Podcast

Owning Your Career and Leading L&D with Sarah Cannistra

December 8, 2021

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Join Melissa with a special guest Sarah Cannistra.  Sarah is a L&D Career and Executive Coach who has led the Learning & Development (L&D) function in corporate and now helps people transition into L&D or take their career to the next level within this space.

Sarah is sharing some invaluable tips like:

How to own your career and make pivots to a new department

What engaging compliance training looks like and how to make learning more effective

Her recommended resources for developing in the L&D space

What a good career development plan looks like


And for you L&D leaders she is also sharing:

Why L&D is the critical function for your organization

How to position yourself as a strategic thought leader

Tips for increasing your L&D budget


You won’t want to miss this episode.



What You’ll Learn

What a good development plan looks like

How to own your career at any level

Why L&D is the critical function and how to position it strategically with executives

How to make compliance training more engaging and effective


Featured in This Episode

Unstoppable You by Patricia McLaughlin
Designing for Modern Learning by Lisa Owens and Crystal Kadakia
Own Your Career by Andy Storch
L&D Think Tank by Andy Storch

Get in Contact with Sarah

Sarah Cannistra on LinkedIn
Sarah’s website: www.theovernighttrainer.com

Apply for 1-1 coaching with Melissa

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Transcript

Transcript

Melissa

Welcome to Navigating your Career, the only podcast that blends personal development, professional skills and psychology to help you get happy at work and live the life you want. If you want to stop feeling stuck and start feeling better, this is the place for you. I’m your host, Melissa Lawrence. Let’s get started. Hello. And welcome to another episode of the podcast. I’m so happy you’re here with us today. So today I have a guest on the show. Her name is Sarah Cannistra, and she is a coach for people that want to get into the learning and development space or people that are in the learning and development space and want to get to the next level.

But we aren’t just talking about learning and development as far as our role. We’re talking about how to advance your career. So we touch on all sorts of topics, like what a good career development plan looks like or how to strategically position what you want as far as budgeting or something that you want for your Department to a higher leadership team. We are talking about all of the things. So this is a great interview. I encourage you to really take note. She provides book resources and all sorts of tangible takeaways so that you could really own your development.

And I think this topic is so important for the Pharma biotech life Sciences space because training is often a compliance activity. It’s something that’s considered overhead. It sometimes has a lot of investment, but a lot of times it’s really selective. So we are talking about that, too. We are talking about how to make compliance training engaging. We’re talking about how to position learning and development, how to own your development. So without further Ado, let’s dig right in.

So today I have Sarah with me and Sarah works in the L&D space and helps people transition into that space. And for those of you that have been listening for a while, you know that this is how I started my career in Pharma biotech, and so I’m super excited to talk to you today. Sarah and I can’t wait to dive into this topic. So can you tell the listener just a little bit about you and what you do?

Sarah

Yeah. Absolutely. I’m so excited to be here. And I am an L&D career coach, which is very niche, and I wasn’t sure it was going to work in the beginning, but it’s done pretty well so far. So I started my career actually in sales. I was in sales and property management and helping people find their new homes. And I love that. I love the human connection. I love helping people find their new home. I just love that kind of moment when someone found the perfect apartment for them and I helped them get into it.

Sarah

And so all along while doing that, I realized how much I love working with people. But I wasn’t really noticing how important my learning and training experience was to how connected I felt to my role and to my job. And so I had an incredible onboarding experience. I think at that point, I didn’t even know it was called onboarding, but incredible onboarding experience, great peer mentors. And I worked my way up in the world of property management, and I moved to the DC area, and I was still working in property management.

Sarah

And that’s when I really got a taste as I moved up and became a sales manager, how important training was to inform my team and how much I loved that piece of it. And again, kind of without knowing it. I was tapped at when someone knew got hired and they would come to my property and learn from me. And I was always creating what I now know are called job AIDS and worksheets and presentations and hosting weekly meetings with my team and training them on something new each week.

Sarah

So all of these little themes in my life kept coming up. But I never really realized that that could actually be a job. So I was sitting in a leadership development training. My company had kind of overhauled their learning and development, brought someone new in. And I was sitting in this training, a two day training, which right now seems like a foreign concept, a two day live in person training. And I remember someone who is a great friend of mine now her name is Genevieve. She was facilitating it, and I remember just staring at her, probably very wide eyed and bushy tailed and thinking, oh, my God, this is her full time job, like her job is to stand up here and to teach people.

Sarah

My brain exploded in that moment. And so after the two day session, I went up to Genevieve, who was the trainer, and Steven, who was the director at the time. And I said, how do I do this? So whatever this is, I want to do it. And they asked me if I knew Yardi, which is a property management system. And I said, yes, and I said, Great, you’re now the Yardi trainer. And so I play on words that my company’s called the overnight trainer. Because overnight I became a trainer.

Sarah

I had never had any formal education in it, never actually quote, unquote done it, even though I’ve been doing it for many years when I look back at those transferable skills. And so I became a software trainer. I did that while still being a sales manager and then eventually became a corporate trainer. And that was when I got my real first taste of true learning and development and being part of the organization. And for me, that was when I realized this is it. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Sarah

So I went back to school, got my degree in organizational leadership and learning. And within about two years, I became the first director of corporate training for the organization. And it was just a wonderful, wonderful experience. And over the last ten years, I’ve done and led learning and development for real estate organizations, retail organizations, and kind of everything in between there as well, consulting side of things, too. And then this past year, about a year ago, I started to realize that the piece I love the most about learning and development is helping people in their careers and that I could have more of an impact doing that on my own.

Sarah

And so I took the leap of faith and left my full time job leading learning and development and started coaching people in the learning and development space on how they can get into it. I was seeing so many teachers, people from higher education, literally from everywhere, wanting to get into the L&D space and realize having been on the hiring manager side and also having had no experience in having become a trainer myself, I had a unique set of skills to help people. So I am an L&D career coach, and I help people transition into L&D.

Sarah

I help people once they’re already in L&D learn the ropes and quantum Leap as our coach often says, quantum leap their career. And then I also do executive coaching for L&D leaders to really help with strategy and getting a seat at the table. So it’s a long journey and it’s just beginning, which is the really exciting part about that.

Melissa

Yeah. I love that story. And I love how we share that we didn’t know what we wanted until we just found it, because I feel like that’s how it was for me with an L and D, and then also now with coaching, as I just had these skills that I did and these things that I was drawn to, and I didn’t know that there was a label for it until I discovered the label, right?

Sarah

Totally. Yeah.

Melissa

What is so great about development and looking outside of kind of a structured career plan or a ladder that might already exist because that’s working within the confines of something that someone else already developed. But maybe there’s something out there that you don’t know exists yet.

