What Does It Mean to Live in the Moment?

To live in the moment, or in the present, refers to a state of being aware, conscious, alert, in tune with your senses, and focused on what is happening at that particular moment in time. It is the opposite of “automatic living”, that is, just going through the motions.

More importantly, the present is a time during which we stop dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. We are able to enjoy the here and now.

Our Mind Creates Our World

Our mind is a powerful thing that processes all of our life’s experiences, and is also the instigator of our actions. However, most of the time, we are not even aware our own mind and its full power and potential. We lurch from one thought to the next with no rhyme or reason, and often feel the world is external to us, outside ourselves, and that we have no control over it.

The truth is that living in the present can help you gain the skills you need to take control of your life, through focus and concentration.

We Value What We Pay Attention To

When we concentrate our attention on the present, we focus on the task at hand, such as washing the dishes, gardening, or spending time with a loved one. We are not just sitting next to them on the sofa, with both of us fiddling with our cell phones. We are making eye contact, speaking, listening, and perhaps being affectionate. We give our full attention to what we are doing and we let go of the rest.

Being Mindful So You Can Live in the Moment

The practice of living in the moment is referred to as being mindful – in other words, paying attention. Being mindful when we eat means we enjoy our food more, because we are not wolfing it down. Being mindful as we walk through the park means we can enjoy the beauty of nature, such as the flowers and birdsong. Being mindful of others means that we consider their feelings and reactions and adapt to what we see and hear. It is about quality not quantity, brief moments in the present that take us out of our busy day. We can stop running around propelled by stress and take a short “mini-vacation” through mindfulness practice.

How to Start Mindfulness Practice

Mindfulness practice starts with observing things more closely, and then trying to describe them. Imagine washing the dishes. Think of the sight, sound, smell, touch and so on. What does it feel like? How do you feel when you are doing it?

For most of us, this is a dull chore, and one we usually do on autopilot without thinking about it. But thanks to mindfulness, it can become interesting and even fun.

Stopping to reflect on one or two of our actions throughout the day can help us discover the beauty and wonder of all we do. We stop taking things for granted.

We also start to feel more positive energy because we are being less dragged down by the baggage of our past, and are giving ourselves more and more permission to enjoy ourselves and have fun. We are creating special little moments, and through those moments, can feel confident we have more like them to look forward to.

Live in the Moment and Live Every Moment Like It Counts

Life is too short to sleepwalk through it. Adding mindfulness as a daily practice can help you truly appreciate all you have. You will notice your work improves, your relationships get better, and everything starts to feel more effortless and less stressful. It does take practice, but the result is a happier, healthier you with a rich life full of meaning and one where you really do live in the moment.

Does Personal Branding Matter for L & D Professionals?

Do we as Learning & Development professionals need to concern ourselves with the idea of Personal Branding. When we look in the mirror do we see what others see in terms of our personal brand and should we care?

I am sure like me you have read a lot about how it’s important to take your personal brand seriously if you want others to take you seriously. As professionals, whether employed or working for ourselves, we are creating a brand identity for ourselves simply by interacting with others so doesn’t it make sense to give that “brand” some thought and to exercise some control over it?

You might therefore want to consider these tips for understanding the importance of personal branding, defining your own personal brand, and marketing your brand.

Understanding the Importance of Personal Branding

Your personal brand helps you to:

1. Focus on building your reputation as an Learning & Development Professional. Your personal brand is your reputation. It’s the way others see you. If you’re like most people, you may be switching jobs and employers from time to time. Your personal brand is an asset you can take with you wherever you go.

2. Chart your own direction. Being clear about your personal brand you will find it easier to establish meaningful goals, priorities and action plans. Even while taking care of daily obligations, you’ll have a bigger picture in mind.

3. Serve others. Self promotion can go too far, so it’s easy to think that branding is somehow vain or self-absorbed. In reality, your personal brand shows the positive impact you can have on other people and the world around you.

Defining Your Own Personal Brand

These tips will help you create an outstanding personal brand as an L&D Professional:

1. Take an inventory. This should be an easy one for any L&D Professional! Take a good look at yourself. Write out your strengths and weaknesses. Identify your passions. Think about what you’re good at and what you like to do.

2. Distinguish yourself from your colleagues. There are plenty of talented and dependable people in our field. Pinpoint your unique selling point. Maybe you’re a trainer who always gets the very best out of even the most reluctant learner?

