Ten Truths About Learning

I’ve been in the Teaching-Learning Business for most of my life.  So, when an undergraduate group at The Ohio State University asked me to make a presentation that summarized what I had learned over the course of my career, talking about what I had learned about Learning was a natural.

Truth #1: Learning is Innately Pleasurable.  You may scoff.   You may disagree…and in a way, you are right.   That’s because too many schools and too many teachers have given Learning a bad rap and they have taken all the fun out of Learning.  However, just think about very young children whom you know and have known.  They are avid Learners— they encounter new “stuff” every day… they suck it up like little mental vacuums–and they are proud and delighted with all their new-found skills, abilities, and knowledge.  They know how much fun it is to be a Learner!  It really is fun to learn.

Truth #2: Learning is All Yours. Learning is a truly rare commodity in that it is something that is completely yours and nobody can take it away from you–ever!

Truth #3: Learning is Uniquely Your Own.  It’s a huge part of what makes you the individual you are and aspire to be.

Truth #4: Learning is Multi-Dimensional.  There is no single way to learn. There is considerable literature from mid- 20th century devoted to Learning styles.   Are you more of an Oral Learner or a Visual Learner?  Or some combination?   Do you want your new ideas neatly packaged, or would you like to discover them yourself?   Is your attention to Learning achieved better in the evening rather than in the morning?   If reading is a chore, audio and audio-visual materials are widely available.  Your local librarians are wonderful sources for lots and lots of “stuff”.  If they don’t have it in their collection, they will find it for you and get it to you in an astonishingly short period of time.

Truth #5: Learning is a Power Tool.  This is so obvious; I almost didn’t include it.   Learning leads to Knowledge.  And, as we all know, Knowledge Is Power.

Truth #6: Learning Opens Doors.  This is a purely practical reason for Learning.  Any job-hunter knows that.

Truth #7: Learning Limits are Boundless.      “I’m too old to Learn.”  No, you’re not!  That’s a cop-out.  Having been an “Advanced Learner” myself, I can attest to the fact that we older people Learn differently than our young classmates, and it may take a bit more time and effort.  Is it worth the effort?  Absolutely!

Truth #8: Learning Changes with Age/Experience.    What you take away from a Learning Experience depends a great deal on the life situation that you bring into it.  The more life experience you have, the more richness you will gain from the Learning Experience.

Truth #9: Learning Opportunities Abound.  The impact of the Internet on the availability of Learning Opportunities can’t be overstated.  You can find out “How to do” almost anything from plumbing to pot roast.  You can take a lesson or two in knitting.  You can take a course in almost anything.  You can earn a certificate in an area of special interest.  You can even earn an undergraduate or graduate degree from an accredited college or university—ALL ONLINE.

Truth #10: Learning is Infinitely Portable.  You can take your Learning with you wherever you go, and it doesn’t even need a suitcase!

Dr. Patricia (Pat) Schwirian’s lifelong work with health care and the aging provides a unique perspective. She recently agreed to work with Alber Enterprise Center,  facilitating programs such as the Elder Care Certificate.  Her experience includes years of teaching, research, publications, and consultation in health and aging, and she is Faculty Emerita for The Ohio State University.

High Performing Teams

High Performing Teams:  Three Pitfalls to Avoid

Have you ever been on a really great team?  Why was it great?

Great teams that accomplish amazing goals and are enjoyable to be on do not happen by accident.  It takes a savvy team leader and team members who are willing to risk sharing their unique strengths and differences for the good of the team.

How do we build these great teams and what are some of the pitfalls to avoid?

#1 – Negative Thinking

Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.  Helen Keller

Building great teams starts with building a strong foundation of respect and trust.  Without these, the team will always struggle with communication, judgmental attitudes, personal agendas, and lack of valuable transparency.  Teams that have a foundation of trust perform better.  According to Paul J. Zak in his Harvard Business Review article, the Neuroscience of Trust, employees of high-trust companies as compared to low-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 76% more engagement, and 29% more satisfaction with their lives.  Wow – who wouldn’t want to be part of this team!