Sarah

I was just talking to someone about that the other day about how we’re constantly on these linear paths and moving up the ladder. And what we often don’t realize is that you can jump from ladder to ladder and you can jump off the ladder and on the ladder and take the slide down over there. Yeah, it really is. I love that analogy that it’s not moving up the ladder. It’s playing shoots and ladders, and you never know sometimes when you go down that shoot and you’re like, Damn it.

Sarah

But then you’re like, Wait, I got to this spot, and that’s actually going to make you win the game, too. So it’s really about carving your own path and what you said before, too, of being open to hearing what different things are called in different industries and different types of work. And I talk about that a lot with my clients and really finding what are your interests and skills and building a career around those versus trying to put yourself in some label in some box over here.

Melissa

Yeah. So I would love to know how you define learning and development, because within the Pharma biotech space, which is a lot of the people that I work with are highly regulated industries. Learning and development is usually a fancier term for either just training, compliance, or it means that’s for the senior and executive leaders who get to go off to these retreats and conferences and get some sort of badge of leadership development. So how do you define learning and development?

Sarah

Yeah. I would put it very simply that learning and development is anything that’s going to help someone develop in their career in the organizational space. And I think you Google, what is learning and development? You’ll get a bazillion different definitions. And to your point, a lot of people have a different stigma around what learning and development is and who it’s for. So it’s for everyone in the organization to grow in their personal and professional development. And so to me, I look at that all encompassing, right. There’s so many things that can come from that.

Sarah

But that’s my baseline definition of what learning and development is. And I think the big thing is and something you just touched on is a lot of people think, oh, it’s just training or compliance training. And what I focus a lot on with, especially my executive clients, is looking at learning outside of training. Not all learning is training, and we’re constantly equating the two of those. But I always use this example. I can be walking down the street and see a flower for the first time.

Sarah

I pull out my phone. There’s an app that can tell me what type of flower that is. I just learned something. Was I trained on it? No, I didn’t have to go take a Botany class somewhere and learn all the different types of flowers and what they look like, what they smell like. But I did just learn something. So I think a lot of when you think about modern learning, it has to do with looking beyond training. And that’s what learning and development really is. It’s training, the component of it.

Sarah

But learning and development is all around that personal and professional development provided and curated by the organization.

Melissa

Yeah. I think that’s great. I would always call training as an event, like training is an event, and then the learning and development is your growth. So those things together is what learning and development is.

Sarah

Yeah. Absolutely.

Melissa

Why do you think that learning and development is a critical function because it’s often referred to as overhead? Really is this like thing that you have to do to make employees happy or because it’s required. So why do you think that it’s so much more than that?

Sarah

I love how you ask why it’s a critical function. I think it’s the critical function, and I know I’m biased. So I will proudly and loudly say that I am biased and it is the critical function. But especially when we look at the newer workforce coming in. So I think the younger millennials and Gen Z, that’s what they’re looking for. And I think even beyond that, right. I think all the other generations wanted that as well. But we’re willing to sacrifice it for a steady paycheck and for the American dream.

Sarah

And right now, what so many people are realizing is that Nissan meme about this this morning. Right. But that American dream isn’t the same anymore. And it’s evolved. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, but it’s evolved and people are having children later. Not at all. A lot of it has to do with where people are in their careers and the choices that they’re making are around having that sense of belonging and community. And so I think I was just talking to a client about this yesterday that she was given a task from a training perspective.

Sarah

I use training intentionally there to create a training around employee engagement. I was like, Well, you don’t create a training around employee engagement. Employee engagement happens because you have really great learning and development experiences. And so people want to be connected. They want to feel engaged. They want to feel part of something bigger than themselves. And learning and development allows that within the organization, it’s done correctly and done well and done with a modern lens. It creates a safe space for people to connect with each other, learn together, learn from each other.

Sarah

And that creates engagement and engage people perform better. Every single study you’ll ever read on the Internet will tell you people are engaged when they feel confident in what they’re doing, they feel connected when they feel they have a best friend at work, that they are much more likely to be more productive, to succeed, to be happier in life. And so it’s this beautiful kind of symbiotic relationship that happens. And it stems from learning and development. It really does. I believe it is the core function of an organization to be able to provide that for people.

Sarah

And again, when we go back to what we were saying before for just looking at it as compliance training. Well, yeah, then, of course not going to meet the Mark on that. But if we’re looking at it from how do we create experiences around learning, it’s absolutely going to create, increase engagement and create a culture that people want to learn from each other. And that’s how people connect.

Melissa

No, I love that because for some small companies, they’re not going to have a dedicated person for learning and development or even programs they’re going to be doing a lot on their own, finding conferences or webinars or coaches that can help them with their development. So what would you say to someone who doesn’t have kind of a formal L&D group or L&D lead but really wants to own their development? What would you tell them to do?

Sarah

Yeah. I actually just did a podcast episode on this about owning your own onboarding and really understanding what it looks like to create your own career path when someone else isn’t doing it for you. Now I will go back a second and say, I think any organization anywhere should have someone who’s responsible, whether it’s a part of their function, if they’re that small, that is focusing on people’s development. I think learning and development as a whole. Right. I think learning in general is often the reactive approach and proactive.

Sarah

I very rarely see startups have a person who is responsible for learning and development. Right. So I think that’s another conversation for another day on how people can be more Proactive around that. But I think there’s a big piece of owning your own development and really truly understanding what it is that is expected of you, what skills you need in order to do that? And how can you either Hone those skills for this role or if there’s a skill gap, what can you seek out to develop those skills as well?

Sarah

I think it’s part of onboarding in general or learning. It’s not a one way process. It’s not the sole responsibility of a learning and development Department, whether you have a team of zero or a team of 100 in L&D, it’s still we as learners inside of organizations have a responsibility for our own learning and people’s managers have a responsibility for that, too. So I think a big part of it is owning your own onboarding, owning your own learning, understanding where you are now, where you want to go, what the gaps are and seeking out.

Sarah

There’s this wonderful website called Google, right? Seeking out different development opportunities and reading reviews and talking to other people who have been through that. I think that’s a great way to start to own your own career. A friend of mine, Andy Storch, wrote a really wonderful book called Own Your Career on Your Life, and it’s really about how do we take that self ownership over our careers and therefore our lives as well? And a lot of it is around that self development work. And how do we create that for ourselves when other people don’t or won’t do it for us?

Melissa

Yeah. I think that that is really critical. I’ve seen that a lot in my corporate life, too, around employees coming in and thinking that it is someone else’s responsibility to teach them what they need to know to be successful. And I don’t think it’s that people are not owning their development. I think it’s more the way that our society is. It’s what you’ve been taught is to kind of work towards the test, right? You study for the right answer. And so when you’re in school, when you’re in College through all of your different marks, it’s always like you’re going to be told what you need to know.