3. Talk about benefits. Let your target audience know what you can do for them. Explain how you can boost profits by increasing sales or saving money.

4. Summarise your “mission” or what you do that’s different in 10 seconds or less. Be prepared to capture people’s attention quickly. Let them know what you do in 15 words or less. You can tell you’re on the right track when they ask for more details.

5. Ask for feedback. Ask your family, friends, learners and colleagues to find out what they think of you and your abilities. Show your appreciation for constructive criticism so they’ll keep sharing it with you.

6. Stay updated. Review your personal mission statement every six months. Make new action plans so you’re always getting closer to your goals.

Marketing Your Personal Brand

No-one gets noticed who keeps their light hidden under the bushel do they! Think about using some of these strategies to expand your reach:

1. Increase your visibility. Post fresh content on your website or blog regularly. Stay active in social media. Look for opportunities to help others learn, give presentations, or write articles for professional organisations in our field like the Learning and Performance Insititute or the CIPD.

2. Build A “Fan” Base. Collect samples of positive feedback you get in the workplace. Assemble testimonials from happy learners or organisations and encourage them to make referrals. Word of mouth is often more effective and certainly cheaper than paid advertising.

3. Tell your success stories. Craft brief anecdotes about your accomplishments that showcase your skills and make you proud. Rehearse telling them so you sound natural.

4. Gather Statistics. Numbers sound convincing. Try to quantify the value you can deliver. For example, if you have saved your organisation money by implementing a new learning initiative – get the facts and figures as you would do in your CV

5. Be aware that you have your own dream team. By “dream team” I mean of course your Personal Learning Network. It’s difficult to go it alone. Cultivate your network. Help others to market their brand and they’re more likely to do the same for you.

Years ago when we talked about branding we tended to think about cattle or big corporations, but now everyone is in on the act. Take charge of your personal brand as a Learning & Development Professional and keep learning!

When Did Learning & Development Become So Complex?

I read a lot of articles, papers and indeed books about Learning and Development as you might expect. It’s good to keep abreast of the latest thinking, hear about people exploring new ideas and approaches and testing out what works and doesn’t work.

However, sometimes I do wonder if we as Learning & Development Professionals have a tendency to over-complicate things. One of my passions throughout the time that I have been involved in L&D is to make learning accessible and to communicate with people in a way which makes sense to them. Of course it’s right and proper that we as professionals in our field stretch ourselves, reflect on our learning and share things with others. But do we always need to dress it up in seemingly obtuse language or come up with some clever description for it?

I was discussing this the other day with a fellow L&D Professional and one of the comments that they made was that they thought that sometimes we do it in order to express our uniqueness as a profession. They pondered whether, in a world where many organisations still bundle L&D responsibilities into the remit of an HR. Generalist, we might feel the need to carve out a very distinct identity for Learning & Development.

That set me thinking about what L&D is ultimately about and why having spent some time throughout my career with HR. Generalist responsibilities I chose to specialise in L&D. I can well remember one of the first events that I attended which opened my eyes to the impact that Learning & Development could have. Having participated in a number of “Train The Trainer” events since I first started to drift into the L&D area I was a little sceptical about this event, assuming that it would be more of the same. However, it was to be a revelation. The trainer was enthused about their topic and they conveyed that enthusiasm to the group.

I call it an “event” but in reality it was more of an informal discussion with a group of us sat comfortably around the room and a flipchart set to one side. No high-powered laptops, PowerPoint presentations or other fancy gadgets and distractions. It was a discussion about “How do people learn?” The Trainer/Discussion Facilitator acted as a guide as we explored all the usual suspects (courses, books etc.) and then explored what we didn’t know that we knew. He opened my eyes to the wealth of learning opportunities that we don’t even realise we are experiencing as we go about our daily lives. He skilfully helped us to consider how we could reflect on that learning, apply that learning to our work based challenges and keep on learning.

I remember his closing sentiments to this day which were along the lines of “Our job as L&D people is to help others learn how to learn and to provide them with the tools, resources and opportunities to learn. We need to enthuse people with a passion for learning; to enable them to see that learning is easy; learning isn’t about the when, where, or the how it’s about the what; the ability to learn is a lifelong skill and like a passion for reading it’s a gift which we can awaken in others.”