Given the strong importance for trust, why is it team members do not respect and trust one another?  I believe we need to take a good look in the mirror and determine to stop thinking the worst of our teammates.  We need to expect the best and not jump to negative conclusions.  We need to get rid of the stereotypes we think, believe, and act on about one another.

If we want to be part of a great team then it is time to start giving our teammates the benefit of the doubt, to trust them, to forgive them, to put ourselves in their shoes, to encourage them, and to share credit with them.  In fact, when we start thinking positively about one another, amazing things can happen.

#2 – The Meeting-After-the-Meeting

Great things in business are never done by one person.  They are done by a team of people.  Steve Jobs

Admittedly, I have on a few occasions been part of “the meeting-after-the-meeting”.  You probably know this pitfall too.  It goes something like this:  you sit through a meeting where the leader and maybe a couple of teammates do all the talking, enthusiastically make the decisions, and then the meeting ends with you feeling confused, in disagreement, or with a lack of energy.  At this point, the “meeting-after-the-meeting” occurs.  You stick around afterwards commiserating with another teammate about the terrible decision or you huddle somewhere to criticize and complain.

If we want to be part of a great team then we need to risk speaking up during the meeting and sharing our thoughts, ideas, and disagreements.  Obviously, we need to be respectful but if we do not speak up, the team misses out on valuable input and possibly the best idea for great success.  Let’s decide today to stop “meeting-after-the meeting” and make sure each team member is encouraged to respectfully speak up, ask questions, and voice concerns.

#3 – My Idea or The Best Idea

None of us is as smart as all of us.  Ken Blanchard

Which is better, my idea or the best idea for the team?   If you have ever been part of a great team, you probably responded with “the best idea for the team”.  Unfortunately, we often refuse to truly embrace our teammate’s ideas.  We may not outwardly say it but rather our refusal plays out in subtle ways.  We don’t take part in the follow up, we lack energy to stay on task, or we just plain do not do our part.

I may talk a good game about wanting the team to succeed but when their ideas do not benefit me or my personal goals, I may have a tendency to protect my own idea.  If we want to be part of a great team, then what is best for the team is to tap into and embrace ideas from all team members. I need to let go of thinking my idea is the best idea and trust the collective team for the best idea.  After all, “none of us is as smart as all of us.”  What holds you back from embracing change and others’ ideas?  Consider your motives and ways to overcome the fear of the unknown.  Once we accomplish this, then we are well on our way to becoming a great high performing team!

 

Embracing Strengths

Dr. Donald Clifton, the founder of CliftonStrengths®, asked the question, “What would happen if we studied what is right with people versus what is wrong with people? The CliftonStrengths movement is all about focusing on what we do well, while minimizing our weaknesses.”

CliftonStrengths is an assessment that can be taken (over 19 million people have) to identify your Top 5 Strengths (you can also unlock all 34 of your strength themes). You can then take a deeper dive into your strengths, see where they play out in your life, both professionally and personally. What you will most likely find is that areas where you excel can in some way be tied back to one of your Top 5 strengths.

For example, Relator is my #1 strength. The definition of Relator is, “People who are especially talented in the Relator theme enjoy close relationships with others. They find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal.” Relationships, deep and meaningful, have always been an important part of my life, in general. In my work as an Organization Development Consultant, it is all about developing relationships. This is one of the most rewarding aspects of my work and it is something I enjoy very much.

Another strength, called Woo (winning others over), is defined as, “People who are especially talented in the Woo theme love the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over. They derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection with another person.” This is not a strength of mine. Walking into a room of people I do not know is very difficult for me. WOO is #30 out of #34 for me. In those situations, I leverage my Relator and try and meet 1 or 2 people, rather than “work the room” and talk with everyone.

