travel

A remote worker’s most important tools.

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As I have been traveling in Portugal, Finland, Spain and England these past weeks, I have once again been struck by the commonalities we share as humans…both in our need for meaningful work and renewing play time. This balance is especially important for those who have chosen the path of remote work. However, the degree to which cultures intentionally plan for playtime is varied.

While in Finland I was honored to be part of a Global Faculty Colloquium held at JAMK University of Applied Sciences in Jyvascula; 18 individual from around the globe presented their practices related to applied research in the post secondary classroom. Inspiring, informative, and innovative ideas were shared, and each brought their unique culture and perspective to the conversation. However, the learning that left the strongest impression on me was the intentionality demonstrated by the Finnish people…our hosts. These people are hard workers, but take seriously their time to step back and enjoy the wonder of the country they are blessed to live in. Time and again, we heard guides and locals alike refer to ‘living room spaces’…spaces where people take time out of their work to simply sit, visit, get to know one another, and reflect on life. Time to be still, to think, to watch, to simply…be. I would suggest this is one of the two most important tools for a remote worker, the pre-cursor to innovative and creative thinking.

You may have intentional playtime all figured out, but for many this is a necessity that all to easily gets pushed aside. There is almost a panic that sets in if we are not doing something that contributes to existing contracts or to the pursuit of new business. While in Helsinki it was a treat to sit among the many people taking time out of their busyness to enjoy a pastry and coffee from one of the many sidewalk cafes, or simply sit on a bench along the city’s central linear park…intentionally taking advantage of the many ‘living room spaces’. But this is not a new concept…we are all keenly aware of the need for such ‘playtime’…aware, of , but perhaps not committed to .

I was also stuck by the intentionality of the Finns regarding building relationships in business. The value they place on taking time to create a foundation of trust before moving forward with business dealings is commendable; people first, business second. Read the rest of this entry »

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Remote working: the ups and downs

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I met a lady at a coffee shop recently while working on a presentation for Finland. She shared that her 3 kids work in different industries (business, urban planning, and medical support), all of them work remotely in varying degrees: two have office space that they use… sometimes, and the other has a home office and also uses coffee shops when appropriate. The lady herself had a season of working from home, but openly admitted that the discipline to stay focused and not jump into house keeping tasks became a loosing battle, so she moved back into the formal office setting.

This ‘moving back to the office’ is not about failure or defeat, it’s more about knowing yourself, the environments in which you thrive, and your limits.

Over the past few weeks I have been considering what I like about remote work, and what elements I’m not crazy about. I’ve also been chatting to others, researching, and brainstorming with peers to learn about their experiences. The short and sweet of it? Remote workers like the ability to be flexible and have a choice about how, when, and where the work gets done. As well, the idea of intentionality regarding work results in great productivity, and calls for much creativity in overcoming possible barriers.

The flip side? Things like poor communication, inadequate technology, and undependable Internet access can create great frustration for both workers, and employers. This in addition to the on-going struggle to balance work and personal space (thus the need for good self-discipline!). One final aspect that many individuals working remotely battle with is a sense of isolation and lonelyness.

Like any work situation, you take the good with the not so good…the question lies in whether or not you can overcome, or accept, the aspects that are less than ideal. For me, and for most remote workers that I have engaged with, the pros are great enough that the commitment to finding a way to make remote work, work…is worth the effort.

The number of people working remotely (in varying formats) is growing; next blog join me as we take a closer look at how both the workers and the employers are creating some really successful outcomes.

In the meantime, check out this interview conducted with a remote worker regarding his experiences. And yes, it does beg the question… “What are the key differences between remote working and nomadic working?” Nathan describes the first as being in a position of having an office (whether a home, shared, or separate office space) and the second being in a state of having no constant. What are the advantages, draw backs, and risks of each? A question to be answered by a nomadic worker?

 

 

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?

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!

Flip the Learning

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My mind is full! The last 2 days I attended a conference on the flipped classroom. www.techsmith.com/education-flipped-classroom.html It’s a great practice that has already proven to be effective in all levels of education; however, flipping a classroom isn’t as easy as flipping a switch! It takes time and a lot of preparation. Let me paint a picture of what ‘flipping’ might look like in the course of living and learning.

We love traveling (you probably figured that out already!). One of the things I’ve learned about the individuals we travel with is that we all prepare for a trip differently. Let me give you an example. A few years ago we took a trip to Europe that brought us to such amazing

Vernazza's Harbour
Vernazza’s Harbour

places as Florence, Cinque Terre, Rome, Santorini, and Barcelona. Together we decided where we wanted to go for a holiday, and the general mode of travel (flights, trains, hikes, cruise ship…).

Once the dates were decided, some of us took a back seat and simply dreamed of what we would experience. However, two of the guys dedicated hours of research time looking at and planning where we would visit, must see attractions, restaurants, and even the best places to buy certain local products. When we arrived at the destinations, Dennis and Dennis (we named them D ‘n D Travel) were prepped and ready to learn the secrets of the historical wonders we visited. They knew the history, the stories behind the cultural landmarks, and were able to deepen their discoveries by adding their prior knowledge to the in-person experience.

The rest of us still had a fantastic vacation, at times weary from sensory overload, but I feel fairly confident in saying that the two who spent time gaining a base knowledge before going, walked away with even greater appreciation of our experience. Their learning was ‘flipped’…rather than waiting for the travel experience to learn about the culture and attractions, they watched Rick Steeves www.ricksteves.com, did Internet research, talked to others who had visited Europe previously, and even created our personal travel itinerary! They laid the foundation for experiential learning to build on, and helped the rest of us appreciate elements that we may have overlooked.

Back to training and development. My formal teaching context is in post secondary, but I am also involved with training and development in business; this happens in boardrooms, or even in coffee shops! Does this idea of ‘flipped’ apply in those non-traditional settings? I would say so. At the start of the conference participants were reminded to ask a very important question: What should students be doing inside the classroom, and what should they be doing outside the classroom?

With our employees and teams, what T & D can take place on their own through reading, webinars, or on-line courses, and what skills need the face-to-face interaction with a facilitator or trainer? We need to think about the hardest thing (skill, ability…) that will be required of them, and make sure face-to-face time is dedicated to help facilitate that learning. If the learning calls for face-to-face interaction, what learning activity can they do ahead of time so that they come prepared for full engagement?

Let me offer a simple example. You have a team that is experiencing conflict, but is at a loss for how to effectively resolve it. How can ‘flipped’ learning be applied?

  • You invite everyone to a short team building session aimed addressing conflict resolution.
  • One week prior, you send a link describing a conflict resolution process that you have found to be effective, or a YouTube video that demonstrates that process.
  • You ask that everyone take time to look at these resources before coming to the team building session.
  • In the face-to-face time have participants summarize what they read/watched, and then put the process into role-play action, providing examples of conflict areas experienced in the industry.
  • Make the training time long enough for participants to become comfortable with the process, but short enough to make good use of their valuable time.
  • Don’t forget follow-up…close the loop by soliciting feedback on the effectiveness of the whole training experience.
Early Critical Thinking Training
Early Critical Thinking Training

So what has happened here? Your team members learned the ‘theory’ outside of the ‘classroom’, allowing the face-to-face experience to focus on the application of the learning; you ‘flipped’ the training.

Whether you are a teacher or a person tasked with leading a team, training and development is a key element in the growth of your people. Let me challenge you to try something that may be a little bit outside of the box…flip the learning experience!

ps In the previous blog I promised more about self-directed T & D…next time…I just had to blog about this conference when it was fresh on my mind! Oh yes, this was part of my own self-directed learning 🙂 

‘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!