Learn by Doing
Recently I had the pleasure of co-teaching a workshop at Pepperdine University for doctoral students working on their dissertations. My portion of the training involved demonstrating a software program that is used for analyzing qualitative data. (A little geeky, right?)
In thinking about how to engage the participants with the software, I took my inspiration from an author who suggested that the best way to become skilled at data analysis is to “learn by doing it.” What a great reminder! As adults, so little of what we learn happens through formal educational activities, like a lecture or a webinar. And data shows that when we adults do attend these kinds of formal education events, we tend to retain about 5-30% of the material.
So, how are we learning? Much of adult learning and workplace learning occurs through informal mechanisms. Think of all the things you know how to do that you didn’t learn in a classroom. Maybe you read about it in a book and tried it on your own. Or a mentor talked you through it and assisted you the first time. When we practice by doing, we are likely to retain more like 75% of what we learned.
That’s one of the things I love about coaching. Among other benefits, coaching is a space for learning that doesn’t involve lecture or instruction. The coach creates an environment of self-discovery and self-directed learning, where the client sets the learning goals and selects how the learning will occur. Coaching clients can learn by practicing with their coach or by co-creating a step-by-step process for how they will acquire or improve a skill. For example, many of us have jobs that require us to have difficult conversations, perhaps with a subordinate or an important client. Having difficult conversations is a skill that can be learned, and coaching is a great environment for developing these sorts of “soft” skills.
Have you recently learned something new by doing it? If so, share your experience in the comments field.
De-cluttering your career begins with an accurate assessment of how you are spending your time. Just like spring cleaning your cluttered garage or attic, the question is: what is in here and do I need it?
The first blog in the De-Clutter Your Career series introduced the idea of career clutter and invited you to complete the worksheet: How Did You Spend Your Time? This worksheet was intended to help you gain a reality-based snapshot of your life during a one week span.
The ultimate goal is to spend your time – your most valuable resource – in the ways that you choose in order to feed your life’s passions and priorities. While none of us will ever have full control over our time, especially at our jobs, we can probably take more control than we realize. A difference between “being busy” and “being cluttered” lies in having an alignment between how you spend your time and your goals, strengths, and passions. When time and passions are aligned, we can feel engaged and alive, no matter how busy we are. When they are misaligned, we can feel cluttered, overwhelmed, disorganized, and disengaged.
I suspect a lot of feelings came up for you as you were completing the worksheet. You might have thought, “how come I consider myself a creative person but I’m working on budgets most days?” Or, “no wonder I’m not making any progress on my dissertation when I was at the office for 64 hours this week!”
Take some time to reflect on your completed worksheet with the analogy of spring cleaning in mind. When you spring clean, you don’t throw out everything and start from scratch. It’s a process of asking essential questions: What do I need? What don’t I need? What can I live without? Is this serving a purpose in my life?
Check the Foresight Blog in the next couple of weeks for step three in the De-Clutter Your Career series, where I’ll demonstrate how de-cluttering can build time in your life.
Have you ever found yourself imagining a conversation in your head with someone from your workplace? In this conversation, you may be reliving or replaying a conversation that took place, remembering what you said and what the other person said. Or, you may be imagining a conversation before it takes place, mentally rehearsing and preparing for an upcoming meeting. Or, you may be imagining yourself saying things to a coworker that you would never say in real life.
These are imagined conversations: conversations that take place in our minds with people from our real-life. During these imagined conversations, you mentally play the role of yourself and the other person, imaging what each of you would say and how you would react.
Last year, 88 managers and leaders participated in my research project about imagined conversations at work. All of them were able to remember a recent imagined conversation with a coworker. During these imagined work-related conversations, they were most often talking in their head to their boss, but frequently they were talking to a subordinate or a peer. The topics of these imagined conversations were things like: lack of work getting accomplished, work schedules and absences, conflict between staff members, bringing a problem to the boss, division of work duties, and customer complaints.
These imagined conversations reflect the emotional and relational complexities of today’s work environment. Working with others can difficult and we are challenged to collaborate with each other as well have tough conversations, give honest feedback, and manage workplace conflicts. All of these situations can be triggers for imagined conversations. Through these imagined conversations, we can better understand ourselves, our situation, and our coworkers.
One of the goals of Foresight Coaching is to raise awareness of the many hidden aspects of workplace relationship dynamics, including imagined conversations. These hidden dynamics are mirrors of our real-life workplace relationships with coworkers. Paying more attention to our imagined conversations can be an important leadership development tool for greater awareness of our thoughts, our emotions, our motivations, and our word choices.