A group of leaders in Hardin County are currently going through an eight-session community leadership development program. This is for adults who aspire to or find themselves in elected, appointed or volunteer leadership roles in their communities. One of the key objectives is to offer educational experiences which will allow participants to explore who they are and how they are uniquely gifted for the work of leading.

For the last two years, Hardin Leadership has included a CliftonStrengths session from the Alber Enterprise Center. According to Kathy Oliver, Chairperson for Hardin Leadership, “Strengths is a perfect fit in the Hardin Leadership curriculum. We offer this session as the third one, just as the participants have become comfortable with the others in the program. They are ready to explore openly. I think these selected comments reveal the value the participants received from the session:

**I found the different strengths very interesting. This helps understand the different thought processes that people have.

**I can’t think of other people’s strengths as weakness just because they don’t align with my strengths.

**How to use my strengths to my advantage and to the team I’m building.

**Knowing others’ strengths can help you work together in a work environment.

**Thank you for the validation!”

There are so many ways to embrace your strengths. According to Gallup, “The highest level of performance comes from those who focus on strengths while managing weakness.” What you will find by taking this assessment is insight and understanding in a way that you most likely have not experienced before. Or, another way to put, you might have a light bulb moment!

 Take the opportunity to get to know yourself in a whole new way. You won’t regret it.

by Anne Johnson, Certified Gallup Strengths Coach

Anne’s Top 5 strengths are: Relator | Responsibility | Arranger | Learner| Belief

To take the assessment, go to: https://www.gallupstrengthscenter.com

The Credible Leader

Credibility is the fundamental trait that every excellent leader must embody.  The traits of a credible leader are demonstrated by their words.  How many of these do you say on a regular basis?

 

What do you need?

 

Great leaders get things done through others. So after setting a clear course ahead, they ask regularly, “What do you need?”  After all, to ensure that our teams succeed, we must make sure they have everything they need.  Knock down obstacles, provide resources, guidance, and clarity.  We serve them so that they succeed.

 

Tell me more.

 

Great leaders don’t jump to conclusions, but hear out the full story so they can make better decisions.  Our team members crave being heard and when there are two sides, both sides want a full hearing.  Ask for details.  It’s the details that matter.  This runs counter to our culture of a fast pace and too much to do.  Great leaders know when to step back, slow down, and intentionally focus on the matter at hand.

 

Keep in mind our values…

 

If your team ever gets off track or is having trouble with a decision, elevate the discussion and go back to your core values.  It brings clarity and focus on what truly matters most.  On a regular basis, insert your core values into any discussion and watch how it fosters ownership and engagement.

 

I trust you.

 

Foster more trust with your team by expressing your trust in them.  This says you believe in them and have confidence in their skills and abilities to get the job done.  When we give others a great reputation to live up to, they will strive to reach it.  

 

Well done!

 

Great leaders celebrate and talk about high performance.  They cultivate gratitude when effort is shown, goals are met, or just when everyone pulled together.  It’s inspiring when it happens and great leaders talk about proud stories of achievement. 

 

So, how did you do?  How many of the above have you said to your team?  Less than perfect?  No problem.  Let this be a reminder to say what highly credible leaders say.

 

Here at the Alber Center, we have a passion for helping leaders be their best.  If this short article was useful, please consider partnering with us to help make this year your organization’s best ever.  Leadership matters and it would be an honor to come alongside you to foster the leadership that builds healthy, high-performing teams. 

How to Understand and Deal with Different Generations

To effectively deal with the four generations of employees and customers, we first need to get to know them.

Matures – born before 1946

These people could be your parents, grandparents or even your great-grandparents. They tend to be task oriented. Matures believe in rules of conduct and respect for authority. When they were young, they did not question; they simply did as they were told. Society was characterized by a militaristic, top-down structure. After all, many matures grew up during World War II or the Korean War. Members of this generation, for the most part, want conformity and rules.

