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:
- Was it wrong for me to share what I learn to others?
- Should I not contribute to Yammer anymore?
- What’s the point of sharing my strategy of how to create an internal constructivist MOOC around digital skill literacy anymore when I cannot be in a role or the trust to develop it further?
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.
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!