What I Learned in September: What’s the Point of Sharing, Really?

In a way, I’m glad that this month is nearly over as I learned about myself.  There were happy times, angry times, frustration and elation.

The highlights of the month was attending the LearnX Conference in Sydney with two colleagues as it was an opportunity to meet others in Learning and Development in Australia, but also remove ourselves from the turbulent work environment in the throes of a restructure that centralised the Learning function.

Despite the anxious time, there was an underlying excitement.  Something was bubbling underneath that created a stir.  While I was at LearnX, many people had read my post on “Sometimes You Need to Meet Your PLN Face-to-Face” and this resonated with many of them.  I underestimated the message of this blog post as people were coming up to me to ask about organising tweet ups in Melbourne and Sydney.  It became obvious that the Australian learning professionals on Twitter had already established their online connections but now it was time to meet as a group in some social setting.

The idea of the tweet-up appealed to them.

At the same time, I had posted that same blog post on Yammer and I got positive comments about it.  Once again, the question was asked, “Can we have a Yammer meet up so that we get to meet the people we have been connecting with online in our organisation?”  This month, out of that Yammer post,  I have met up with three people who are interested in connecting with their “enterprise learning network” using the tweet up idea.

For some time now, I’ve had many people in the business tell me that I have been a ‘mentor’ for them. Others seek my help and assistance to find them appropriate development opportunities or to put them into contact with people in my network.  They have learned something from me that they have applied to their work, their professional or personal development.  In particularly, my Yammer groups of “Connected Workers” and “Twitter for Professional Development” have gone a long way to share what I learn to others – and it’s made an impact.

I have inspired people to get onto Twitter, to blog, to share their work.  There’s no doubt about it. It makes me feel good and I’m humbled by their belief in me but I don’t think I’m doing anything over and above to what any learning professional should be doing.

So with these wonderful sentiments and comments by people, I have been mulling an idea in my head since my return from the UK.

I wanted to create a ‘space’ where Melbourne-based learning professionals who had connected with each other online could meet in a social and informal setting close to work and just chat.  No agendas, no structure, no formalities.

So I left that idea stewing in my mind while I dealt with the anxieties and frustrations at work.  I’ll come back to this.

In the meantime, this week was one of the lowest weeks I’ve had at work.  I left permanent work some years ago as I was tired of the constant corporate restructures which I find unproductive and mentally draining.  I figured that if I undertook fixed term contracts, I would not be involved in the internal politicking and the constant changes. Instead, I would be hired to do a job for a period of time where I could design, develop and implement the program – and have some control over the outcome of that program.

Unfortunately, this week showed me that I was naive to think this way but it was the first time I felt that I was not in control of my own career.

In the past, I apply for roles myself, I go to the interviews, and it’s up to me to create a good impression on potential new employers and compete for the work.  This time around, I was slotted into a role I did three years ago (and different to the role I’m doing now) and I considered it a step backwards.

However through this emotional time I questioned the point of me being ‘open’ or ‘sharing my work’ online:

I felt undervalued, unacknowledged and my work discounted.

But what changed my mind was looking around me and seeing others who were in exactly the same position.  I wasn’t alone feeling this way but it explained the disconnect between ‘openness’ and working within current work systems.

In particularly, while all this was happening, people who had approached me through Yammer or Twitter to meet face-to -face were telling me the opposite.  They were genuinely excited about something that I had mentioned in a post online, shown on a video or directed them to.

So it was quite timely that I read Euan Semple (@euan) recent post where he mentions that he is attracted to the idea of  radical transparency as more openness in business and government would speed up the evolutionary process.

From there, I explored this idea further and came across this article by Janet Choi, “How Radical Transparency Kills Stress” in it mentioned that “sharing isn’t stressful” and that “humans don’t become diamonds under pressure“. In particularly this quote which hit a nerve with me:

“It is very hard to work and get anything done around here today. . . . I feel like an abused spouse that will not leave the abuser. I keep giving them another chance and they keep socking us in the face. . . . Instead, I sit here and wait for them to decide my fate.”

Euan Semple also has another video called People Tweet: State of the Net 2012 and highly recommended.  By watching these videos, reading the articles and watching the behaviour of people around me in this time (and reflecting on my own behaviour through this time), I am now coming to terms with what happened.

My realisation is that L&D is in a “weird time”.  I don’t know how else to explain it – it’s knowing that something is going on but you don’t know exactly what or why or how but that you’re in the thick of it.  It’s like being in a quagmire and there’s a mist settling in and you’ll soon find yourself in trouble if you don’t get to firm ground soon – but you don’t know where that firm ground is.

So how have I turned all this around?

Well I went back to my original doubts of “what’s the point of sharing really?” and I recalled my PLN tweet up, remembered my meetings with others I met on Yammer and the comments that people had made to me at LearnX and in my workplace and it was obvious indeed, my sharing did make a difference.

I could wallow in the self-doubt, keep quiet and get “back in my box” but I simply don’t roll that way.

Besides it’s hard for me to turn back now.  If anything, it’s time to “up the ante”.

Remember what I mentioned about a ‘social space’ for learning professionals?  Well out of all this emotional time at work, I revisited my idea to make it a reality.  How I got there is a blog post for another day but as of this weekend, “Third Place” is now a reality.

Third Place

More to come about that soon because how I got to ‘Third Place’ warrants a blog post in itself.

Here’s to a wonderful new month!

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About Activate Learning Solutions

Helen Blunden is the founder of Activate Learning Solutions and Third Place. She has over 20 years of experience within learning and development across private, public and not-for-profit organisations. With a specialty in performance consulting and networked learning, Helen believes that workplace learning is integral to business success. She has a passion for enabling people to learn beyond the classroom and believes in the power of networks and communities to drive collaboration and meaning within the organisation. From facilitator-led instruction, online and blended, Helen deploys social and informal learning such as enterprise social networking, collaboration tools and emerging technologies that have been proven successful and embedded workplace change.
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10 Responses to What I Learned in September: What’s the Point of Sharing, Really?