There has always been inter-generational conflict. Members of the next generation (Baby Boomers) probably approached Matures with “You know, maybe there is a better way to do things.” Matures likely responded with, “No! This is the way has always been done. And it always will be done this way!”

Baby Boomers – born between 1946 and 1964

Most members of the next generation of employees desire meaningful work, and to have a bottom-line impact on the success of the organization. But they also want praise, recognition and appreciation for their extra hours and hard work, as well as the resulting financial rewards that accompany them. Boomers live to work.

In general, this generation is probably the most materialistic of the four. The attendees of my workshops theorize as to why the generations act the way that they do. One attendee speculated that Baby Boomers are so materialistic because many of their parents, who were Matures, struggled financially while they were growing up. Therefore, Matures instructed their Baby Boomer sons and daughters, “We don’t want you to deal with the hard times that we had to endure. Go make something of yourselves!” So Boomers did.

Generation Y – born between 1965 and 1980

Many of my attendees who are Gen Y feel like they are the forgotten generation. “Everybody seems to talk about Baby Boomers and Millennials,” they say. “Nobody seems to ever mention us.”

Like the Baby Boomers, most of Generation Y wants meaningful work. But with that desire comes an important caveat: they also desire a healthy work-life balance. They want relaxed dress codes, flexible leave policies and a freedom to do their job. Finally, they want a boss who is sensitive to their need for work flexibility and family values.

Millennials – born between 1981 and 1995

The next group is currently the largest generation in the workforce. Millennials (or Generation Y), for the most part, want to participate on a variety of substantial, important projects, which will allow them to learn and use new skills, especially their technical skills.

Millennials desire work that is personally rewarding. Because, unlike Baby Boomers who live to work, Millennials only work to live. They believe in Y.O.L.O. – you only live once – so you need to experience all that life has to offer, especially outside the job.

This generation likely wants a boss who is more like a coach or mentor; they dislike bosses who are formal or hierarchical.

Some interesting facts about Millennials …

What percent of today’s adults are currently married with children compared to Baby Boomers of the same age?

  • Baby Boomers – 50%
  • Millennials – 12%

What percent of Millennials expect to stay on the job for less than three years?

  • 91% – which will translate into 15 to 20 jobs over their working lives

Where do Millennials want to live?

  • 41% say in or near the cities

The key to success in dealing with each of these four different generations is the platinum rule – do onto others the way that they would like to be done unto.

 

Marketing Your Small Business

One of the ideas I like to share with my audiences is for each of them to form an Advisory Council. Here is how it works: Once a quarter, take your best customers out to dinner to a fancy restaurant or country club. It especially helps if these customers are what best-selling author Seth Godin calls “sneezers,” people who are most influential in your community.

After dinner, ask your Advisory Council some questions like, “I’d like to give you a sneak peek at some new products and services we are thinking about rolling out. What do you think?” or “This is our new business plan for next year. What advice would you give us?”

And you know, it really doesn’t matter what they say. The important thing is that you made these people, who seem to know everybody in the community, feel important.

Not only will they be happy to meet other like-minded, influential members of the community at the quarterly meeting, they are likely to become lifetime customers themselves. (After all, who among your competitors are treating them so royally?)  Best of all, they likely will be unable to contain their enthusiasm around others about how you make them feel special.

After their quarterly meeting with you, if they overhear someone shopping for products or services that you offer, they are likely to chime in to the conversation, beginning with words like, “You know, if that is what you are considering, you really need to see my friends. They’ll take really good care of you!”

And we all understand the power of personal recommendation and that word of mouth is the most influential and effective form of marketing you can get.

And you too can get it, for the price of dinner and some drinks, simply by making your best customers feel important.

Seth Godin

 

 

 

Booming Paralegal Field

Lawyers are not the only legal experts out there. In fact, it is common that lawyers depend on their paralegals and legal assistants to help them be more efficient and effective. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of paralegals is expected to grow by 15% over the next eight years! You’ll find paralegals in law firms, government offices and legal departments in corporate companies. They are qualified legal experts who draft legal documents, research laws and regulations, and assist attorneys and lawyers with cases and help prepare for trials.