Melissa

And so I think that when you get into an onboarding situation, it’s very similar. You expect that you’re going to be told what you need to know. But I think that goes back to what we started talking about and that everyone has their own perspective and their own strengths that they bring to the table. And so they’re going to look at things in a different way. And so there are things that you can go out and learn that will make you more effective that the dedicated training professional may not have thought of or your manager may not have thought of.

Melissa

And so instead of thinking, well, they didn’t tell me. So it’s not important. It’s what can I do to really get the most out of this experience?

Sarah

Absolutely. One thing that you just said that made me think of something is that part of what learning and development role is writing those wrongs of the education system of studying for the test. And I’m going to be given a linear path to the answer. And so I’ll spit out probably a couple of books throughout the course of our interview here. But there’s a really amazing book that was a big game changer for me called Unstoppable You, and it’s by Patricia McLaughlin. And she it’s basically all about how do we, as learning professionals, teach people how to learn?

Sarah

So, for example, if we’re going to be in a training session, maybe it is a live training event, and we’re going to be talking about something really challenging or something that’s brand new rather than starting off by saying, all right, now we’re going to jump in here’s the objectives that’s what we’re going to learn today. Rather than doing that, we start off by teaching people how to learn challenging topics. So this is going to be challenging. And so that might mean that you might need to take a ten minute break.

Sarah

Or the best way to do this is going to be X, Y and Z. And so I think that’s a big piece that’s missing in modern day learning and development is writing those wrongs that you just talked about and teaching people how to learn best in different scenarios and what skills and capabilities they need just to learn. And then from there we can teach them everything that they need to know and curate and create paths and all of that stuff. But we oftentimes skip over teaching people how to learn.

Sarah

They need to unlearn everything they’ve learned in the education system and how to relearn. Now as an adult, how do I approach these types of topics and learnings and from what direction?

Melissa

Yes. And I’ll be sure to link all of those books in the show. I know everyone loves a good book. So I’ll put those in there, so they’re easy to find. So I wanted to pivot a little bit to something kind of tangible around compliance training. So I know that there’s a lot of people that maybe they’re not in a training role, but they’re responsible for training their team or other people in their Department, or maybe they are in a training role, and they’re responsible for creating what would be considered engaging content that people can learn from in the Pharma biotech industry.

Melissa

A lot of people are learning from SOPs standard operating procedures, which is like a read and sign. And sometimes there are some on the job training a lot of times there’s not. And so they’re really just reading and checking off that they read it. So do you have any tips that you could provide that would just be some quick wins for people to take something that’s more compliant and a read and sign type of thing and make it engaging and more effective.

Sarah

Yeah. And I think you brought two words, right. Engaging and effective. And they’re not always mutually exclusive. Sometimes in order to be effective, it might not be engaging and you don’t want to just be engaging and not effective. Right. So I think there’s a kind of different levels there. Yes. I have a zillion tips that are running through my mind right now in all honesty. But I think it also goes back to like, what do your learners need and want? And how can you embed it more into the flow of work?

Sarah

So I’ll throw another book out there real quick. But from a learning and development philosophy, I live, breathe and die by the learning cluster design model. There’s a book called Designing for Modern Learning. And what that really States is like understanding who your learners and your learner personas are and when, where and how they want and need to learn. And so I think what I can say is engaging. So yeah, it could be a bite sized video, right. That could be engaging. But that might only be engaging to 25% of your learners.

Sarah

Right. 25% might actually really prefer to have something written. And so I think the most engaging content is a type of content where people can choose their own adventure. That’s the big piece right there. And so in some organizations, having it be an SOP that is sign and review. Do I think that’s the best all around? Probably not. But that might work really well for some organizations, but for others, it would completely miss the Mark. And so I think it’s being conscious of that and then providing people with several options.

Sarah

So there might be that person in your organization who that’s how they really prefer to learn and how they will go back to that. And they have that piece of paper. Whereas there might be other people who in the moment when they’re dealing with whatever that compliance issue might be, they want to be able to do a quick intranet search, make things searchable. That’s usually a great way to keep things engaging and have a 32nd video pop up that will explain them through that one scenario they are going through.

Sarah

So I think the most engaging options are providing people with options that way they can learn when, where and how they need and want to. I think when people are forced to just have one path of learning and everyone is bottlenecked right. Everyone squeezed into that. You don’t get anything good out at the end, maybe one or two or three people, you get a couple of drops coming out, but it’s all backed up in there because people aren’t really accessing it learning the way that they would.

Sarah

I don’t want to say learning styles because those don’t quite exist either, but really understanding that in this moment right now, I might need a video, but next week, when I want to learn something, I actually might prefer to read that as well. So giving people options is what will make it the most engaging now.

Melissa

That’s great. So that was going to be. My next question was kind of your philosophy around that. One of the options I had was, do you like to choose your own adventure or just full experiential? Or there’s a 70 ten model that’s usually a lot in HR. It sounds like choose your adventure is what you would choose. Do you know, because I think that people may hear that and think, oh my gosh, that sounds great. We would love that. But how can we make that happen? So without a big learning and development team or a million dollar budget, how can we have training that is choose your own adventure.

Melissa

How can we make that happen?

Sarah

Totally. And I’ll go back to that learning cluster design model that I was just talking about because it wasn’t until I read that book and I took the workshop and then I’ve done some consulting work for them, too, because I was just so obsessed with them and the model that it really put all the pieces together. For me, it was all things I’ve known for many, many years, and it put it together in a really simplified way. And so if you have a really small learning team, or even if you have a large learning team, I really recommend reading that book because what it does, it helps simplify.

Sarah

How do we create what’s called learning clusters that surround these learner personas? I was just talking about when, where and how they need and want to learn. It really comes down to creating three different types of what we call learning assets social. So creating a sort of social learning around something, whether it’s a chat room or a cohort or even a book club around something. Right? Having a formal piece and formal can be a bunch of different things that could be a training activity alive in person.

Sarah

Zoom training. It could be an elearning, something that’s more formalized and then the immediate so going back to being able to quickly Google something and grab an SOP and so being able to choose people’s own adventure. Our job as learning and development professionals is really to curate pathways for people. And we do that by really first understanding what is the problem we’re solving for, figuring out who are the different types of learners and getting deep into that. And then from there, looking at what do we already have that’s working and what can we get rid of?

