Business, Development, Leadership, Learning, Organisational Change, Organisations, Reflecting, Social Media, Staying Curious, Unconference

Leaders In Learning – My Take

I spoke at the inaugural CIPD Leaders in Learning Network event in Edinburgh on Thursday. 7 minutes on The Value of a Leaders in Learning Network.
Not sure I was entirely on-topic & certainly sure I didn’t hit all of the points below, but in essence, this is what was covered.
I’m increasingly interested in the social, emotional and connected/relational elements of how we work – and how little these elements show up in our organisational planning and actually how essential these elements are.

Face to Face Professional Networks can, I feel, be stuffy and formal… I wanted to lay down alternative ideas.

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My name is Julie Drybrough – I’m Director of a Organisational Learning & Change consultancy here in Edinburgh
In many ways I’m not here because of what I do – I coach, facilitate, consult, just like thousands of other people. I’m here partly because of How I work – through networks, through Social Media, Collaboration and Partnership. I particularly work in the “learning” field. I work with methodology which values and incorporates the Social, Emotional and Relational elements of working in human systems over Process elements…. basically I don’t do gangtt charts..

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In some ways, there has never been a more interesting or potentially impactful time to be working in Organisational Learning – with rapidly changing markets and political landscapes; faster access to our organisations by customers or service users & the ever-presence of Social Media, folk internally have never needed the access to structured, guided learning more.

Information is everywhere.

It has never been more important to draw peoples’ attention to the good content that will help them learn and understand how to be the best manager, leader and person that they can be.

The good news is, as Leaders in Learning – this stuff is happening on our shift & the opportunities to offer good stuff well is immense.
The slightly more nerve-wracking news is – this stuff is happening on our shift and we have some responsibilities – mainly to keep up & to learn ourselves

I have a short amount of time, what I want to do is give two examples of where we, as leaders in learning and part of this network, might just be able to make a difference in this context.

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130,000 books on Amazon last night with Leadership in the title.

Not sure how much your leadership/ management development budget is.. but we throw a vast amount of cash at getting our people developed.
And it’s questionable whether our current methods work….

Here are some heroic leaders – A Super Man. A Wonder Woman and a Slightly Dark Knight

We train leadership as though it is a theory to be learned – as though it is something that happens “out there”, abstract and distant. You can be Situational Leader, an Adaptive Leader, Action-centred…..

In these models, the leader is always active – always responding & nearly always alone – no option to do nothing, observe and gather information, no option to go find out from other people what they do. This is Leadership with your Pants on the outside – no fear, no doubt, no emotion – and these are models we push in to our organisational thinking.

But for me, leadership doesn’t happen in theory – it is a practice – something we need to do everyday. It’s about being aware of yourself, your impact, your flaws and your perfections. It doesn’t happen “out there” someplace, it happens “in here, starting with us – our budding leaders need confidence, understanding of themselves – how do they cope with ambiguity, with structure, with conflict? With praise?
How do we talk to our people about the emotional, social and relational part of being in an organisation with a bunch of other people?

Networks like this one have the opportunity to let us, as the Learning function in the organisations or client systems we work in, talk about this stuff – how do we make Leadership Development real? What do we need to do to think a little differently? Who’s doing stuff that is interesting? Different?
How can we spend our budgets really wisely?

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The More Useful L Word?
It could be Love… but I’m talking about Learning
In 2014, I brought 2 Unconferences to Scotland through an online Network of Practitioners, L&D Connect.

Unconferences are premised that the people who show up have as much knowledge, experience, expertise, opinions as the normal Conference “sage on a Stage” types.

We may not have written books – but we damn sure understand what it is to successfully upskill and transfer knowledge to our people – and we can learn as much from each other as from El Guru on the podium – maybe more, because we’ve sat with each other, talked together and thought together, rather than being talked at.

This is learning in an informal space – it’s allowing conversation, connection, shared ideas, existing ideas to flow between interested and invested people. It’s not bound, but it has structure. This is the power of social, connected learning.