Paralegals may help with some administrative tasks, yet most of their workload is engaging with clients and working on cases. Charged with keeping track of and analyzing case documentation and information, paralegals need to be well versed in the online world of databases and computer software to be successful in their positions.

According to Paralegal EDU, there is a lot of variability in the opinion of what certification/credentials a paralegal needs for the industry to recognize them as qualified. There is no standard paralegal preparation course, certificate or degree. Because of the variability, you will find a variety of certificate programs and undergraduate degrees that aim to teach paralegals the skills they need to be successful.

Paralegal EDU just released the results of a months-long assessment of more than 250 accredited schools offering pre-degree certificate programs in paralegal studies. They chose which programs to recognize based upon a number of factors. Some of these factors include; the flexibility of the course work to fit into learner’s daily lives, opportunities to gain experience by practicing their new skills as well as how well the program aligns with current job demands. Check out the full list of criteria.

Paralegal EDU has recognized Alber Enterprise Center’s Paralegal Certification course as one of the best programs in Ohio for Paralegals to earn their certificate. This program includes the flexible online course, a Microsoft Office Suite course to develop your computer software skills, and an externship that allows you to practice the new skills you have learned in the course.

The Park

Recently as I was driving to work (often times, I do my best thinking when I’m driving to work), I passed a city park. I quickly glanced over and saw steam rising and thought to myself, “I didn’t know that there was a small lake at the park.” My second thought was, “I have been driving by this park for over two years. Why have I never turned into here and explored?” The parks in my community are very nice and appear to be well kept. Yes, we pay taxes in the county where I live for the upkeep so one should really take the opportunity to enjoy them. This sent me down another road in my thinking process and that was, “This is like some of the organizations that the Alber Enterprise Center works with. When we sit down to have the initial conversation, our strategy is to listen. We listen to what the employer’s needs are. We ask questions to learn about what keeps them up at night. And there are many times what we hear is, “This is the way we have always done it.”

Many organizations have not ventured away from the typical “one and done training”. You know, the kind of training where you go offsite, spend anywhere from 4 – 8 hours in the training and when you get back to your office, the well-put together notebook of training materials goes up on a bookshelf, right along with the other trainings that you have attended. Does this sound familiar? I am smiling because I, too, had a bookshelf full of well-put together, carefully thought out workshops. Then, once I got back to the office, it was “business as usual” and anything that I had hoped to implement went right up there on the shelf with the other notebooks. And then…all was forgotten.

What does this have to do with my drive in this morning and seeing the park? Well, I would challenge organizations to veer off the path, think differently, look at the overall picture and wonder, “What could we do differently that would make a greater impact?”

A good place to start and one that I strongly recommend is asking your staff what training or professional development they would find exciting, energizing, and meaningful? You would be surprised how much thought they have given to that very question and will, most likely, provide you with a lot of good information, such as developing their skills as an emerging leader or maybe it is one-on-one coaching. Another possibility might be to identify their strengths and areas where they will excel or it could be a process to become “lean” and the ability to put a process in place to improve efficiencies.

Take off the blinders and look at your organization’s professional development with fresh eyes. Be willing to veer off that well-traveled path and explore. You never know what you might see or discover along the way.

P.S. – On my way home today, I veered off the main road and drove through the park I mentioned at the beginning of this blog. I learned a couple of things. First, there is NO small lake – it was an open field with early morning fog. (Lesson here – don’t assume). Second, the road took me back to a beautiful bird sanctuary and a scenic area for rest and reflection. My next adventure will be to go explore those. Robert Frost certainly said it best:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by; And that has made all the difference.

 What difference might it make for you and your organization?

