Archives for posts with tag: learning

ImageI’ve spent the day deep in conversation with the Chief Executive of the Wilderness Foundation UK designing the course content for a leadership development programme we’re delivering later this year.

It was great to start with a blank sheet of paper – and a big pile of post it notes! – and brainstorm what we think would be the key areas for the leaders of tomorrow to focus on. As the programme is being delivered by the Wilderness Foundation, there is a heavy emphasis on nature based learning – using a variety of outdoor exercises to explore leadership skills and abilities. You might have seen in an earlier blog the fun I had hugging trees in an exercise on trust, teamwork and observation – it’s activities of that sort that we’ll be weaving into the programme.

After spending the day up to our armpits in post it notes and felt tip pens, we had an overall plan for the structure of the programme. We’d come up with some great thoughts for the detailed activities that will make up each day of the course.

Tomorrow we’ll be putting some meat on the bones of that structure, designing sessions and outlining activities. I can’t wait to use the opportunity to be creative, finding new and exciting ways to help the participants to discover the leadership potential within themselves.

Have you undertaken any leadership development training? What sorts of activities, tools, models or techniques really resonated with you? Are there any that you put into practice in your life and how effective have they been? Did any involve the great outdoors? I’d love to hear your experiences.

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ImageI had the opportunity today to spend some time with a group of school children, talking to them about what they would like to see improved about a particular aspect of their school. I was initially quite nervous about the session – would they be interested in what I had to say? Would they engage with me positively? Would I be able to keep everything running to time?

When I got into the session, however, I met the most inclusive, engaging, fantastically creative group of people you could hope to work with. We started with a round robin of names and something interesting about themselves. Even that was creative – my favourite was “My name’s Barry* and I like chicken”! Well, Barry, who doesn’t?! A brilliant start.

They were all really willing to engage and participate, even the more quiet characters, and very supportive of each other’s ideas, whilst also feeling comfortable enough to challenge them appropriately where they didn’t agree.

Then they were full of great and, if I’m really honest, surprisingly sensible ideas for what they’d like to change. There were occasional digressions into the slightly less sensible, but I enjoyed allowing these for a short while just to see that creativity flow, before bringing the discussion back round to the more feasible options.

In essence, they wanted more. More choice, more space to relax in, more opportunities to do their homework (yes, really!), more fun things to do, more places to be with their friends. And don’t we all want that, really? Apart from the homework, perhaps!

They were also very insightful, bringing up observations on wasted space and missed opportunities for utilisation.

All in all, I learnt a great deal from them and thoroughly enjoyed the session. I can only hope the same is true for them, at least a little bit! I can’t wait for the next opportunity to work with young people, and know that I won’t feel anything like the trepidation I felt this time. Hurrah for feeling the fear and doing it anyway!

*Names have been changed to protect the creative!

ImageGarden weather has finally arrived! After spending most of the day at day two of the mentoring training course I mentioned in an earlier blog, I returned home and managed to spend a couple of hours unwinding in the hammock in the garden for the first time this year – hopefully the first of many!

Luckily, the training course was with the Wilderness Foundation UK, which meant that they were just as conscious of the nice weather that had finally reached us. Excitingly, they were also well prepared for it with an outdoor activity built into the programme for the day.

So we spent some time this afternoon in some beautiful woodland, undertaking a trust exercise consisting of leading a blindfolded partner around the wood, attempting (though not always succeeding!) to avoid the frequently hidden holes in the ground, filled with piles of leaves, as we guided them through the trees.

The aim of the exercise was to lead them to a tree, which they felt until they thought they were able to identify it, and then lead them away again. Once back at base, off came the blindfolds and they were now tasked with trying to retrace their steps and identify their tree.

It was a great exercise, focussing as it did on both developing trust and increasing observational skills. I was quite surprised how effective most people were at tracking down their tree from touch alone, which I didn’t expect.

It was a really enjoyable exercise and one that reminded me of the opportunities for learning that present themselves to us outside of the classroom, in the great outdoors. And then my time in my hammock in my little sanctuary of a garden reminded me of the opportunities for snoozing that the great outdoors also present us with!

Here’s hoping you manage to enjoy being outdoors in some form or other this weekend. Do let me know – dog walk or BBQ, gardening or out for a run… what have you been up to today or have planned for tomorrow?

Have a great weekend, everybody.

ImageIt’s the night before I start a new three month commission and I’m feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement. Happily, there’s not a hint of the Sunday night blues I discussed at length in an earlier blog post. It’s been a while since I had a regular role for a number of months as we have been primarily undertaking shorter commissions and working on building the business, so I’m looking forward to the regularity and order of a routine for a while.

I must confess that there will be downsides – setting the alarm every morning and having to get dressed every single day are the two that immediately strike me! But on the whole, I’m really excited about the opportunities the role will provide me with. Opportunities to add value to the organisation and to learn new things, adding to my experience. I’ll be undertaking a process improvement role and, as I previously mentioned, I’m currently undertaking a Six Sigma process improvement online training course. So this will provide me with the perfect opportunity to cement my learning and learn by doing, which I believe is a really powerful way of learning.

I mentioned nerves too. It’s always a bit nerve-wracking just before you start something new, isn’t it? That fear of the unknown – Will you be good enough? Will it be what you expect? – is universal, I think. The trick is to channel it into positive energy; transform it into excitement, and rather than thinking of them as “unknowns”, think of them as opportunities that await you.

And the other big part of preparation for something new, is being relaxed and rested. So I will end this rather foreshortened post for today in favour of packing my lunchbox and getting some much needed beauty sleep.

