The Critical Few – Using Keystone Habits

I’m in Week 8 of a Working Out Loud Circle.  This week is about building new habits.  One of the ways suggested to build new habits is to chart your progress.  Exercise 3 in this weeks Guide is to create your own progress chart.

I’ve used progress charts to support habit-building in the past.  With mixed results.  Actually, there is a pattern to my results.  I tend to struggle to embed new habits.  I was reluctant to create another progress chart only to struggle to stick to the habits listed on it.  However, I’d committed to do the exercises in the Circle Guides so pressed on.

Rather than create a new template I hunted through the files on my computer in search of one I could re-use.  I found one that sounded promising – ‘Resolution Chart.xlsx.’  I opened it.  Wow!  Here’s a clue as to why I have struggled to embed new habits.  I was confronted with a list of habits broken into 6 categories:

  • Health – 10 daily habits and 1 weekly habit
  • Money – 2 daily habits and 1 weekly habit
  • Career – 4 daily habits, 11 weekly habits and 2 monthly habits
  • Personal Development – 2 daily habits and 1 weekly habit
  • Planning and Administration – 2 weekly habits and 1 monthly habit
  • Friends and Family – 1 daily habit, 2 weekly habits and 4 monthly habits

A whopping total of 44 habits to track (19 daily, 18 weekly and 7 monthly).  My goal at the time was to complete 80% of these each month.  It’s tempting to calculate the number of data points per month to track this, but I don’t think it’s necessary to make the point.  Perhaps I should have added another one – to track my habits.  Seriously … I see now how this was setting myself up for failure.

This list is clearly unachievable and gave me a lot of reasons to beat myself up. However, there is a bigger problem with creating overwhelming lists of habits, routines and goals.  When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.  I was not discerning enough about which of these habits would make the most difference in my life.

In his book ‘The Power of Habit‘ Charles Duhigg allocates a whole chapter to ‘keystone habits.’   “The habits that matter most are the ones that, when they start to shift, dislodge and remake other patterns.”  Duhigg characterises keystone habits as “small wins.”  Based on research on small wins he notes that they “fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.”  Duhigg also concludes that keystone habits encourage change “by creating structures that help other habits to flourish.” They create can atmosphere in which other behaviours emerge.

I set up my Working Out Loud habit progress tracker.  The complete list – just 4 daily habits – is shown below.

My Daily Dispatch post (such as this post!) does take around 30 minutes a day, so is not really a ‘small’ win.  However, if I pick my topics wisely each post can be used as part of the Reflection Challenge (#reflectchall) I’m doing this month at no additional effort.  This leaves checking my Twitter relationship list for my current WOL Circle goal, and responding to two posts that others have made online.  This could take as little as five minutes per day.  Not overambitious (for a change).

I’ll give this progress chart a go and report back at the end of month in a Dispatch.

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Recognising a Little Achievement

I’m doing a 30 day reflection challenge (#reflectchall) with two friends / industry colleagues.  We’ve agreed to post a public reflection on something from our work or lives every day in November.  I’m committed to the goal as I  see tremendous value in pausing and consciously thinking about my actions, feelings and experiences in order to learn from them.  However, I’m a serial ‘over-committer,’ so I’m going to be kind to myself during this challenge.  If it’s late in the day and I haven’t posted but am weary I won’t push myself beyond exhaustion.  I will simply miss the post and start afresh the next day.

I was going to write that I didn’t post a reflection yesterday.  However, I’ve just realised that this isn’t true.  I vlogged, as I do most days.  I’m currently vlogging using Instagram stories, which I download every day.  Yesterday I did an activity as part of a new course I am testing.  I recalled posting to my Instagram story about an activity that I found challenging.  I watched yesterday’s story and got to the part where I spoke about the challenge.  Then it hit me – I had actually publicly reflected in my vlog.  It was a brief reflection, and warrants further contemplation.  However, it counts.

My insight today is that I sometimes fail to recognise my little achievements.  A series of small achievements lead to a big achievement.  Yes, part of the reason I joined the reflection challenge is to push myself a little (after all, there’s a reason it’s called a challenge).  However, it’s not cheating to leverage an existing habit and include it in the challenge.  My act of kindness to myself today is to share yesterday’s story (below) and point to the segment at 1:36 where I reflect on my challenge.

