Be A Lifelong Learner

If you were to develop one skill to help you in all aspects of your life, what would it be?

Studies have shown that one of the best gifts you can give yourself is to become a lifelong learner. What exactly is a Lifelong Learner? A simple definition is that it is someone that “engages in  the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated” pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons.”  Why should you be a Lifelong Learner? Because, quite simply, without learning, the mind stagnates.

Thankfully, becoming a lifelong learner isn’t hard. Below are ten easy ways to build a habit of learning that will serve you in years to come.


Unless you make lifelong learning a priority, you’re not going to do it. You start with committing to change and then go from there.

Create a Personalised Learning Environment

True learning results when you take charge of your learning environment. Sit down with your mentor and make concrete goals. Set up a system that enables you to learn and a setting in which you can learn. Once you have this, you are truly ready to begin.


Read books, magazines, news articles, academic journals, and anything that catches your attention. If it’s interesting to you, then it’s worth perusing.

Keep a List

Have a question? Write it down. Come back to this list later and Google the answers. Let this become the jumping off point for learning new things.


Create a project out of one of the things you find interesting. Set goals, give a timeline, and a final deadline to complete it. Invite others to take part in your project with you. You learn so much more when you collaborate. Create milestones and celebrate each one on your road to completion.


Engage with and socialize with  people who also enjoy learning. These will become your encouragers and mentors along the way.

Become a Mentor Yourself

We all have something we’re good at and could help others learn. Your particular skill set might be what someone else needs to succeed. By getting involved in mentoring, you find yourself not only cementing the knowledge you already have but learning new things as well.

Study with Others

When you work with a group, it’s generally easier to learn as you can draw upon the base of shared knowledge. That, in turn, helps you to discover new things yourself.

Seek out a Job that Encourages Lifelong Learning

The final step toward lifelong learning is to find work where you are encouraged to learn new things, and which continually challenges you.

Remember, building habits that lead to lifelong learning relies on repetition. Consciously engage in learning activities as often as possible, making them a part of every single day if you can, for optimal success.

Don’t Assume Anything!

As part of my job search for a new role as a Learning and Development Manager I am very focused on ensuring that I maintain my visibility online across various platforms.

I have also been working to ensure that my Online CVs are both right up-to-date and promoted. This last weekend I was talking to a friend who works in recruitment. They commented to me that it would be really good if, in addition to having domains that use my own name, I could have a domain that reflects the role that I do.

When we were discussing it we thought that it was highly unlikely that there would be a domain name available that exactly matched the type or role that I do.

Later in the weekend I was working on the computer and I suddenly thought to myself — why not check what domain names are available and who has the domain name that I would really like.

You can I am sure imagine my surprise when I checked on my preferred domain name provider and quickly discovered that was available! I nearly fell off my chair!  Within a few hours I had a new domain waiting to be populated with content.

In less than 24 hours and with some quick work and updating I had a keyword optimised CV online at Learning and Development Manager

The moral of the story — never assume anything until you have checked!

Skills You Need to Have a Difficult Conversation

Having recently started a new role I have been having lots of conversations as I get to know the business and the challenges that individuals face. As with any business, change is a constant and one of the things that people tell me they find most challenging is some of the potentially difficult conversations that they find themselves needing to have.

That set me reflecting on the skills we need to have in order to be able to deal with those difficult conversations and how to ensure they go well. Over the next few posts I want to explore that in a little more detail and in this first post in the serious I will look at the skills we need.

Throughout life, there come times where we must have difficult conversations with others. No one really wants to, because most people do not like confrontation. And while difficult conversations are never easy, if you avoid them there are still consequences which can often be much worse than just having the conversation to start with.

Think of it this way: by avoiding difficult conversations, you are deciding to ignore the solution and allow the problem to continue. When you look at it like that, it becomes clearer that you must have difficult conversations so that you can find solutions.

Having difficult conversations can be easier if you develop certain skills that make you better at communication and problem solving.

Skills You Need to Have a Difficult Conversation

Developing skills that you need to succeed with difficult conversations is possible for everyone. You need to know who you are, what your goals are, and how to reach them. When you know what you need and take the steps to achieve your goals, you will be successful.