Sarah

I think a lot of L&D professionals and teams and just organizations as a whole don’t like to sunset things. We like to keep them all on the beautiful shelf and they get really dusty. But then really figuring out how do we surround those personas of different personas with these types of learning assets that we’re hitting those social, formal and immediate needs for them again, going back to what we talked about earlier, feel connected, feel engaged, feel confident, and then creating some real trackable and measures to really track the transformation as well.

Sarah

So I could literally talk about learning cluster design for hours and hours and days and days. So I highly recommend reading, designing for modern learning, because when I read it, I was like, I had a moment of like, duh, but wow. Finally, someone put it into simplified terms. How anyone, whether you’re a Led professional or not, can create really engaging learning clusters and programs inside of your organization. And it’s great to see we actually had a community call yesterday. We had someone who’s a coach, and she came on.

Sarah

She’s an executive coach, and she uses the model for her executive coaching practice. So it’s really applicable amongst all industries, but specifically for learning and development. So highly recommended. It will simplify things for you all.

Melissa

I promise that is so great. I feel like the theme of this episode is, I love that.

Sarah

Okay.

Melissa

I’m very biased, though. So tell me for those that want to move into L&D, I know you help people do this. We have a lot of sneeze subject matter experts that may find this really interesting, and I’d love to get my foot in the door. So what would you suggest to people? I see your eyes lighting up. What would you suggest to people who want to transition from SME to L&D?

Sarah

Yeah, I love learning and development. I love creating, but what I love the most is helping people in their careers around it. So yes, you absolutely saw a change in my face, and I was like, squirming because I was so excited to answer this question. I love this question so much because I actually started my business specifically to help subject matter experts. So I myself that’s the path I took. I was subject matter expert. I was really good at my job. And because of that, I became a trainer.

Sarah

And I feel very privileged because now it’s harder to get into learning and development. I stumbled into it. I asked one question and got a job the next day. Right. So I feel very privileged for that. But I started my business wanting to help subject matter experts turn into better trainers. I’ll tell everyone that I work with and don’t work with and people who know me are probably going to like, of course, she’s talking about this, but it’s to really understand what your niche is. So the world of learning and development is gigantic.

Sarah

It is huge. And it often feels like when you decide you want to get into it, people are like, oh, I want to be an instructional designer or I want to be a trainer. And that’s pretty much the two categories people think that there are when the reality is there are thousands, if not tens of thousands of different roles that you can have inside of learning and development. And so what happens is people are out there in this ocean and there’s no land in sight, and it’s so overwhelming to get into it and to figure out what it is you actually want to do in it.

Sarah

And so what I encourage people to do is to find their niche. And I talk a lot about that. And it’s really looking at what are the skills and interests that you have that you want to utilize. So, for example, you may be really good as the personal example may be good at public speaking and facilitating, but you might not actually want to do that for your next job, and that will evolve. Right. And so I think it’s really figuring out what is it about training and learning that really sparks that joy in you?

Sarah

What are those kind of key skills and interests that you have and start honing in on what types of roles are there that fit within those key skills and interests for you. You don’t want to be creating content and sitting behind a computer and creating next buttons and all of that stuff. Well, instructional design might not be the role for you. People pigeonhole themselves into those spaces. And so understanding that everyone, whether you’re a subject matter expert or not, you have transferable skills to get into learning and development.

Sarah

It’s just understanding which of those skills you want to utilize and finding roles that align with those skills. It’s all about the alignment piece. So the first step, I would say, is the first step is identify why you wanted to get into learning and development. I would say that’s a big one once you are clear on that. And I say that because I work with people who come to me and they say, I want to be in learning and development, and we work together, and they actually don’t I have two clients in my last group program who we figured out that actually they want to be coaches and coaches and does it align with L&D?

Sarah

Yes. Of course. It doesn’t surprise me that they were looking at instructional design roles and facilitator roles, and nothing was lighting them up. So why do you want to be an LNG and then really figuring out those key skills and interests that you have and finding roles that align with that and similar to what we said before about self development and self onboarding, if you’re missing one of those, if you’re like, hey, I have a big interest in Facilitation, but I haven’t really done much of that.

Sarah

Then seek out opportunities to practice, to learn and to grow in that skill. So you’re ready to apply for those jobs as well?

Melissa

Yeah. I really like that advice. So if somebody were to be looking for a position, some feedback that I’ve heard from some LinkedIn and around, is that a lot of job descriptions in the L&D space? They don’t understand L&D. And so they want an expert in all of the different areas. So when you’re saying pick a niche, I think that works for some more progressive companies. I think some are like, I want an instructional designer and a graphic designer and a facilitator and LMS administrator. So would you say that those jobs just are not the right jobs for someone that wants to do something specific?

Sarah

Yes.

Melissa

Is that, like, a trend that you’re seeing in the industry, or is that just specific to some companies that kind of just don’t know what they don’t know?

Sarah

I think it’s specific to some companies that don’t know what they don’t know. And I work with a lot of people who at first come to me because they’re like, I need to know how to be a graphic designer and a facilitator and do all of these things. And I always say, right role, the right company. And I think at the right company, they’re not going to ask you to do all of those things. That’s how I really feel about it. And if you are a company that’s asking someone to do all of those things, I want you to take that job description and look at other job descriptions in the company.

Sarah

Are you asking your marketing, everyone on your marketing team to have five different specializations? Probably not. Right. So why are you asking your learning and development team to have that as well? I think as we grow and evolve in our LNG careers, of course, they pick up skills for me. Can I do instructional design? Yes. Do I want to? No. Right. But I picked it up from doing it for so long. And so I actually think that’s the minority, in all honesty and having spending many hours a day on job boards and looking at my clients and understanding the market, that if you know how to search correctly and you search by skill and interest, you’ll find jobs that are much more aligned with your niche.

Sarah

Now, there are a small percentage of people that are learning and development generalists. I have clients who are gifted at instructional design and Facilitation and want to do both of those. I’ve had people who are great graphic designers and instructional designers and really enjoy the LMS administration piece of it. So those people do exist, right. But they are also fewer and far between. So you don’t have to keep yourself. You don’t have to think that you have to be a unicorn. Everyone is a unicorn, but you don’t have to see that that’s actually not the norm.

Sarah

And it is a red flag to me that this company not only do they not understand L&D, but once you get in, that’s going to be a challenge as well. To fight for the five people you actually need to do this role. I actually see that more as a red flag and a role to stay away from.

Melissa

Yeah. That’s great advice to not let it discourage you if you’re out looking for a position like that, and what you’re seeing is all of those generalist type roles and thinking, you’re never going to get your way in or you’re not going to make it to the next level. It’s really just to expand your search and really get clear on what you want to do.

Sarah

Definitely.

Melissa

Great. So how would people know if L&D was right for them? Do you have some success stories that you can share?