People left with profound insights – some left reassured, some left with wee experiments.. the point was, our thinking was shifted – challenged.. supported – and new possibilities happened – we want change in organisations – this is one way to make it happen…. Imagine if this network could do something similar?

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Networks and Connections = New Ideas
In the past 3 years, much of my thinking, my work, my contacts have developed and been challenged through a Community of Practioners I have found through Social Media – Including Andy here. This is a photo taken at Happy Start-up Camp in September year. My dear colleague Sarah Boyd and her business partner, Oli Pointer are both here –I met them through Social Media.

If I have seen further it has been by standing on the shoulders of giants… or more prosaically reading blogs or articles or going to events that challenge me to be bigger, better, faster more….

We have an opportunity, in this Network, to do some amazing work. The Scottish Leaders in Learning Network could become a hub for experiments, for new practice, for challenging discussion – the Go-To place to keep our professional learning edge sharp.

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Open/ Network/ Learn/ Share
So here’s the thing.
From one relentlessly curious learner to you all.
We are all in the same room, in the same profession, with vastly different experiences and expertise – what can we do if we are open with each other, if we share and learn form each other?
What richness could we create?
What inspiration and innovation could we take back to our organisations?

What’s the Value of Leaders in Learning?
Let’s see what we can do…

10 thoughts on “Leaders In Learning – My Take”

  1. As usual, an outstanding post.
    I think that “knowing” and learning are polarities which need to be well balanced. Because imho, knowing is NOT the ultimate outcome of learning.

  2. Hi Julie,
    Terrific post and sharing. I love the idea of an Unconference, never heard of this before nonetheless I can relate fully with the full content and would love to become involved in the sharing and learning. You recently wrote an excellent piece around the power of the ‘dissenting voice’, this is how I currently feel with the organisation i work, i find it a tremendous challenge to create a ripple ‘for Learning’, as one voice.

    Joining up with people to understanding how to attempt different ways to spread the power and positive outcomes in learning and its application in the workplace and beyond, certainly appeals, a head banging against the proverbial brick wall, can only take so much. (i have a helmet at the ready)

    Many thank again for sharing,

    Best regards…Alan

    1. oooh… can we put you on the mailing list for the next Unconference?

      Maybe I’m horribly bias, but it seems to me folk want to learn – if you have a problem getting folk to management training, it might be the management training your are running, not the folk who are managing.
      If you are banging your head against a brick wall, stop.
      Find a bulldozer, a ladder or some grappling hooks – time to think differently and find others who do and can help you?

  3. Hey Peter…. I wasn’t meaning to criticise Expert Contributors – arguably on the night I was one – it’s just I have a healthy disregard for any “Expert” narratives touted ( including my own).
    Experienced Amateurs, I’m not sure about – most of the folk in the room were Professional, I think.

    Yes – there are times someone is on that stage, or in the spotlight, or being brought forth precisely because of the work they have done, the deep knowledge they bring. In these instances I am, as I said above, in the position of being allowed to Stand on the Shoulders of a Giant & I appreciate that massively.
    On the other hand, Sages on Stages are sometime there because the Agency they use to book them for gigs is extremely good at pushing them forward… so let’s not pretend that particular gravy train doesn’t run.

    I have very recently had experience of someone fairly renown for his thinking and his session was weird, disappointing and out-of-touch. My impression was he believed all of his own hype and had kind of given up trying to compel, beguile or learn any more. He had his schtick – we were meant to agree or we were wrong. I can’t help it… It’s not something I warm to being on the end of.

    I guess my point was that Unconferences are a way of getting people talking and sharing – something Andy Lancaster explicitly said he wanted for CIPD Leaders in Learning as a Network – so I used this as a means to illustrate what thinking and action is out there that the Network could emulate….
    So yes, I agree – there is room for Expert and Informal conversations… long as we are clear about the purpose and the need for each.

  4. Lovely article Julie! I’ve been meaning to follow your blog for a while and just came across this one. Feeling very inspired now! thank you! 🙂

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