  • Information Gathering – The first thing to do is gather the right type of information to support your goals. For example, if this is a discussion at work so you can get a raise, you want to show proof that you deserve the raise. If this is about a problem you’re having with your spouse, you want to remember situations that occurred due to this issue. Not to use against them, but to learn what you can do differently.
  • Be Assertive – To have difficult conversations, assertiveness is necessary so that you can go forth with it without procrastination. It’s hard to have tough talks, but once they’re over it’s usually not as bad as you thought it would be. Most of the time our fears aren’t founded, and when they are, you can use other skills to mitigate problems.
  • Be Empathetic – Right now you may think that the problem is really the other person’s issue. But if you can look at things from their side, and even argue their side for them in order to show them you do get it, that will go far in helping bring them closer to understanding your view too.
  • Control Your Emotions – Depending on the topic, it can be very hard to control your emotions, but you must if you want to reach a solution. Even if you cry, or feel angry, or shake, you can still control what you say and do. For example, even if you’re angry, don’t yell accusations or start playing the blame game.
  • Be Willing to Negotiate – Most of the time the answer is in between what they want and what you want. If you can negotiate, you’ll both come out feeling like winners because you solved the problem.
  • Understand Verbal and Non-Verbal Language – When we communicate, we transmit both verbal and non-verbal cues. Sometimes these can be interpreted wrongly, especially if you were raised differently or have different cultures. If you’re in doubt, ask. Never assume intention.
  • Listen – Listening involves more than hearing. It involves hearing and understanding. If you want to really understand someone, you need to learn how to listen actively.
  • Learn Conflict Negotiation – Even if you don’t often have difficult conversations in your life, learning conflict negotiation skills can go very far in helping prepare you for general communication throughout your life. Harvard Business Review has books and guides about this very topic.

When you grow these skills, it will not only improve your ability to have successful difficult conversations but it will also improve your relationships in every aspect of your life. In my next post I will look at how you can prepare for the next difficult conversation you have to have.

The Skills You Need for Personal Empowerment

In the last few posts I have been looking at what is involved in becoming personally empowered. On a post earlier today on LinkedIn (see here) Ie looked at the importance of language to empower yourself in order to make progress towards achieving the goals you have set. In this posts I want to take a look at some of the other useful skills you need for personal empowerment.


Understand our strengths, weaknesses and limitations.

Willingness to Take Action

Once you have identified your weaknesses and limitations, are you willing to take practical action steps to overcome them?

Willingness to Learn

Once you have made a list of the things you wish to overcome or improve in your life, are you willing to learn effective strategies for doing so, and apply what you learn?

Willingness to Seek Professional Help and Support If Needed

Some deep-seated issues might be just too tough to tackle on your own. Being willing to seek help when needed, and support from friends, family, mentors and so on, can make all the difference in how rapidly you progress towards your goals.

Develop Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem

It is easy to beat yourself up over all sorts of little things. Do you have the courage to go beyond your old way of viewing things in order to develop an entirely new outlook?

Positive Thinking

Taking an optimistic view will be a great deal more helpful than a pessimistic one. Think of the Little Engine that Could. As the great car manufacturer Henry Ford has been credited with saying, “If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Evaluating, Not Criticising

Keeping a journal of your goals and progress towards them is one of the best ways to track your success and do more of what works, to achieve your aims even more rapidly. Evaluate, don’t criticize. You did the best you could that day, and will try harder tomorrow. Or, X might not have gone according to plan, but Y went much better than you hoped it would.

All of these skills can help your path to personal empowerment and tackle the weaknesses and limitations you observe in yourself, so you will no longer be held back from living your best life.

Whether it is physical, financial, overcoming negative habits, or some other form of personal empowerment you are seeking, I hope that I have given you some ideas, suggestions, tools and skills to help you succeed. Use language strategically to establish and maintain your personal power, and be pro-active about goal setting. Then see just how far you can transform your life for the better.

Learning From Your Customers

As my experience today with EE has shown, organisations can learn a lot from their customers if they are prepared to listen. One of the dangers for any organisation that uses Social Media is that if you get it wrong when you are dealing with your customers the story gets told far and wide. You lose control of the story you want to tell and then you let others create the impression that your customers and potential customers have of your organisation.

If you want to get it right then training for your social media staff is essential – including responding to the questions the customer asks and not simply ignoring them when they are clearly unhappy. But equally important is the training and support you give your support/back office staff and that’s where I am going to focus in this post.