Sarah

Yeah. I mean, I kind of shared how someone knew L&D wasn’t right. I think it’s really figuring out what lights you up, because the thing about learning and development is that you really can’t fake it till you make it or fake it till you become it. Because what happens is that I always joke like, recruiting is like, pours the Kool Aid, but L&D serves it up if you are not aligned with the role and the work that you’re doing and you don’t derive satisfaction from it. And as someone who had got to that place in a toxic company, I know what it feels like to feel so inauthentic to be standing in front of 1000 people, welcoming them to the organization or training them on leadership development and wanting to gag hearing my voice and thinking like, I’m such a fake.

Sarah

I’m such a phony like, I don’t believe any of this BS here to do this job and do it. Well, you have to have a servant’s heart. You want to have to serve people, help people, help people grow in their careers. And I really firmly believe that because if that’s not what lights you up, nothing about this world will do that for you. And so really understanding that at the end of the day, the blood, sweat and tears that you put into your work is going to go and help other people develop in their careers, too.

Sarah

So you have to have a stake in the game, right. And have some skin in the game in that sense of what is it that lights you up? So getting Crystal clear on that if you want to help develop people in their careers and see people grow. And for me, it’s always been the light bulb moment that’s always been even now in coaching, right? That light bulb moment that goes off for people. That’s what keeps me going every single day. And so really understanding what it is that drives you to want to help people because can you do well and make decent money in it?

Sarah

Yeah. But, I mean, you’re not going to be a bazillionaire inside of a learning and development Department, too. So I was just talking to a client about this yesterday who were negotiating a race for her, and she’s like, oh, well, on the operations side, I know they just gave people 275 plus a 50K bonus. I was like, okay, well, that’s a different part of the org that’s not going to happen here in this manager level or this director level in L&D. So you don’t necessarily. The money is very important and you can make good money, but there has to be something else that is tying you to it.

Sarah

Otherwise it will drain you and burn you out very, very quickly. So just being true to yourself as far as and it’s okay not to have a servant’s heart. Not everyone has that. And that’s totally, totally fine. There’s so many different types of roles to be in and things to do. But to be an L&D, you really have to have that. And at the end of the day, knowing that what you’re working on is helping people in their careers has to be a motivating factor for you.

Melissa

Yeah. I think being drawn to that greater why or seeing the impacts that you have is just helpful in any role. I think if you’re in any role and you’re showing up and just clocking in time in time out and you don’t see the impact you’re having for the company, for your team, for the people around you, for, like, even the greater society. I think that just causes unnecessary stress. So I think that’s something that companies really try to do in my experience, to try to help them see the impact that they’re having, because the day to day can be stressful.

Melissa

So having that tie to having a greater impact is always helpful. I think for engagement.

Sarah

Yeah, for sure.

Melissa

Okay. So what is your idea of a good career development plan?

Sarah

That’s a really great question. I think the good career development plan understands what the future looks like, right? And not selling yourself short to the post on LinkedIn, but really figuring out what is not only my next step, but the step after that and getting Crystal clear on that and I encourage my clients to refigure out their new niche. So once you figure that out and you’re kind of in this role and you’re in this job and you’re at that point where it’s running like a smoothly oiled machine, what’s next?

Sarah

And how do we figure out? Ok, great. Here’s all the things I really love about what I’m doing here are the things that I would prefer not to continue doing in my next role and getting clear about what that next step looks like and kind of going back to what we were talking about before, too, is carving out your own development plan. And so I think where L&D can come in for this is helping to create pathways inside of the organization. Create mentorship program, where people can learn about different roles in the organization and continue to grow and develop not only in their own role, but beyond understanding what different people and different types of roles do.

Sarah

I’ve seen really amazing rotational programs where people get to have mentors in different departments and get to learn, oh, I’m here in operations, but I have a mentor now who’s in marketing, and I get to learn from them and bring that back to my job. And also now I’m exposed to marketing, and that might be something that I might be interested in. And so giving people the opportunities to test the waters and to learn and to grow, I think, is so so important. And that’s where L&D plays that piece.

Sarah

And again, going back, it’s not about training, but how do we create learning experiences, social learning experiences where people can learn from each other and grow, and then that helps them get a better idea of what they want their next step to be. And once you understand that, then we can again continue to carve pathways for people and create development plans, and they can create their own self development plan and grow from there. So I think it’s a three way street where someone’s manager is involved in it.

Sarah

The person is involved in it, and L&D has a hand in it as well. And I think the bigger piece, too, is recognizing that career development doesn’t always mean that that career development is going to be developed inside of your organization and not being greedy or holding people back because they’re good and you want to keep them there. There might be opportunities that your organization can’t provide. And how do we look at it from a people lens? And this is a human being and they’re here for an experience.

Sarah

Let me give them the best experience that we can while they’re here. And that might mean that they go somewhere and they come back. That happens all the time. Boomerangs. Right. They go somewhere and they get new experience. They’re able to bring that back to the organization, too. So being open that it’s okay as people develop, but they might develop out of the organization, too. And that’s a scary thing for a lot of people. But ultimately, I think it leads to if I know I was developed and there’s just no opportunity for me here.

Sarah

But they knew that. And they allowed me to continue to explore other opportunities. And I left. I had nothing but great things to say about that organization. And so when someone reaches out to me and says, hey, I’m considering a job there, absolutely. My development was spot on. It was incredible. I think it reaps more rewards than it actually has negative implications if you’re just continuing to develop people as people, not just as pawns. Oh, I’m going to develop them so they can become this or become that within their succession plan.

Melissa

Yeah. I think having that’s a great leadership trait, to be able to look at the whole person and to think about their development that way and encourage them to apply for positions outside of your Department or outside of your company and make it such a great experience that they might not want to instead of sometimes I think people get really fearful and then they try to scare people like, you don’t want to leave. It’s really not great there. I’ve heard this bad thing about that company, and that really doesn’t help anyone, and it doesn’t leave a good experience for the person.

Melissa

It creates a lot of guilt and confusion for them. Or if we can just look at people as whole people and look at what is really great for them, then I think everyone benefits everyone. It’s so true. Yeah. So for our leaders who are listening, who have some responsibility within the L&D space, how would you suggest that they position L&D as the critical function in order to increase their budgeting or their funding or exposure to be able to help with the employee experience at a greater level?

Sarah

That’s a really great question. It’s something I work a lot with. My executive science is getting that seat at the table. And I think it’s moving from being order. Takers a lot of traditional LNG departments are the heads or whoever it is comes to L&D and says, I need a training in S, and we’re like, okay, great. My friend Heidi calls it the pizza maker, right. We just make the pizza, we put it in the oven, we put it in the box and we deliver it to them.

Right.

