motivate

What does working remotely look like for me?

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As I embark on this path of investigating the world of remote work and workers, I decided a good starting place was with my own experience: What does working remotely look like to me? What do I enjoy about it? What drives me crazy?

A point of clarification is called for here to ensure we have a shared understanding of terms. When I say ‘remote’ I am referring to individuals and/or teams who are not physically based in a designated office space to do their work…it could be full time, part time, seasonal…the options are many. Other important terms that I will refer to are distributed teams and digital workspaces. Checkout this article on What’s Your Company’s Definition of Remote Work?

Remote working looks different for everyone; however, as I share my experiences, you may find points of connection that perhaps will put expression to your realities.

Connecting with a client at Theirry in Vancouver, BC

Like many of you, I work in a few roles. The majority of my time is spent as a business professor, focusing on Human Resources and Management. The classroom provides a wonderful opportunity to be face to face with some incredible students…but we also have a learning management system that provides a platform for virtual communication and interactions. I also teach online courses, where the only interaction we have is virtual. This is one area of working remotely where my ‘office’ never seems to close.

I also do business coaching/consulting. This role offers opportunities to mset one on one with clients (face to face or virtually), developing training materials, or collaborating with others to provide services to various organizations.

So, I get to enjoy both …working in a specific office space at the college, and working remotely (home, coffee shop, Canada, Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Finland…the world’s the limit).

My ‘office’ for exam marking in Naxos, Greece

For me, the key is to fit the task or activity with the most appropriate working environment. One of my favourite experiences was being in Ireland working in a beautiful hotel cafe with my son – Guinness, coffee, and soda bread on the table. I was reviewing research papers submitted by my distance students while Nathan worked on material for one of his clients. We did take breaks from screen time to chat about what we were focusing on…remote working at it’s finest! Another experience had me Facetiming one of my advisors from a cave house in Santorini, to her location in Africa!

The thing I am passionate about is helping people realize their greatest potential in whatever career path they choose…whether they work in a physical office, work remotely, or a combination of both. No matter the context, it is important that both employer and employee have a clear understanding of each other’s strengths and needs in order to realize both individual and organizational potential…success on all counts. I truly believe that one contributor for individual and organizational success lies in opportunities for flexible work spaces, thus my curiosity around investigating this concept.

Next time I’ll get more specific about what I enjoy most about working remote, AND provide responses from others’ positive experiences. In the meantime, you might find this article interesting to muse over: Are Remote Workers Happier than Office Employees?

Time for the 3 ‘Rs’…Relax, Refresh, Rejuvenate!

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Next?

I am just about finished marking my final projects and exams for the term…my brain feels like mush! It’s amazing how tiring it is to read and mark the results of someone else’s work; perhaps it has something to do with the connection between how successful we have been as teachers and how much our learners are walking away from the term having learned.

The end of term is certainly bitter sweet. Having spent 4 months with various groups of students, I finally feel like I’ve have gotten to know them…then my time with them is done. One particular class so inspired me with their final projects that I want to keep them for another term!

As teachers we so much want to inspire our students to expand their learning, their worldview. We want to help them catch a glimpse of the exciting adventures ahead of them, and prepare them for that journey. We can set the stage for that learning, we can create the thirst for that learning, but as Maryellen Weimer reminds us in her book, Learner Centered Teaching, we can’t make them drink. http://www.facultyfocus.com/topic/articles/teaching-professor-blog/

So what can we do? Well, I think the first thing we can do is to stay thirsty ourselves, and continually work towards quenching that thirst. School’s out, but that doesn’t mean it’s time for our brains to vacate. True, we need to take time to relax, but we also need to be refreshed and rejuvenated…we need to be inspired so that we can be an inspiration. (The 3 ‘Rs’)

Summer session starts for me right away in May and goes until the end of June…not quite time to close the books. However, the full workload is greatly reduced allowing time to slow down, and fill up. This also means that I have time once again to contribute on a more IMG_0706regular basis to my blog. I continue to probe and ponder topics, issues and concepts, but for the next 4 months the focus will be on ‘How do I relax, refresh and rejuvenate’, so that when September hits, I’m ready to hit the ground running.

I invite you to journey along with me, add your own experiences, and then learn together.

Let’s explore…

I love teaching!

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I really love teaching! Not just being in the classroom, but also preparing for the class. I love thinking and working through creative ways to present concepts; I can totally get lost in developing activities that will engage every part of the learner’s brains and pull on past experiences to give context to new learning. It’s one of the few things that will make me forget about having lunch…until I discover that putting two thoughts together is becoming a bit of a challenge!

Take today for example…I have spent the better part of the day at my computer designing a power point presentation on The Anatomy of a Lesson Plan. But that’s not where the creation ended…I then imported it to Explain Everything, recorded a voice over, and am now ready to upload it to Moodle for use in an on-line course for instructors. It’s not perfect, but I’m pretty proud of my first attempt using a new application!

Odeum of Herodus Atticus…great place to learn about Greek history!

 

I haven’t always been this excited about learning new things…especially during my elementary years in Ireland, and then on to junior and high in Canada. Going to school was something that I had to do, and any learning was an unexpected by-product of being there…except for music classes, those I loved, and really didn’t think much about learning, I simply enjoyed the music! But then there was history and geography…neither a favourite. Memorizing dates and places was beyond me, and grasping why I needed to know anything about anything that happened hundreds of years ago seemed like a royal waste of my time. Fast forward many years; walking the cobbled streets of Ancient Greece and Turkey suddenly gave the relevance I needed to study both geography and history!