ImageRegular visitors to the blog will have seen yesterday’s discussion blog post entitled “if you could make one change, what would it be?” and there was a great discussion with a wide range of responses. Sadly, I haven’t quite located that magic wand as yet, so rather than grant the wishes, I thought I’d simply highlight some of them today.

So, what was on the list? Well there was my straightforward (and lazy) wish to be able to speak a foreign language with ease (and without effort!) and my wife’s latest attempt to convince me that we need to get a puppy! Strangely, there was a consensus amongst those who wished they lived in a different country that the ideal location would be Switzerland. Send me back a Toblerone!

There was a fantastic, and very selfless, suggestion from one commenter who wants to change the ruling elite to those who put others first, with an excellent chain of events that would lead to “teaching others that it helps everyone to consider the wellbeing of all”. If only I really did have that magic wand! Maybe a bit of Eric Clapton will help to change the world: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGDIxcuPT7s

For some people, the big change they wanted to make in their life was to change their career, including to work for themselves, and some had already bitten the bullet and made this change. A lingering regret in some cases was that this hadn’t been done earlier, and this chimed with another popular sentiment that a number of commenters expressed. This was that they wished that the knowledge, self-belief and confidence that they possess now had been theirs when they were younger. I can strongly empathise with that view, if only we could fast-forward through the painful, growing up experiences quickly and then time could slow down again so that we could enjoy the fruits of those experiences at our leisure!

Sadly, it seems, life doesn’t seem to work that way. And I think, on balance, I’m glad for that. No-one truly enjoys being in the midst of some of the more painful, difficult experiences of our lives. But if we’re really honest, those adages about needing the rain in order to truly experience the sunshine contain more than a grain of truth. Getting through a bad time can make you even more grateful for the good times.

This was emphasised by one contributor who would change nothing about her life as she is grateful for all the things she does have, including her family, her business and her health. Another contributor wished she could change an aspect of her health – a life-long anxiety disorder – whilst also acknowledging that it was a driving force that underpinned her carrying out the job that she loves. We need the rain as well as the sun!

I’m also a strong believer in experiential based learning, or learning by doing. And, sadly, some of that “doing” inevitably involves making mistakes, bad things happening and general pain. However, if someone tried to sit you down and teach you all the lessons that could be gained from that “doing” without you having to experience the bad bits, would it have the same effect? Would you even listen? Your parents or teacher or other well-meaning adult may well have tried to do this for you. Did it work? I suspect not!

Finally, there was quite a common theme around commenters wishing they could be more confident, whilst worrying less, working harder and being bolder. I’m going to have a mull on that one, so watch this space for the possible topic of a future blog post!

ImageFor today’s blog post, there’s going to be very little from me, and (I hope) much more from you! I’d like to start a discussion with you, as part of ProBlogger’s Group Writing Project. Please have a think and start hitting those comments with your thoughts, and I’ll give my answer in the comments too.

So here’s the topic I’d like to have a discussion with you about: if you could change one thing about your life, what would it be? Something related to your career, your personal life, your own skills and abilities, where you live, anything? If there were no limitations of time, money, effort, of anything, if I could wave that mythical magic wand. What would change?

Over to you.

ImageI bet that your answer to that question was something along the lines of “Of course I do! What a silly question!” but I also bet that it’s more than likely that you’re doing it wrong. Don’t believe me? Watch this 3 minute video to find out, I’ll wait here for you: http://www.ted.com/talks/terry_moore_how_to_tie_your_shoes.html

Ah, you’re back. Hold on, I’ll just put down my cuppa. So, was I right? Were you tying your shoelaces wrong? Well, now you know! Imagine the valuable seconds you can shave off your day by not having to put your trainer laces into a double knot before going for a run or by avoiding having to re-tie your laces when they come undone!

It’s incredible, isn’t it? How you can go through so much of your adult life with absolutely no idea that there is a much better way to do something that you do so often without even thinking about it. Now, if that’s true of something as basic as tying your shoelaces, what if it is also true of a slightly more complicated area of your life, or one that is a bit more consequential than your shoelaces?! Imagine the benefits you could reap if you could learn something new about that!

It’s so easy to never stop to question whether there is a better way to approach what you’re doing, especially if you don’t perceive there to be a problem there to solve in the first place. If Terry Moore had never bought that pair of shoes with the round nylon shoelaces, he would probably never have questioned whether he was tying his shoelaces correctly, and therefore in turn neither would I, and therefore neither would you! A set of chance circumstances all ordering themselves neatly so that you could learn something that you didn’t expect to, and didn’t even know you needed to!

I think this neatly demonstrates that you’re never too old to learn something new and that learning new things can come from all manner of places, including when you’re not expecting it and not seeking it out. Undertaking formal training is fantastic, but it pays to not rule out learning from all manner of other sources, you never know what pearls of wisdom may come your way if you’re on the lookout for them!

I think it also shows that you can learn something new about almost anything – even about things that, if pushed, you would describe yourself as expert in… like tying your shoelaces! Think back to the beginning of the blog when I asked if you could tie your shoelaces and your immediate thought pattern was “Of course!” and yet now you have discovered an improvement to what was already a very simple process that was second nature to you.

So, let’s hear it – will you now be tying your shoes differently? Have you ever discovered you were doing anything else seemingly straightforward wrong? And what else do you hope that you can learn something new about? Maybe we can start a skills-we-thought-we-had-nailed-then-discovered-we-hadn’t exchange here on the blog!