For me that has been a guiding approach ever since. Whatever the latest fad is, be it eLearning, mobile learning, blended learning, social learning, unstructured learning, is largely irrelevant. Whatever deep and meaningful ponderings we come up with to explain our latest approach are all irrelevant.

What matters is that we as Learning & Development Professionals are encouraging a real passion for learning and once we awaken that passion in others we are making a real difference. I will close with a comment I made on Twitter earlier today:

L&D’s mission, if they choose to accept it, to help people to learn how to learn & then provide the tools to feed their desire to learn.

Are you ready to accept your mission?

Learning and Development Working in Business Partnership

Are you a Learning and Development Manager who struggles to get people released for training courses? Or an L&D professional who really wishes that your organisation would try the brilliant new approach to learning that you encountered at a recent conference that you believe would make such a difference? Ever wondered why you struggle to get your voice heard within your organisation?

In a hard hitting post (Why L&D Can’t Ignore Alignment Anymore) Jonathan Kettleborough talked about the need for Learning and Development Professionals to ensure that their departments, their activity and their focus is aligned with the strategy of the businesses we work within.

Jonathan quotes a report by Capita which states that “The vast majority (82%) of leaders lack confidence that their firm’s L&D strategy and delivery are aligned to the company’s operational strategy. Half (50%) believe that their L&D function is stuck in a ‘business as usual ’mindset.” Or to put that another way only 18% of business leaders have confidence that their firm’s L&D strategy is aligned with the company’s operational strategy.

That is frightening! However hard L&D professionals might be working the perception in the vast majority of organisations is that we are not working with the operational teams to support their strategy. No doubt some L&D Professionals will counter that all too often it is hard to get our voices heard and that when we present innovative new approaches to L&D we are frequently ignored. I wonder whether some perceive themselves to be being ignored because they have failed to remember that it is the responsibility of the communicator to ensure the communication is relevant and understood? Do we find ourselves too wrapped up in the latest “fads” or learning theories? Too engaged by the glitter of the shiny new thing (approach to learning) that we forget that we have a need to be enabling the business to achieve their strategic and operational aims?

Learning and Development is fascinating because it gives us the opportunity to enable others and to achieve great things. But I wonder if, in the glimmer of the new and exciting, we sometimes forget the here and now, the urgent business need, the requirement to generate income to sustain the organisation? That is not to say that we cannot encourage an organisation to take new approaches to things or encourage our organisations to spend time and effort on new developments. It is essential, as Jonathan reminds us, that we ensure that what we are doing is aligned with the needs of the organisation and delivers a meaningful difference which enables the business to achieve.

Much has been heard over the past 15 years about HR Business Partnership (HRBP) and the focus has always seemed to be on our colleagues who work in the other branch of HR which dealt with all the personnel type issues. We have not tended to hear much reference to the need for Learning and Development to work in business partnership. Some might well argue that is because they have consistently sought to work in business partnership with the organisations they work within. However the evidence quoted above, where we saw that 82% of business leaders don’t feel that their organisation’s L&D strategy is aligned with their operational strategy, would seem to suggest that we haven’t got things right – yet!

We have a great opportunity to make a genuine difference if we are prepared to learn to look at things differently. Working in business partnership does require a different set of skills but as learning and development professionals we are of course open to learning – aren’t we?

When I think about the work I have done over recent years it has all been about aligning my activity with the needs of the organisation. At times that has enabled me to introduce new ways of doing things because I have been able to demonstrate the benefits it brings in terms of reduced costs, improved results or a more committed group of staff. If I think about what that has required of me then I think I would summarise it as following and would venture to suggest that the following encapsulate what is required of a Learning and Development Professional working in business partnership:

  • Being prepared to learn new things;
  • Understanding the business and business operations/functions;
  • Understanding the business environment we operate in
  • Being able to talk the language of business and the business I am operating in;
  • An ability to build trusting relationships with internal and critically with the organisation’s clients and talk their language;
  • Believing in my own ability, the value of what I offer the business and the difference it can make to the business;
  • Being confident in my knowledge of the business and being able to express my views;
  • Being focused on the delivery of results which meet the needs of the business.

Working in business partnership means adding value to the business by aligning what we are doing as Learning and Development Professionals with the needs of the business – not as we might perceive them but as the business clearly sees them. It also means speaking out at times, even if it might be unpopular, when we believe that a different approach is needed. But that must always be with sound knowledge and business focused reasoning.