 

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Service Blueprint Template

Earlier this week someone shared a ‘service blueprint’ with me.  It was a one page summary of key information regarding a methodology for a repeated service.  I’ve now used it twice with minor adaptations on methodologies that I’m currently designing.  It’s a very easy way to summarise key information about a methodology on a single page.  I’ve found it especially useful to (1) communicate expectations with multiple parties who need to undertake tasks (2) identify gaps in a methodology or toolkit.

A basic generic template is shown below and can be downloaded at this link.  If you do download it please post a comment below.  It would be useful to know what you are using it for and any adaptations you make to it.

Here is a quick guide to content of the service blueprint by row:

Stage – Break methodology into a series of stages and give each one a title

Maximum Duration – Estimate maximum duration for each stage.  You could also give a maximum / minimum range, or an estimated duration for projects of different scales or complexity.

Physical Evidence – List key physical artefacts that will be produced during a stage.  These provide evidence of completion of key tasks in each stage.

Customer Actions – Most projects have an end customer, be they internal or external.  Identify key actions / tasks for customer in each stage.

Consultation Actions / Group X Actions – Add a row for each key party that has to complete actions / tasks for any stage.  This is similar to a ‘swim lane’ in a process map.  Identify key actions / tasks for each party in each stage.

Tools & Templates – List key tools or templates that should / could be used in each stage.

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Assessing my Skills Using the LPI L&D Capability Map

The Learning and Performance Institute (LPI) is a global professional association for learning and development (L&D) professionals.  In 2012 they created the LPI L&D Capability Map to provide a global view of the skills needed to deliver modern workplace L&D.

Earlier this year I led a project to refresh the LPI Capability Map.  (Yes, I need to post about that fabulous experience!)  The updated Capability Map was launched in early October 2018.  It contains 25 skills across 5 categories as per the image below.

I’m now preparing to facilitate my first team capability assessment using the updated Map.  It’s a good opportunity to work closely with the LPI to fine-tune the team assessment process.  As part of my preparation I completed my self-assessment against the Capability Map today.  Anyone can do a self-assessment free of charge by going to this link.  There is a fee for the team assessment.

What I saw in my self-assessment

It took me 30 minutes to complete the self-assessment.  Recommend you allow 45 minutes.  

My self-assessment confirmed my gut feel for my key strengths – in the Strategy & Operations  and Support Continuous Learning categories.  It also validated my high priority gaps.  I got value from self-assessing as it clarified my ‘gut feel’ and helped prioritise skills to be developed in next 6 months.

L&D skills have expanded in recent years.  It’s no wonder that L&D ‘teams of one’ struggle to provide a full, modern learning service in their organisation.  Similarly, as an individual I can be selective about which of the gaps in my skill set are important for me to fill and where I will source skills from elsewhere to supplement my own when necessary.

Next Steps – My Development

I’ve downloaded my personal competency profile from the assessment platform. My next step is to create a simple development plan. Two key priorities for me are Marketing and Communications and Data Analytics.

I’ll use resources on Marketing shared by Shannon Tipton on her Learning Rebels website. I am already learning a lot about Marketing working with Karen Moloney on the Learning Uncut podcast.

For Data Analytics Trish Uhl, PMP, CPLP is good to follow. I’ll find a short online introductory Data Analytics course and do the next 1-day Data Analytics for Learning Professionals course offered by the Australian Institute of Training and Development.  I will also will start doing more with data analytics on current projects – applying skills immediately to consolidate them.

When you’ve done the assessment I’d love to hear what you got out of it.  You can share below or post on LinkedIn or Twitter and ping me.

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How to Use Twitter Lists

I’m currently facilitating a Social and Collaborative Learning Essentials (SCLE) course for the Australian Institute of Training and Development.  One of the course modules is about using social media to support learning.  During this module I facilitate a slow Twitter chat.  I post one question per day for 5 days about using social media for learning.  For many course participants this is their first experience of a Twitter chat – sometimes their first experience using Twitter.