Embrace the Changes: Quality & Environmental Management Systems

by Larry W. Sheppard, ISO 14001-2015 EMS & ISO 9001-2015 QMS Consultant

Companies currently certified to ISO 14001-2004 and ISO 9001-2008 must be re-certified to the revised standards by September 15th 2018 or risk the possibility of losing their certification.  The new standards did not add any new requirements; however, some of the existing requirements in the 2015 versions have significant changes. Transition for ISO 14001-2004 and ISO 9001-2008 certified companies should be easy to implement since they have an EMS/QMS base that meets most of the requirements of the 2015 version.

This is where the Alber Enterprise Center of The Ohio State University can assist your company during the transition to the new standards. We would be glad to meet with your management staff and present the new requirements in detail.

 Main changes in ISO 14001:2015 EMS

The new requirement is to understand the organization’s context has been incorporated to identify opportunities for the benefit of both the organization and the environment. Particular focus is on issues or changing circumstances related to the needs and expectations of interested parties (including regulatory requirements) and local, regional or global environmental conditions that can affect, or be affected by, the organization. Once identified as a priority, actions to mitigate adverse risk or exploit beneficial opportunities are integrated in the operational planning of the EMS.

 To ensure the success of the system, a new clause has been added that assigns specific responsibilities for those in leadership roles to promote environmental management within the organization.

The expectation on organizations has been expanded to commit to proactive initiatives to protect the environment from harm and degradation, consistent with the context of the organization. The revised text does not define ‘protect the environment’ but it notes that it can include prevention of pollution, sustainable resource use, climate change mitigation and adaptation, protection of biodiversity and ecosystems, etc. i.e. environmental performance.

There is a shift in emphasis with regard to continual improvement, from improving the management system to improving environmental performance to be consistent with the organization’s policy commitments.  In addition to the current requirement to manage environmental aspects associated with procured goods and service, organizations will need to extend its control and influence to the environmental impacts associated with product design and development to address each stage of the life cycle, i.e. acquisition of raw materials, design, production, transportation/delivery, use, end-of-life treatment and final disposal.

Main Changes in ISO 9001-2015 QMS

Major Differences in Terminology between ISO 9001- 2008 & ISO 9001-2015

 

ISO 9001-2008 ISO 9001-2015
Products Products and service
Exclusions Not used

(See Clause A.5 for clarification of applicability)

Management Representative Not used (Similar responsibilities and authorities are assigned but no requirement for a single management represented)
Documentation, quality manual, documented records Documented information
Work environment Environment for the operation of processes
Monitoring and measuring equipment Monitoring and measuring resources
Purchased product Externally provided product and services
Supplier External provider

 Documented Information has replaced the ISO 9001-2008 version need for the quality manuals and some procedures to define the documented QMS. Documented Information includes instructions, records of process performances, external provider’s performance, internal audits and management reviews etc.

As part of the continual improvement process risk base thinking was added to the revised standard. The concept of risk has always been implicit in ISO 9001 as preventive action. The 2015 revision makes it more explicit and builds it into the total QMS.

New Year, New Opportunities

Happy New Year to all of our clients, followers, readers, and colleagues!  We sincerely hope that 2018 brings you joy, prosperity, and renewed energy.  As we turn the page on this new calendar year, the Alber Enterprise Center is turning the page with resolve. We are resolved to:

  • Demonstrate our belief that employees are the heart and soul of an organization;
  • Be the catalyst for change, innovation, and progress; positively impacting individuals, organizations, and communities;
  • Demonstrate that integrity, honesty, and excellence are at the heart of our work;
  • Hold ourselves personally accountable to one another and to our clients;
  • Develop and maintain long-term relationships that allow us to build solid partnerships leading to enhanced productivity, empowered leadership, and creative problem-solving.

What sort of challenges are you facing in 2018, and how might you and your organization resolve to overcome those challenges?  We would love to support you in your resolutions, as together we can make an impact on whatever barriers exist.  Let’s jump into the New Year with purpose!

“Approach the New Year with resolve to find the opportunities hidden in each new day.” – Michael Josephson