What a whirlwind I’ve experienced since my last post. I’ve gotten a new position in a different industry and have really had the chance to see what’s going on outside of “school”. Learning institutions are often insolated from the real world, and in my new position, I am seeing the other side of learning – the doing.
Immediately I put to the test everything I learned in my master’s degree program at Lamar University – no kidding – from knowing my own “why” to action research. In a heartbeat, I realized how incredibly difficult it is to change a culture. Fortunately, most of my coworkers are “doers”, not thinkers-of course, they’re thinking all the time, but mostly they’re taking direction. This opens the door for my influence as an instructor.
This company is full of techies and engineers, pioneers in the field of online education, but none of them are thinking about how to influence a culture to become better at its craft. They’re just doing; doing the tasks necessary to get through their day, taking direction as it’s being dolled out.
What I discovered was the web of influences that compound problems which otherwise would be simple to fix. So much direction comes from people without solid knowledge about how people learn, that it ultimately undermines their efforts to improve. To combat this, I find myself working my way up the wall of authority respectfully bringing insight to the unknowing. It’s a tricky project, but someone must take it on, because outside of education many leaders successfully pass off determination for good practices, having no idea what it takes to influence behavior.
I always come back to one of the most well-used tools in my kit, the book by Grenny & Patterson, et al called Influencer. Regardless of where one works, the principles in this book can be adapted to fit. Rather than taking it at face value, I use the book as a theoretical guide. For example, the topic “vital behaviors” spans the behaviors of the worker bees as well as the queen bee if the theory is applied appropriately.
Ironically, just today I recommended the book to a complete stranger while in a Barnes & Noble bookstore. I noticed a man tipping leadership books in and out of the shelves as if the best one for his cause would somehow become known to him. I boldly said to the stranger, “this is the one you’re looking for”, and handed him the book. I had no idea what was on his mind, but the look on his face said he needed some direction.
Quickly I turned to the page with the six factors of influence and told him that it didn’t matter what he was trying to accomplish because this is all that he needed to focus on to make change happen. He graciously said thank you and walked away with the book.
Moments later he returned to ask me my line of work, wondering what would have prompted me to share this information, to which I replied, “I am a change agent working for a tech company. What do you do?” He said, “I’m a pastor trying to change the culture of society by bringing African American, Hispanic, and Caucasian leaders together to influence their communities to work together”. A much more noble cause than my own, I thought.
The man said it was his calling. I told him that my calling is to influence others to be lifelong learners, so regardless of his reason for standing in the isle tipping books, I knew he would benefit from the wisdom within this one.
When I look at my new work world I see a never-ending opportunity to influence my coworkers to become engaged in learning for its own sake. I believe deeply in the power of continuous education and am excited to be on the creative side of learning rather than simply delivering content drafted years earlier. The real meaning from education comes when “you” bump into someone, a stranger, who needs your knowledge to better themselves, not to pass a test, earn a badge, or get that “A”. Thanks to so many people I have never met, I have received a real education and hope to continue influencing others to do the same.