Sarah

And it’s like, really bad pizza or it could be great pizza. But it’s not what the organization ordered, right. And so I think it’s really to get us to the table, we have to become performance partners. And some people in L&D don’t like that. They don’t like the thought of being involved in the business side of it. But that’s really what it is as a leader of L&D. And I’m working on a post about this and a podcast episode of You Need to Be the CEO of L&D, you need to run it like a business.

Sarah

And CEOs have all of these different traits where they’re able to identify the risks and look at problems and to really be able to create solutions for the organization. And so I think for L&D leaders, being able to diagnose is incredibly important. And I think another skill that if you don’t have already and you’re an L&D leader, is learning consulting, that’s what you end up. The most successful L&D departments are actually consultants to the organization. And rather than letting people come in and say, oh, I need X, Y, and Z make this training for me.

Sarah

We’re able to push back and ask more questions and be more consultative and really understand, why is it that they’re asking for this and then being those performance partners of giving solutions that may not be training? Right. So I’ve worked in organizations where as a clinical, internal consultant or a head of L&D, come and say, oh, we need this training. And rather than saying, okay, great. I’m going to go make it really sitting down and saying, Well, okay, if that’s the solution, we are happy to make that for you.

Sarah

What’s the problem causing this? And so many times I figured out this just needs to be an email or it sounds like it was back in the day. This could be a poster in the break room. This could be a text message. These things can be so simple, but oftentimes we default to quote, unquote training. And so really being able to be a consultant and understand what that looks like. And there’s tons of resources and books on the best ways to do that. And then from there, partnering with the organization and providing solutions and understanding what solutions might be that are not training related.

Sarah

That also means you need to understand the rest of the business. Like, what does marketing do? What does your communications and PR Department do? What does it do? Or maybe it’s something. It’s not a training, but it’s built into when you log into the system. It’s a quick little reminder about something, no, when they hit the button, have the directions on the screen. They didn’t say it like that. Tell me about the problem. Tell me more about this in my head. I’m, like, just have the directions right there on the login screen.

Sarah

It can code it in 5 seconds. And that made the difference. So just getting really clear that we, as led professionals need to also get out of the mindset that everything needs to be training. We sometimes are our own worst enemies and our own biggest mountains and blocks because we’re like, yes, training. We love training and training is amazing. It’s the best and also not always the solution. So that’s my long winded answer to be a consultant, be the CEO of L and D and understand what the rest of the organization is doing and how you can leverage them for solutions?

Melissa

No, I feel very strongly about that. So before I led talent and development, that was my role as a performance consultant for training, and it was called the learning and Development business partner. But that is exactly what that role was. There was me and a couple of others, and we would each have our own departments we were responsible for. And when there was a performance problem, they would come to me first, and then we would triage it and say, okay, is this actually something training is going to solve?

Melissa

Is this an equipment problem? Is this a behavioral problem within a certain person? Is there a problem with the SOP what is actually the problem before just developing this training and putting, like, a whole Department through it because somebody made a mistake. So I think that’s great. And then how that was structured is we had those performance consultants or business partners, and then we had a group of people that were the instructional designers and LMS coordinators, and those people that would execute based on whatever it is that would come out of that triage process.

Melissa

And that worked really well. I think some companies have one or the other, and that doesn’t work well. Like, only performance consultants are only the trainers.

Sarah

I agree. And I think that’s the new role of the LNP leader, that’s the key. And that’s why I work on people a lot on because it’s not normal. It’s not expected. It’s very untraditional. Right? The way it always was. The LNG leader took the request and disseminated them down, and the pizza makers made the pizza, and that was it. And so you kind of went from again, being that order almost you’re like the general manager of Papa John’s, and you’re just making sure everything’s moving smoothly.

Sarah

But now you’re the CEO, right? And so really understanding the strategic side, that’s the biggest shift I’ve seen is that is moving from being executors to strategists. That’s the new LNG leader, that’s the L&D leader that has the table is a strategist before they’re an executor. Yeah.

Melissa

I’m being prepared for that resistance because you’re absolutely right. Like, I had a lot of leaders who were like, Why are you asking me why I need this?

Sarah

Why are you asking me why I’m asking you? Why do you want pepperoni or coffee?

Melissa

What is this? Okay. So I have one more question for you, which is what is your advice for people that are maybe struggling to get to that next level, move into another Department or maybe just transition into a leadership role, so many things.

Sarah

But I think the first is just to find a community and find a mentor within that community. And so that’s the beauty. I think one of the silver linings of this crazy. What are we 20 months in almost two years into COVID worlds that we’re living in? And I think one of the beautiful things that have come from. It is the online communities of support, especially around learning and development. It just blows my mind and really being able to find a group of people who are in the same position or have the roles that you want to have.

Sarah

That community piece is so, so important. And there’s just so many communities I can think of off the top of my head. If you’re a teacher looking to transition, there’s a teacher’s path to learning and development, which is a LinkedIn group, and it has thousands of people and mentorship and all of that. And if you’re interested in the paid community where there’s so many paid communities, I’m part of the Andy Storch’s Talent development think tank, which is just for L&D professionals. And so there’s just so many places to find community.

Sarah

And if you’re looking to move onto that next role, that’s how you’re going to do it. I think there’s a lot of other ways and back channel ways you can go in hard ways past the least resistance is to find a community of people who are your people, who are your tribe, who will lift you up, who will mentor you, who will teach you and show you the ropes. That is what I’ve seen to be most successful in how people grow the fastest. And you have a membership like all of those things, right?

Sarah

You see, the people come together and create these bonds and these people are connected for life. I just had my group coaching cohort ended last night and we were all sobbing at the end myself. I was like, I don’t want this to end, but I have to end it. I can’t keep it going forever. But it was just a connection that you make. So those ten people will have each other’s backs for life. A role comes up in one of their companies. Someone’s poaching them as well.

Sarah

So to come for the community, live with an experience of a lifetime for you. So find a community inside that community. Find communities. There’s so many inside of that. Find a mentor. And of course, I’ll plug we’re both coaches. Find a coach. People ask me all the time. Can I do it by myself? Absolutely. We’re all humans. We all have access to the same types of information. But if you really want to happen fast and cater to you, find a coach to help you with all of this.

Sarah

I have a coach. We have the same coach, right? That’s how we met each other. And so that’s how we’re able to quantum leap in our businesses and what we do and the same as possible for you. And from a career perspective, too. So find people to help you. The world is vastness. So many good people who want to help you grow.