For new users one of the challenges of getting value from Twitter is learning how to create a high quality feed of resources and conversation.  Once you start following many people your feed can become quite cluttered.  If your interests are varied you may find that the content jumps around from one topic to another as you scroll through your feed.  Twitter lists can help with this challenge.

One of the SCLE participants asked me how to use Twitter lists.  I created the screencast demonstration below to show her how to create a list, add people to list and subscribe to other people’s lists.  (If you’re interested – I created this screencast using Zoom.)

If you prefer to follow written instructions for using Twitter lists you can refer to the Twitter help centre.

For some useful ideas about how to use Twitter lists to improve your engagement with others look at How to Use Twitter Lists to Follow Thousands (and Appear Superhuman).  Note – I hate the title of this article.  For me the quality of connections and engagement matter a lot more than quantity and appearances.  However, the ideas for using lists are solid.

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What I Learned in September 2018

 

 

Liminality

Liminality is derived from the Latin word ‘liminal’ which means ‘threshold.’  It originated in anthropology as a term for the middle phase in a rite of passage.  In this phase a person is passing from one state to another.  It is a time of transition.

In early September I heard the term used in an episode of the Don’t Stop Us Now podcast.  It struck me that I am currently in a liminal phase.  I’m enjoying the malleability and creativity of this phase. September was my first full month living in Brisbane after travelling for seven months.  I’m exploring options for what form my work will now take.  I see benefit in holding myself in this phase for a bit longer and not rushing to lock in my ‘new life.’

As I played with the idea of liminality during the month I recalled at least two organisational change management approaches that focus on this ‘middle phase.’  The first is described in the book Managing Transitions by William Bridges.  The second is Kurt Lewin’s 3-stage change model.

High Value Communities in the NHS

Julian Stodd researched on high value communities in the National Health Service, UK.  He discussed his findings with Jo Cook on The Training Journal podcast.  I share some thoughts on implications of these findings for enabling Communities of Practice. My Daily Dispatch about the use of shadow technology also relates to Julian’s research.

Putting Screws Into Plasterboard

A highly practical skill that has saved me hundreds of dollars on handyman services.  (Should that be ‘handyperson’?  Doesn’t have the same ring to it.)

Your Turn

What about you?  What is something you’ve learned recently?  How have you been learning?  What group activities do you build learning into or see it as an incidental outcome?

What could you share with others?  (Nudge for all the leaders reading this – sharing your learning with your team is a great way to role model and encourage continuous learning.)

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Social Learning and Shadow IT

I’m currently facilitating a Social and Collaborative Learning Essentials (SCLE) course.  This course is offered through the Australian Institute of Training and Development.  It runs in a virtual environment over eight weeks.  This week I’ve refreshed the curated content used in the course.

One person whose work I always check on when I’m refreshing this course is Julian Stodd*.  I find Julian Stodd’s research, thinking and practice around Social Leadership both insightful and practical.  I also appreciate his philosophy that all his work is imperfect and is continually evolving.

Source: https://julianstodd.wordpress.com/2017/05/31/the-invisible-organisation-why-social-leadership/

In a recent series of Training Journal podcast interviews Julian spoke about power, trust and the social age.  I added Part 2 to the SCLE resources.  I was especially interested in Julian’s research on high value communities (of practice) in the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK.  Amongst his findings are that:

  • their most valuable communities are informal ones, not ones ‘given to them’ by the organisation
  • top communities are ones they were invited into – someone reached out to them to join the conversation
  • the primary focus of these communities are ‘conversations of improvement”
  • most important thing is ‘choreography of engagement’, the way people are welcomed into the community

The group studied use 17 different technologies to interact on a daily basis, of which 16 are not controlled by the NHS – they are ‘shadow IT.’  If organisations want to leverage the power of social learning they need to move beyond an environment of control.  This includes controlling the technologies being used to enable conversation and community.

If you do an internet search on the term ‘shadow IT’ you will find a lot of articles talking about how the IT department can regain control of the tools and platforms being used.  This is not especially useful to people in the organisation who are turning to tools that help them to get the job done, improve productivity and cut through red tape.

