Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How to evaluate your self-development learning

This weekend, I attended a conference in a self-development model that I quite like.  Sitting in the chairs (instead of standing at the mike) gave me a chance to look at what people liked, what they wanted, and what they engaged with at the conference.

What I like about this model is that it encourages people to notice diversity: the big picture is a continual reminder that not everyone in the room thinks like you do and that's okay. What I didn't like about this particular experience was the emphasis on sorting everyone out so that they only really had to engage with people who were most likely to think like them.

No one was saying: come to this conference and be safe: no growth or change will happen here. And yet, the structure of the presentations allowed people to sort out some of what was true about themselves without asking them to stretch to accommodate other ways of thinking and without asking them to commit to actions that would create movement and growth.  I attended 5 sessions and came away without one action item.

If you think that the point of self-development is to make people more comfortable with who they are and what they think, then this works.  It seemed to work for many of the people in the room. They happily wore their labels and chattered about how their labels gave them permission to be exactly who they were.  It seemed to feel pretty good.

There's an element of good in that and when you are particularly tired or beaten up, it's not a bad thing to be reminded that you're okay as you are.  Safety can encourage people to explore, to stick their noses out of their safe tunnels for at least a quick sniff and a look around at the bigger world.

You're not a tree: you grow by moving
But I couldn't help but wonder - didn't the presenters want to do something more than reassure people that their preferences and limitations were tolerable? Didn't they want people to find out the kind of new information that would generate new actions and new possibilities?

Here's what I want when I am the trainer: new thought leading to new action.

I don't care so much whether people can repeat back what I have said or pass a multiple-choice test on techniques and concepts. I care that they move back into their real life and something has changed for them so that they can see new possibilities and take different actions than they would have taken before my training.

If the purpose of self-development training is for you to think or do something different, then the best time to evaluate it isn't at the end of the presentation: it's the moment when change takes root in action.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

How growth feels while it's happening

I love to go outside with a camera in the spring. It's a great time to get some perspective on what growth really looks like.

Often, people imagine that growth appears fully formed. That's like moving daffodils from the pot to the garden already in bloom. It's real and it's sort of natural, but you're seeing the product, not the growth.

Real growth is messier. When you walk in the woods, you see all the dead stuff on the ground with wildflowers poking through the debris.

In NLP (neurolinguistic programming), the period of pushing through the debris is called integration. It's what happens after the course ends and the learning begins to take root. Sometimes it is inconspicuous: it happens in the background while you become really productive in your usual work and life. Sometimes it take more energy. It calls on you to slow down and be patient while all the shifts come into alignment.

I've just come through a deep, intense period of learning, through action and reading and through leading groups of really smart, committed people. This week, discipline is calling me to go for walks, to meditate and to wait. I know what needs to be done and it will require my very best stuff. My best stuff isn't ready yet. It's on the back burner (as one of my favourite teachers used to say). When it's ready, I will know. Until then, it's important to keep the heat low and steady and give it the time it needs.