Now the tables are turned and I am most concerned about the success of my learners. What can I do to help them engage in a way that invites excitement about learning…how does external motivation get transformed into intrinsic motivation? I have a couple of ideas formulating in my brain as a result of reflecting on my own learning journey.

A few words come to mind: purpose, relevancy, ownership, autonomy.

I know that most learners have a difficult time engaging if they don’t see the relevancy in the material content, which makes them question the purpose of extending their mental

The Grand Theatre, Ephesus...can you imagine presenting here? St. Paul did, as did Sting!
The Grand Theatre, Ephesus…can you imagine presenting here? St. Paul did, as did Sting!

energies. As a facilitator I need to make sure that content is linked to desired outcomes, and delivered in a learner-centred way. I also believe that part of facilitating learning is to help move my students from a consumer mentality to an ownership mentality.

We identify adult learners as those being 18 years and over, but how do we help transition young people from a pedagogical model into the world of androgogical learning autonomy? With my current class, it will start with a one on one conversation…

More about this next time…then we’ll talk about autonomy in the workplace!

‘Watch and Wonder’ or ‘Experience and Engage’?

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In his book Talk Like Ted, Carmine Gallo quotes from Ben Sanders.

“People don’t want to just watch and wonder. They want “to experience, to engage, to endeavor…that’s where the real meat of life is to be found.”

So, are you a ‘watch and wonder’ or an ‘experience and engage’ person? I am totally an experience and engage type…just ask my traveling friends!

This became very evident when we were traveling in Italy. So many things to see, appreciate, explore…and touch! Let’s just say that it was a smart thing for the guardians and curators in the Accademia di Belle Arti (Academia of Fine Arts in Florence) to have a fence around the breath-taking statue of David! I also learned very quickly that touching wax statues in Dublin, frescoes in Pompeii, and Florence, are greatly frowned on…actually forbidden. It’s amazing how body language, tone of voice and volume help an Irish-Canadian, totally English speaking person understand what ‘non toccare‘ means.      http://www.artoffresco.com/03-History/03.7-pompeii/03.7-history-pompeii.htm

So what does this have to do with training and development? More than you may realize.

Think about your employees or students, would you describe them as being watch and wonder, or experience and engage folks? How does that impact the way they learn…how should it then influence the tools and techniques you use for training and developing?

Let’s apply this to a lesson most of us have experienced at some point in our life…learning to ride a bike. Many options are available: read a manual, watch a YouTube video, and listen to someone explain, watch someone demonstrate, or get on a bike and figure it out. Your style of learning could be any one of these, or a combination of techniques. What about other topics like conflict resolution or learning to use a new piece of technology? All the options exist, but already you can identify which would be most effective for you.

Think about a skill that you know your employees or students need to acquire…got something in mind? Great, now take a few minutes and consider all the ways that skill could be taught. Next, think about your audience, how do they learn best? You will probably need to think of a combination of learning activities in order to address everyone, but the results will be well worth the effort.

So what about the way I was ‘encouraged’ to learn that frescoes were not to be touched? I did learn the lesson, but I was publicly reprimanded and embarrassed. Did I already know that I shouldn’t touch? Probably to some degree, but did I fully understand why? Not really.

OK, so hugging Pierce Brosnon's waxed statue may have bent the rules a little!
OK, so hugging Pierce Brosnon’s waxed statue may have bent the rules a little!

I admit that I am a tactile learner, and I also have to admit that I selectively adhere to rules…when they don’t make sense to me! Would my actions have been different if I had received appropriate information before hand? Absolutely! Is this a teaching style engaged in the classroom or workplace? Sadly I have seen and experienced the technique in both places…with devastating effects.

Let me encourage you to become an ‘experience and engage’ facilitator of learning. Next time you have the opportunity to provide a learning experience, think through the how and why, then let the creative juices start to flow!

Why? How?

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If you were asked to identify one question that you have asked the most over the course of your life, what would that question be? For me that question would be ‘why?’. This question got me into the most trouble as a kid…and as a teenager, giving me the reputation in our family as being challenging and rebellious. In fact, it wasn’t until I hit my 40s that my parents finally realized that I wasn’t rebelling but truly wanted to know ‘why’; what was the purpose of doing the things I was asked to do.

Just had to know why!
Just had to know why!

I still ask that question, and find that it brings the greatest critical thinking challenges to me as I continue to work in the field of training and development. I also use it often in my coaching practice. However, I’ve added another question…it’s like a follow up question…’how?’

Let me give you an example of some of the questions I’m currently asking regarding my business students.

  • Why do some students choose to come to class only when it’s convenient?
  • Why do so many students struggle with thinking critically?
  • Why do we still get the question ‘will this be on the test?’
  • Why do so many students leave college still not knowing what they want to do with their life?

I believe the first step in responding to these questions is to change the questions…

  • How do we motivate students to choose to come to class even when it’s inconvenient?
  • How do we encourage students to think critically?
  • How do we change the question from ‘will this be on the test?’ to how will I use this in my life and career?
  • How do we help students discover their passion, their personal ‘why?’ in order to enter careers they will enjoy?

When I take this same thinking into the workplace, the follow up ‘how’ questions become:

  • How do we motivate employees to be more engaged…to take more ownership?
  • How do we create environments that encourage critical thinking?
  • How do we help employees connect what they do at work with why they do it?
  • How do we help employees realize their greatest contribution?

What do you think?

Author Daniel Pink believes it has a lot to do with autonomy; you may want to get your hands on his book ‘Drive’. Lots of ‘hmmm moments’ to probe and ponder.