My curiosity was recently piqued by a white paper from Cognizant on 21 Jobs of the Future.  These are jobs that are envisaged to be required within the next 10 years.   One of these is ‘Bring Your Own IT Facilitator.’  The purpose of this role is to ‘fuse shadow-IT operations with digital workplace strategy.’  In describing this role Cognizant commented:

“We see the growth of shadow-IT as an immense opportunity for IT to collaborate with business units and individuals who have mastered the art of working without IT.”

While acknowledging the valid concerns that shadow-IT raises (just Google it) I find this a much more positive and useful perspective.  Shadow IT is here to stay.  People are finding value in using all sorts of consumer tools and platforms, as evidenced in the social learning sphere by Julian’s research.  If we are going to support people to engage in high value conversations let’s shine a light in the shadows (but not too brightly lest we kill the conversation) and embrace shadow-IT.

* Confession – I have a social learning crush on Julian Stodd.  Just look at the language he uses to talk about social interaction – ‘choreography of engagement’ is a beautiful phrase.

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Power Up Your Professional Development with Social Learning

As a leader and professional its critical to take charge of your own learning. Staying abreast of shifts in society and your industry and keeping up to date with research and evolving practices in your field are critical to remain relevant.  One of the most effective and flexible ways to do this is to connect and interact with others.

I am fortunate to co-host the Learning Uncut podcast.  At the end of every episode we ask our guests ‘What is the biggest thing you do for your own professional development?’

Many of them describe some form of social learning.  They connect with other people both inside and outside their own organisations.  They visit others in their workplace and look at how they work and discuss the problems and challenges they face.  They attend networking events and conferences as much for the conversations with other attendees as to hear from the speakers.

Some deliberately seek out people who are different in their background and thinking, introducing diversity into their network.  Many use social media to interact with others around the globe.  Your opportunity to engage with others is not limited by geography.

Get inspiration from what Learning Uncut guests have said about their social learning practices for your own professional development and that of the people you lead.

Tony Dunford

“Be as connected as you can with people who less corporate in their thinking and perhaps more radical in their views while being in the sort of learning space and so I have a number of connections with people in unions, people not in unions, people who work in startups, people are working in incubators and all that sort of stuff and someone I can’t remember who but there’s a great quote around the fact that if you look at your team and there’s not some awkward uncomfortable people who don’t look like they fit then you probably haven’t got the right people, and so I always like to make sure my network is a mix of all of that, who are challenging me to do uncomfortable things which is good because that’s what we need.”

Listen to Tony Dunford’s Learning Uncut Episode – Skills For Life

James Scoggins

“Well, at the moment, I’ll say Agile has been a real learning journey for me, so I’m a bit of a magpie. And there’s quite a few Agile team within BNZ. I just like to go and see how they work, so it’s going and spending a bit of time with them, looking at their visual boards and talking to them, what problems they’re facing. So, I think it’s just getting in front of other parts of the business and seeing how they’re doing things.”

 

Listen to James Scoggins and Renetta Alexander’s Learning Uncut Episode – Agile L&D

Kate Fraser

“For a long time I was a team of one and I know that lots of L&D practitioners are and so it was important for me to get out of our organisation and connect with other Learning and Development professionals. So that might be networking events I went to lots of those and also you know just finding out, key people to connect with and you know taking them out for lunch and having a chat and just being really proactive in speaking to others and learning from their experiences and trying to reciprocate where you can as well.”

I became quite active on social media for the same reason and I also participated in many, many, many webinars so that you know I was sort of keeping on top of you know what were the what were the key issues out there and most of it was about reaching out side of my organisation connecting with other L&D; practitioners and learning from their experiences rather than feeling like I had to do it all by myself.

Listen to Kate Fraser’s Learning Uncut episode – Making a Capability Framework Valuable

Gail Bray

“I’m a great believer in leading by walking around. So I tend to get out into the business and I’ll drive out to Sunshine Campus. We’ve got about five campuses and I actually go and talk to the teachers and I talk to the managers out there and we just chew the fat and how things are going. And I learn a lot from them. And I then bring that back into my team.”