Jonathan reminded us that 82% of business leaders don’t believe that their learning and development strategy is aligned with their operational strategy. It’s time to change that perception!

Is Learning and Development A Luxury?

Does your business or organisation invest in Learning and Development for your employees when the business is going through challenging times? Or do you see it as a luxury for the times when money is plentiful and you have time to allow your employees to undertake training? One of the things that I have seen over the years is a real change in the way Learning and Development is treated by forward looking businesses.

There was a time when, almost by default, training was one of the first things to be cut when times became hard. The focus was on survival and organisations didn’t see the development of their people as a key element in their fight for survival.

Research has shown that a significant percentage of those who resign from organisations do so because of a lack of skills training and development opportunities. If you risk losing your employees then shouldn’t you be doing something about it? It reminds me of an image that circulated on LinkedIn a short while ago which captured a discussion with the Chief Executive of an organisation who had asked “What happens if we train all our staff and they then leave?” to which the response was “What happens if we don’t train them and they all stay?”

I have seen and indeed experienced more and more Learning and Development professionals stepping up their games and moving into a business partnership approach to their way of working. Coupled with this forward thinking senior management operational teams have realised the value of continuous professional development for all their employees.

Learning and Development Business Partners

What do I mean by Learning and Development Business Partners? In recent years we have seen an increased emphasis on HR Business Partners especially for those who work in what were often refered to as HR Generalist roles. For brevity let’s talk about those roles being the ones that deal with all the people focused items that are not Learning and Development related.

The HR Business Partner is becoming an established concept in many organisations. Over the coming months and years I believe that it is crucial that those like me who are focused on Learning and Development fully embrace this role. I will deal in another post with what that means and the skills required because for now I want to focus on why Learning and Development needs to be on the agenda for every business and why it can never be thought of as a luxury.

I believe that it is critical for a business to invest in their employees to as to achieve both short term and long term goals and here are some of the key benefits of doing so:

Achieving Business Growth:

Employees with the skills and knowledge required to expand your business to its’ full potential are essential. If you equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to use new systems, work with new processes and approaches and to be informed managers and decision makers then you are preparing your business for growth.

Increasing Competitiveness:

Businesses whose employees have the required expertise are able to compete effectively with other business. They are able to use their newly acquired skills and knowledge to improve the existing products and services to ensure that they meet the diverse and ever changing demands and needs of the target customers.

Promoting Job Satisfaction and Individual Productivity:

As mentioned earlier, lack of training is one of the major factors that leads to employees quitting their positions. One of the surest ways of ensuring that your employees feel appreciated is by nurturing their professional skills through regular learning and development. This will in return boost their individual productivity and ability to contribute to growth of the company.

Embracing Technology and Adapting To Changing Markets:

Learning opportunities not only equip employees with new skills but also enable them to embrace technology and adapt to the ever changing markets your business invariably operates in. It goes without saying that modern management systems and applications will significantly streamline the manner in which you carry out various business operations. To derive maximum benefit from such systems, you have to fully train your employees on how to use them. In turn this will help your business to incorporate technological changes in your markets and profit from them.

Reducing Staff Cost:

Every business strives to reduce operating costs in a bid to increase their profits. One way of achieve this goal is by reducing staff costs. In fact, as we all know many global businesses are currently working hard to reduce their staff costs to ensure they remain relevant and profitable in the current economic environment. Cross-training of staff is something that businesses need to consider and employees need to be open too. Having all the knowledge and skills for key operations held by just one or two individuals is a very dangerous position to find yourself in as a business.

If only one employee has special skills, you will have a hard time replacing their knowledge if they suddenly decide to leave the company. Hence, cross-training will help you to spread knowledge around and save you time as you will not necessarily have to hire new employees every time. Simply put, it is like diversifying your investments.

Learning and Development is A Recruiting Tool:

We all know that the current generation and indeed many from previous generations now want more than just a pay cheque at the end of the month. They are more attracted to businesses that allow them to learn new skills. Businesses that offer such opportunities or platforms are more likely to attract and keep high productivity employees who are focused and committed to supporting you to achieve your business goals and objectives.

So to answer the question in the title of this post “Is Learning and Development a Luxury?” I hope that you agree that no it isn’t and that it is very effective in fostering growth and development of the business as well as employees..