Melissa

Yes, that is so great. You just can’t underestimate the power of networks and community. And I think the people that are working in silos are at a disadvantage. And that’s a big lesson that I had years ago. Such a high performer, really good at delivering the work, not as good at looking really big picture at my network. So I had a good network within my site that I worked at, but not within the company globally, not within some other different industries that were related or suppliers. My industry and really building that out has really allowed me to grow was getting out of that, just letting the work speak for itself mindset.

Melissa

So I think that’s great advice. Okay.

Sarah

I know it’s like itchy, but it really is true. They say your network is your net worth. The amount that you get from it is just invaluable.

Melissa

Okay. So is there anything else that you wanted to add before I ask you to share how people can find you something I was just thinking about as we were finishing up.

Sarah

That last question is, no matter where you are in your career, don’t be afraid to invest in yourself. And I think that the people who I see are the most successful are the ones who invest in themselves, take risks in themselves and get out of their comfort zone. So I think no matter where you are in your career, no matter what career that you have, this is applicable across the board. And I’m sure it’s something that you talk a lot about, too. But when you invest in yourself, it just continues to pay off whether that’s a financial investment, whether that’s investment of your time or your energy.

Sarah

But remember that you are your greatest asset. And so make that investment in yourself, create a development plan, hire a coach, shoot for the moon.

Melissa

Right?

Sarah

Whatever it is that you need to do, make sure you’re investing in yourself. Because like I say, you are your greatest asset. And the more you invest in yourself, the higher the reward is you’re going to get from that.

Melissa

Oh, definitely.

Sarah

Yeah.

Melissa

I think when you’re investing in yourself, you show up way differently than if you’re not sure, especially with financial investments. Like you’re saying, I’m worth this financial investment. I’m here for these results. I’m dedicated to them. I’m going to work on them. When you don’t do that, it’s almost like you’re just letting things happen to you. You have them as they come.

Sarah

I have an executive client, and we started working together. It was so funny during her consultation call, she’s like, I’m tired of being a freebivore. And I was like, What’s a freebivore. She’s like, I’m just consuming everyone’s free content. And I’m like, My brain is going to explode. I don’t know what’s right. What’s left? What’s up? What’s down? And she’s like, Can you just help me? I was like, yes, I can. But it was so funny to hear that will burn you out, too. So pick something, something that really aligns with you that lights you up and invest in that versus investing all of your energy in every single free resource out there because that will burn you out and confuse you.

Sarah

People are like I’m more confused than I was before I started consuming all this information. Be cautious and careful about what you as a life lesson, too, right? Like what you decide to consume and from who and make sure it’s from people that you trust and who have walked the path or a path similar to you before.

Melissa

Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for coming on the show. I am so happy that you joined. This was a very insightful conversation. I’m sure everyone listening got a lot of wins and books to take away then on LinkedIn.

Sarah

Lots of reading too. Now.

Melissa

So how can people find you?

Sarah

So I’m very, very active on LinkedIn so you can connect with me on LinkedIn. Sarah Cannistra, I’m the only Sarah canister. You can find me on my website. www.theovernighttrainer.com in the new year, I’ll be working on Instagram and YouTube, but right now, LinkedIn is the place to find me, but my inbox is open on there. Feel free to message me. I’m happy to help guide, answer any questions and we’ll just love to connect with you.

Melissa

All right. Well, thank you so much.

Melissa

Coaching with me is the best way to guarantee you get happy at work and achieve your career and life goals. Getting started is easy. Head over to www.melissamlawrence.com to learn more and apply. It is the first step to get you from feeling stuck to knowing exactly what you want and have the tools to make it a reality. I will be by your side the entire way.

And if you haven’t heard of this, then check out the work of Amy Edmondson. She’s a researcher and professor at Harvard Business School, and she’s done a lot of great work in this area. I started her work in Grad school. My thesis was all about promoting psychological safety during times of change. So when you hear psychological safety, you might think, yeah, that’s important.

But how exactly? Because it’s not something that happens overnight. It’s something not you just throw up on a poster. So these tips and strategies that I’m going to share with you today are going to promote a psychologically safe team and workplace from the ground up, because when you can start a new leadership role, it can be really nerve wracking. You’ve got a new boss.

If you’re in a new company, you have a whole new political landscape with direct reports or a whole new team that you have to earn trust with, and then you have your actual expertise, your technical expertise, that you are hired to apply as well. And this can be a lot of change to navigate. And I know not just from coaching leaders and developing them in my career, but from first hand experience that it can be really hard. Years and years ago, I was a leader of five different satellite offices across the state of Wisconsin back when I was doing child welfare consulting.

And when I was promoted from direct management to being responsible for five offices, I also acquired some management staff that were reporting directly to me.

So this was a new role within the same company. And this change was a shock for one of my new direct reports, in particular, because I was a 20 something woman and he was a 50 something man, and he did not sign up to report to me and he let me know it. So he was here to report to our boss, who was a more seasoned professional and had told me that straight out, it wasn’t my technical capability. It was really nothing to do with me personally.

It was more his discomfort and that he was too far in his career to report to someone my age.

Yes, this happened. So this was a challenge, to say the least. He was managing an office that was a couple of hours from my home base, and I talked to my boss, and of course, said, you need to get him in line. You need to tell him that he needs to get over this, right? I wasn’t that blunt about it, but I pretty much wanted her to get his buy in for me because she was the higher leader and she like an amazing boss that she was and a good friend of mine to this day didn’t do that what she did.

And she told me that I needed to deal with it myself. And this was the first test of my leadership, and she was there to support me to help win him over. But I needed to build that relationship, and I needed to get him on board. So I drove up to his location and spent a few days with him. We talked things through.

I heard him out, I shared my goals, and it got better. And over the following couple of months, things continued to improve, and we went on to have a positive working relationship where he respected me as his boss, as uncomfortable as that was. And I’m sure he didn’t like it. But I won him over by acknowledging him by knowing his strengths, understanding his perspective, and creating ways of working that were a win win for both of us. And this feeds right into the first strategy that I’m going to share with you.

And that is to plan a connection strategy whenever you are working with a new team, whether it’s direct reports, new peers, new company, going with a plan of how you’re going to make connections as nice as you are, you can’t expect people are going to like you and trust your input, at least not right away. To some, this may be a threat to some. You may have gotten a job that they wanted or felt they deserved. For some, you’re bringing change, and not everyone is on board with that.

And we’re going to talk about the emotional effects of change in a little bit.

So when you go in with the plan, you spend less time wondering what’s working and what’s not if you’re talking to the right people, if you’re influencing the way you want to, so don’t wait for others to initiate with you. One of the best things I did in my last corporate role was to make this type of plan. I made a point to meet with people of all levels, across all different functions to get a better understanding of the landscape, of the needs of the employees, the pain points and what was going well.

And this really helped me. It created strong relationships and buy in.