 

Listen to Gail Bray’s Learning Uncut episode – Transforming Vocational Education and Training

Emma Weber and Marie Daniels

“I do invest in going to conferences. I also have coaches that I work with. But I think, going to a conference, you have the networking, the synchronicity of the people you might meet, you have the expos, you have experts, you have the keynotes. I think for me, it’s a really good investment.”  Emma Weber

 

“I’ve been lucky enough just to return from my first trip to the ATD. I was just blown away by the length and breadth of the exhibition hall. And just the sessions, and the line outside of the conference, the networking, and discussing sessions back with the Australian contingent. So for me, that being, maybe not the biggest thing, but the most exciting thing for my own development, probably in about the last three years.” Marie Daniels

 

Listen to Emma Weber and Marie Daniels’ Learning Uncut episode – Learning Transfer Bot

Your Turn

What will you do to connect and interact with others, powering up your professional development?

How could you support others to improve their own professional development practices using social learning?

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Getting to Grips with my Newsletter Tools – for Now

I had wanted to start a newsletter for over 12 months before I finally did it.  I had completed a newsletter ‘toolkit’ session with my mentor Katie Mac (from Katie Mac Publicity) over 6 months before I published my first one.  What stopped me was (1) making time to develop content, and (2) not having the skills to design and create the newsletter template.

I addressed both obstacles by engaging someone with the skills to co-design the newsletter look and feel and then set up the template in MailChimp.  Paying for this service increased my motivation to find and protect the time to develop newsletter content.  I tend to work best to deadlines, so created an arbitrary deadline of July 2018 to release my first monthly newsletter.

I’m currently working on content for my September newsletter (a little later than I had intended to, but will release it this week).  I decided it was time to take over the technical newsletter production tasks.  My designer provided an online demonstration of how to replicate a previous newsletter and update both the content and design elements.  It’s actually very straightforward.

I’ve also used Canva for the first time to edit titles for articles within the newsletter.  This is an unexpected bonus as I’ve been looking for a reason to learn how to use Canva.  I often see attractive visuals online that other people have created using Canva and have yearned to be able to produce my own.  Today I took my first baby step toward this goal.

The general approach that I’ve used to developing skills needed for my newsletter is one that I commonly apply to get things done in my business.  Where I don’t have the time to figure out how to do something myself I engage someone who can do some setup efficiently then get them to train me.

I also recognise that while it makes me feel good to master new tools it may not be the best use of my time.  Particularly as I am shifting how I work and adopting a business model rather than a solo practitioner model, my time will be better spent on strategic, high leverage activities such as business development, marketing and sales, product development and some delivery.  I may end up outsourcing technical newsletter production again or engaging a team member who does this work alongside other operational and administrative tasks.

PS: September 2018 newsletter theme is social learning.  Newsletter goes on on 21 September – sing up now on website to receive a copy.

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I Travelled to Get Unstuck

From January to August this year I lived on the road with my 13 year old daughter.  We travelled around the east coast of Australia, as far south-west as Discovery Bay in Victoria and as far north as Port Douglas in Queensland.  I drove around 12,000km as we moved from one Airbnb to another, or stayed with friends.

Our trip ended a month ago and we’re settling into our new city – Brisbane.

I’m currently writing my September newsletter, and want to reflect on what I’ve learned about my work in the introduction.  I was having trouble getting started writing this piece yesterday so turned to ‘travel quotes’ on Pinterest for inspiration.  Thanks to the Bohemian Bowmans blog I came across a quote that perfectly captured why I travelled.

Source: http://bohemianbowmans.com/20-travel-quotes-youve-never-heard/

While my imagination and capacity for enthusiasm hadn’t completely eroded, this quote got me started with my opening paragraph:

I embarked on an extended road trip because I felt stuck. I lived in a busy, expensive city. I worked hard on consulting projects to pay the rent.  I rarely socialised.  I was struggling to support my child contend with an alienating school environment.  I felt my choices, freedom and vitality being stripped away from me.  I travelled to get unstuck.

You’ll have to wait for (or sign up for) my newsletter for the rest of the article.

Spoiler alert – yes, I did get unstuck.  The extended period on the road has opened up new ways of working and new opportunities.  I’m currently in that ‘in-between’ stage, the ‘unfrozen’ stage, where I’m exploring possibilities and alternatives for how I want to work and reshaping my business model.  My mindset is open and expansive, and I’m excited about the options I’m exploring.  (More on this in upcoming Daily Dispatches.)

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