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Pause for thought…or hurtle on regardless?

by | Aug 11, 2016 | 0 comments

Is it me, or are we hurtling through the year at an alarming rate of knots? 

Big plans that were developed at the beginning of the year are still in the ‘big plans’ book. Hopes and aspirations seem to have been pushed aside, as we attempt to keep on top of constantly changing daily pressures.

I was recently reminded that constant activity doesn’t reduce the ‘to-do’ list – it often increases it. When a growing list of actions (that we inevitably fail to deliver on) is coupled with high aspirations (that we inevitably fail to achieve), there is trouble ahead. It’s a brutal combination that can lead to cynicism, exhaustion, frustration, and worse still, diminishing confidence. It prevents us – and the teams around us – from achieving our full potential.

A vicious cycle for L&D

This summer, I’ve been involved in important conversations that reflect just how this vicious cycle can take hold. One was a #TJWOW webinar with Jo Cook from Training Journal, discussing the issue L&D talent development and why L&D are struggling to achieve the high aspirations that they set for themselves. It was a theme that resonated on the other side of the globe for a discussion with Con Sotidis and the Institute for Learning Professionals in Australia. During both events, a lack of confidence, being too busy and a fear of change were voted the culprits.

Today’s L&D leaders are working in the midst of rapid change and uncertainty. It is very clear that we want to make a difference, as aspirations around the globe are running high. For example, early data from the 2016 Benchmark shows that whilst 8-in-10 of us are still looking to increase efficiency, 9-in-10 are more interested in finding ways to integrate learning and work. This suggests a significant shift in role – a big challenge that requires ‘thinking time’ if we are to get it right.

If we want to make an impact, we can’t just jump into a new tool, implement a new model and keep our fingers crossed that it will make a difference. 13 years of active research at Towards Maturity has shown that that just doesn’t work like that. It’s critical that we take time out to think through the implications of any change for our stakeholders, our customers, our own L&D teams. We need to build business buy-in, manage risks and make smart decisions that help our staff do their jobs better and faster. Working out how is naturally going to take a bit of time.

It’s time to prioritise the actions that are important

The Towards Maturity Benchmark, which is closing this Friday, has provided an opportunity for L&D to stop and think. A record number have used it in the last couple of months as an independent ‘fitness check’ and over 81% reported that just using the questions to pause for thought has provided new ideas and enthusiasm.

I’ve been really encouraged from the stories of L&D leaders who have been through the process. The big theme in feedback has been ‘thought provoking’ – here’s a few of the comments we’ve received:

  • “As a new L&D Manager for the organisation, the Benchmark gives me a real focus on priorities to achieve over the coming year”
  • “It has most certainly been thought provoking and I have a lot of ideas for our L&D initiatives.”
  • “The questions are thought provoking and provide fresh perspective in consideration of the organisation’s L&D function”

Two people have even told us that they have now got new jobs (and pay rises!) as a result of using our Benchmark to recalibrate their thinking over the years.

A simple choice

Summer is a good time to take stock, before we go back to the business of a new term. So, throughout the summer holidays (at least in the UK!), we are faced with a choice – do we pause for thought, or hurtle on regardless? Do we want to end the year with dashed hopes and endless to do lists, or do we want to stop and reflect in order to start making a difference where it counts?

Pausing for thought takes a bit of time; it means letting go of the to-do list for a while. It might also mean letting go of the some of the important ideas that we’ve held onto. We need to be willing to be challenged, to rethink, to unlearn if we are to move on and we need to allocate time to the process. In September, we can pick up again, revitalised and ready to turn new ideas into powerful actions.

I want to take hold of the summer break to pause for thought – what about you?

3 ways you can pause for thought:

Benchmark Your L&D Strategy

At Towards Maturity, we have identified six workstreams that characterise successful, high performing organisations. From these workstreams, we have developed a common framework of effective practice.

Benchmarking against that framework helps L&D pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of their own organisation, work out what needs to change and map out actions. In short, the Towards Maturity Benchmark is a structured framework that helps learning leaders under pressure identify the actions that will bring tangible results in the workplace. It helps you to work out how to get from A to B!

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