  1. Thanks Keith. Interesting link and I haven’t made that transition to using more video as Andy has in in his Prezi. Thanks again and much appreciated for sharing your story too (and the links!).

  2. Keith Lyons says:

    Hello, Helen

    I thought your post was compelling reading. CCK08 helped me understand that sharing is a choice we can make.

    Shortly after posting I saw this Prezi and once again connected with the ideas you shared.
    http://prezi.com/b1hgn1fp6alo/everyone-everywhere/

    Best wishes

    Keith

  3. Thanks so much for this article Keith. You have put down in words the angst I feel every time I blog about my work. Certainly Rhoni McFarlane’s quote resonated with me. I do believe that there are many people in organisations who feel the same way – and will only increase in the near future. It’s interesting to note that after I wrote this blog post, it inspired conversations with people at work who were appreciative that I had expressed what they too were feeling. Thank you also for referring me to other links such as Footprints of Emergence and MentorMob. Reading articles like yours and connecting with the wider personal learning network has developed me professionally and personally than no other formal education course has done in my life. I’m glad that my story has also resonated with you in some way.

  4. Pingback: Sharing Openly | Clyde Street

  5. Wow! That is a great honour to be different – I read that as being that you don’t ‘follow the crowd’. That’s great feedback for someone in management level to have ‘Caring for People’ in their strengths. We have truly lost that and maybe that’s why it doesn’t sit well for me. Sure businesses need to make profits but at the expense of their people becoming automatons devoid of any creative thinking or innovation? No.

    Jeff Merrell sent me a link to Luis Suarez article that you may be interested in. He too, talks of ‘caring’.
    http://www.elsua.net/2013/08/05/there-can-be-no-resilience-without-transformation/

    Thanks again for your words, your help and support. You have truly been a good friend – all from meeting online on Twitter! (Amazing!)

  6. Thanks for your reply Jeff, greatly appreciated as always. I’ve been through corporate restructures before and made redundant 4 times in my life. However, it’s the first time that I’ve had a wider network within the business and outside tell me that I made some difference because I’ve shared my work through my blogs, or our social enterprise networking site and this leaves me confused to the disconnect between what I think my value is versus what the company thinks it is.

    Luis Suarez mentions in his article of commoditised robotic entities and I dread the thought of future work environments to be like this. Thank you for pointing me out to his article as it resonated with me.

    At least I have Exploring Personal Learning Networks MOOC to look forward to soon!

  7. Thanks for your wonderful reply Mike, it is obvious from this that you too had gone through the same emotions that I’m feeling now. Like you said, we just have to keep positive, keep sharing and be the role models as with time, people will see how this makes a difference to peoples lives at work.

    We want to be engaged at work, we want to make a difference and most of all we want to be treated like adults.

    Thank you for your kind words and your tweets – it’s greatly appreciated. My apologies for not responding sooner but I was offline on Sunday when I got your response.

  8. Helen – a lovely reflection on what you learnt in September. One book that resonated with me and that changed my outlook was “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”. I know it is an oldie bit I still go back to it when I am down and wonder what I am doing. People people like you and I are unique in organisations tht see the dollar as superior to welfare of human capital. In fact a recent Executive Leadership workshop, I was the only one out of 22 other senior public servants from across Australia that scored the highest in the “Caring for People” category – in fact I was so dominant in this category that I had strange looks from my peers. The organisers said that they do get this every now and again but it is rare (public or private enterprise) to see such a dominant focus on people welfare and well being at the senior manager level, as most are focused on career no matter the casualties along the way – I was chuffed and then realised that I am unique and special and I never want to change that. Good luck with the Meet Up – I am in and will be there rain, hail or shine! Count me in Helen.

  9. Hi Helen

    Thanks for posting this and having reflected over night I have awoken this morning still thinking about it’s powerful message.

    I was also burnt by an episode at work where by everything I was attempting to do was undermined and ignored. My work wasn’t appreciated and politics were more important than doing the right thing. It was at this time that self-doubt and a lack of confidence decided to rear it’s ugly head and I started to question everything I was trying to work towards. I too relied on members of my PLN, those who understood my plight and could give me words of encouragement. Within months I’d left the organisation and started a new life at DPG plc with an organisation who bought in to me and what I stood for and together we’re doing some great things which I’m thoroughly enjoying. I still have doubts though, is this the right way,do people want to work / learn like this, sometimes it can feel like your the only one commited to change and everything is a barrier trying to stop you in your tracks and make you give up and just follow the herd.

    Well many ppl do stop and many ppl give up because it is difficult and being in constant change and role modelling can be tiring when it seems nonone is watching or cares. But…..

    It’s who we are…congratulations on helping so many others see the light and influence those around you. Keep sharing keep positive and be the role model that this industry so badly needs. walk the walk and talk the talk and you ARE what you share….to those ‘others’……well….

    Don’t let the bas&$#ds get you down 🙂

  10. Jeff Merrell says:

    **Applause** In August one of my favorite reads – Luis Suarez – wrote something very similar: There Can Be No Resilience Without Transformation http://www.elsua.net/2013/08/05/there-can-be-no-resilience-without-transformation/

    While it’s pretty easy to point out the common themes in both (disappointment, struggle, renewal) what I really admire is walking the talk and being open about all of it putting it into perspective with the reference to the Choi piece. It’s not easy to write what you wrote but it energizes all of us. Keeps us focused on what’s important: That we all have some level of agency and we need to exercise it. And more: We need to make sure that everyone has the same opportunity to do so.

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