Let me share some of the poor experience I had with EE and as the good Learning & Development Professional that I am(!) I will also share my thoughts on where there are learning points for them to improve their customer service:

Placing The Order

I did something last night that I thought would be fairly straightforward. Having been a loyal customer of EE in its’ various incarnations for many years I decided that I would upgrade and recontract with them for my mobile broadband and also my partner’s mobile ‘phone. I have two mobiles with them as well as my mobile broadband service so they earn a not unreasonable sum from me each and every month.

I decided to do the upgrades through their online chat facility as it seemed the easiest and most straightforward approach. Initially it was and the Online Chat Advisor appeared to be helpful. But that’s where it ended!

Having placed an order for both the new mobile ‘phone device and the new mobile broadband device I was advised by the Online Chat Advisor that I would receive a text message to my mobile “that gives you your 1h delivery time slot, if you want to change the delivery day or time you can respond to the text directly, (not the address though, just the day or time).”

Feeling Let Down

This morning I did receive a text message which gave me a link to the couriers website. No mention of a 1 hour delivery slot. I then clicked through to the website only to find that if I wanted a one and a half hour delivery slot I would need to pay £10!  So in order to ensure delivery when we would be available I reluctantly paid £10 and assumed that this related to both devices.

Sadly that transpired not to be the case and an hour later I received another text with the delivery information for the second device. Again I was expected to pay £10 to get a guaranteed delivery slot. So two separate parcels from EE, both being delivered by the same couriers no doubt at the same time and a charge of £10 for each. During a tortorous telephone conversation with their Customer Service Centre and having been passed through 5 different individuals I was advised that the message wasn’t correct because it assumed that I was buying during the week and then it would be right!

#LearningPoint for EE – ensure that your systems work, the information your advisors give out is correct and that your advisors are aware of differences in your operating procedures if they are different at various times of the week/day.

Feeling Like A Hot Potato

The telephone call I made this morning was painful in the extreme. As I mentioned in the comments above I was passed through 5 different individuals before I got something even vaguely resembling a resolution – although I have to say I wait to be convinced:

When I spoke to the first individual (having paid their fee to be put to the front of the queue!) I started by explaining calmly and politely that I was an unhappy customer and would like to explain why. I started to do this but he kept interrupting me mid-sentence. I asked him if he would listen to what I had to say and was met with “well when you have done!” #LearningPoint – this is basic customer service stuff – if a customer tells you they are unhappy let them talk – get their story and then summarise back to them what you understand are their issues. Never, respond to them in a way which is bound to aggravate them even further!

I eventually managed to finish advising this individual that I was unhappy, felt I had been misled, had not received any confirmation emails about my order and was being charged twice for the delivery of both parts of my order.  Their response was frankly amazing given that they are effectively a technology company. It appears that any dealing via the internet are not updated onto their systems for at least 7 days. So if you place an order online the people who answer the calls to their Contact Centres will have no information about it. Frankly if that is the case then I am staggered. However, if it is the case then there is a very clear #LearningPoint – get your systems joined up so that the people who are dealing with your customers have instant access to the information about those customers.

After this initial discussion I was then passed through 4 further individuals. Each of whom I had to repeat my complaint to because there was no handover of the call from the previous person. Indeed it felt like my call was being treated like the proverbial “hot potato” made all the more obvious by the fact that each time I was placed back in a queue to be dealt with.  #LearningPoint equip your staff with the skills to handle calls, give them access to the information they need to ensure a first time fix in the majority of cases and ensure that your staff tell the customer what is happening.

In an ideal world I wouldn’t deal with an organisation that treats their customers in the way I have been dealt with today. But it’s not an ideal world because invariably with an organisation like EE we are tied into contracts which they would make us pay for to get out of.  But these organisations need to change their attitudes because treating people badly when you think you have them tied into contracts is just storing up lost business for the future and leads to loss of new business right now from people who hear about how others have been treated.

If there is one overall #LearningPoint it would be treat your customers like you would want to be treated and ensure your systems, processes and procedures enable your staff to do that.

Simple really isn’t it! Are these Learning Points that the Leadership Team at EE are prepared to take on board and action? Only time will tell!