they are as follows:

LISTEN.. I mean of the DEEP listening variety 
I started my career at Nationwide Building Society, such fond memories of 6 fabulous years. As is customary in financial services, the cashiers generate leads for the Financial Advisers. I consistently featured in the top 5 across the region in leads that converted to sales. I want to make a distinction here though — it wasn’t the highest number of leads provided but the quality of them. The strangest thing is that when asked how I did it so that the ‘process’ could be shared with others, I had no answers, I just didn’t know! So I was shadowed over a period of weeks and then the answer was presented back to me, I didn’t sell, I listened. Every conversation was an opportunity to get understanding, build rapport and appreciate how (or if) products could bring some value to their lives. Worthy of note is my age, I was 19, nobody taught me this skill, it was authentic to me. You can guess how this panned out though.. yep, I was punished for my skill, I was fast track promoted to a Financial Adviser and had to undertake FSA qualifications :-)

Ask WHY (even if it gets you into trouble)
The day began like any other day at secondary school — Monday morning and double maths. My teacher was chipper and announced something that stopped me in my tracks:

I’m going to share with you THE most valuable thing you’ll learn at school

So I sat attentively, bolt upright, ready for this gem. However, I was confused because what he proceeded to talk about was ‘pythagoras’s theorem’. Whilst interesting, I just couldn’t make the connection between it’s positioning and the gem. I asked a question, “Sir, is there anything that you missed from this” and he replied why, I responded that I couldn’t see why it would be the most valuable thing. I wasn’t trying to be cute or funny, just needed help. Unfortunately I was sent out of the classroom and had to attend detention. Not pleasant and of course lots of lessons learned here — later in life I realised something was very important to me, this is the notion of personalisation (even at that age). Don’t tell me or others something is so, contexualise why it could be!

Design and utility 
I grew up in a household that had modest disposable income, no sob story here, we wasn’t starving and had a roof over our heads. The modesty refers to not many ‘treats’ relative to some of my other classmates. However, we ate like absolute kings, I’m grateful for the fact my Mum was and still is an amazing cook. In fact, in her 40’s she changed her career to be a Chef. What’s my point here? We enjoyed delicious meals based on our heritage such as curry goat, yam dasheen and oxtail as well as english fare. The cuts of meat might not be everyone’s cup of tea but in addition to the food having exceptional taste and nutritional value (utility) it was also well presented (design). I’m not talking about design being the over garnished Michelin star type, instead a more inclusive and accessible feast for the eyes/senses. For me the design/utility aspect transends many areas of our life e.g. think about cars that look amazing and yet the dashboard is poorly designed. Yet in some instances within the workplace this combination is in short supply. I’m intentionally not sharing examples as this will be the subject of another post.

Take one for the team
For those of you who know me, you must have anticipated something related to sports impacting me. I was a former sprinter, didn’t reach the dizzy heights but ran for a county and I will big myself up by saying that I ran a decent 100m & 200m and my speed helped considerably in the long jump.

As I’m typing this, I have goose pimple, let me set the scene…. Team GB has always had a healthy competitive tussle with Team USA in the blue riband relay races. A decision was made by the Team GB coach in the 1991 Tokyo world champs which would truly change the way I thought. USA had pure dominance in the relays and in a bid to address this, we (GB) tried another tactic. Against the usual convention, we put the fastest runner (at the time it was Roger Black) to run the first leg to try and give us a headstart and carry that advantage around. Watch the video to find out what happened….

What did I learn from the above tactic? I was in this situation once before and was fairly indignant that as the fastest person I should be the anchor leg. I felt it was a right, a reward for my sporting prowess and gave little thought about how a different strategy could yield different outcomes. In fact, I’m ashamed to say that at the time the request felt almost punitive. Moral of the story for me, think more holistically about transferrable skills.

So to come back to the question I referred to at the start — the one I’m routinely asked. My cheeky response — we are ALL in learning as this baby beautifully illustrates….

This should give you a little insight into what makes me tick, seemed appropriate for my first post. Babs xx