When I made changes, they were well received, not just because they were good ideas, but because the people I spoke to knew that I had listened to them, that they were heard, that they had a voice and that matters. So plan ahead. Who is important? What kind of relationships do you want to have? How will you determine their communication preferences and ways of connecting?

Ask other people who should I meet who is important for me to know and then cast your net wider. Go to the entry level staff. Get a good idea of what it’s really like to work in your company or Department. Connecting with others, showing appreciation for what they’ve done and where they’re at is so important. You can’t go in with all of these ideas that you have for change without first appreciating what is currently there and connecting with people.

You can’t make assumptions about what is right or wrong because you don’t have the whole story. My clients who have used this approach have told me it works wonders because your leadership team or boss or peers may tell you who would be a good person to meet with or good people to meet with. But remember that their opinion is their bias and their lens. And as a new leader or a leader responsible for your area, you have to think outside of the box because our brains are always going to go to what is familiar, so you have to direct it to something less obvious.

The people that others are going to recommend to you is based on their experience, their bias, right?

They’re not you and they have blind spots just like you do, just like I do. So make an effort to cast that wide net and make a proactive plan. The next strategy is to have an open mind. I’ve seen countless times new leaders come in and want to do a full reorg to move pieces also known as people around to change processes because it’s what they know works based on their prior experience. And the problem with this is the decisions that are being made to do that are from your bias.

You’re sensing a theme here and without an appreciation for what is working. I know. Grab your emotional first aid kit. You might not want to hear this, but I want you to spend some time understanding what is going well to have an open mind about the way to do things. It doesn’t mean the way you’ve done them before that has worked is wrong.

It doesn’t mean that’s not something that you will still do, but there can be more than one right and effective way. Okay, so I wouldn’t suggest instead of going in and wanting to make sweeping changes based on what you know works from your experience. Do an exercise. One that I really like is the search to continue and have done this with new teams. And it’s worked really well.

My clients that use this, it just always works wonderfully. And what you do is you bring the team together, you can decide who that team is and you can do this virtually. You can do this in person. You can do with post it notes. You can make it super fun.

But what you do is you ask for input on what are the things that we should start doing. That is the start. What are the things that we should stop doing that aren’t working. That’s the stop. And what should we keep doing that is working.

That is the continue start, stop. Continue. Then you take the information and you strategically look at changes you want to make. And this is brilliant because you have buy in from those involved. You’re getting other people’s input their ideas.

You’re having an open mind, you’re facilitating that discussion, and then you have that window crack to influence what you want to change. So this process always works. So have an open mind and explore what’s working before making judgments and making changes because change is hard. And like I said, I’m going to be talking about that in just a moment. Okay.

Number three, use my one on one framework. Yes, I’m just going to say it if you haven’t listened to that podcast, it’s one of my most popular. It’s called The Perfect One on One Framework, and it is a game changer. So when I was in grad school studying organizational psychology, I studied leadership, and I practiced different organizational development psychology tools and programs. When I worked in the Pharma biotech industry.

Now managers have such a critical role in the engagement of employees, and one on ones are a huge part of that. But most companies don’t have a standard, and the one on one end up being sporadic and not value add for either person. So I did a pilot program with another company where we tested current state one on one and then implemented a part of this framework and measured employee engagement and other performance indicators. We saw double the employee engagement, increased scores in leader communication and understanding your role and future with the company, even in inclusion and diversity.

What?

It was awesome. It’s awesome. It worked so good. I’m so proud of it. It actually got used on a global scale because of how effective this process was that I had created.

So the essence of it really, I really want you to go listen to the podcast if you haven’t listened to it, but really what it is. There’s three different types of one on one, the one on one that you do when you have your first one on one with a new direct report, the one on one that is your standard one on one. There’s an agenda for that, and then your quarterly one on one, which is all about your engagement. And you can use numbers or red, Amber, green different areas that are tied to employee engagement, belonging, performance at work, your company strategy.

And I give guidance on these categories and an actual guide that you can download from the podcast.

So I will include a link to that in this episode. But if you go to melissamlaurents. Comfamework, you can download the actual framework with the agenda items for those three different one on one. So I’ve had several people reach out to me and say that they’ve managed up and influenced their manager to use this framework, and it’s made a huge difference. I’ve had managers use this with their own teams and seen higher engagement and performance.

And like I said, it continues to be one of my most popular podcast episodes. Okay, so let’s move on to number four, which is change psychology. This is what I was saying. I was going to get into it’s really important. So I want to talk to you about emotional psychology of change.

And this is important because when any of us go through any sort of change, especially navigating a new leadership position, you’re going through this and the people around you and your company are going through this. So there is a model that comes from psychologist Kelly and Connor. And if you know this and you normalize this, it can keep the organization from spiraling downward when change occurs. So if I had you with me now, if you could see me, I would draw this out for you. But since that is not the case, I am going to describe this for you.

So this model imagine a U, like a curve, like a U. And what happens is when change occurs, you will be uninformed and optimistic. Now, what does that mean? It means the people around you. Let’s say someone on your team, one of your new direct reports, they don’t know you yet.

They don’t know what you’re going to bring to the table. They don’t know what changes you’re going to make. So they’re uninformed and they’re optimistic because maybe they’re like, okay, this person is going to be great. They were hired for a reason. I’m excited to work with them.

So everything is starting out great. But after a little bit of time, they fall into stage two, which is informed pessimism. And this means that they are now informed as if they worked with you for a little bit. And maybe you started to make some changes. Maybe you run one on one differently.

Maybe you don’t communicate in the way that they prefer the way that they were used to with their prior manager. Maybe you want to make some changes and they don’t really agree. So now they’re really more informed about what this change of you coming into the team is really doing. And so they’re feeling pessimistic about it. They’re like, I don’t know if I like this.

The next stage is the value of despair. And this is where a lot of people end. They stay within one, two and three, the first three stages. And that is where they’re like, I can’t handle this. This person is too different.

They don’t get me. I’m going to have to prove my worth again. They don’t understand. And this is where you’re going to find a lot of people trying to find a new job, getting disengaged from work. But if you stick with it, if you know that this is happening, if you are aware of this emotional psychology of change, then you know that the next stage is informed optimism, which essentially means when you push through that Valley of despair, when you have support from your leadership, understanding, when you know that your employees may be going through this and you are empathetic to that and you address it, you have an open mind.

You’re listening. You’re aware of it. You’re looking for it. Then your employees can push through and have informed optimism where they’re like, okay, I know what this person is going to bring. I know what this change represents, but I’m feeling like I can handle it.

I’m feeling like it’s going to be good. And then the last stage is success and fulfillment. So if you follow this, you from the top on the left all the way down the Valley of despair and back up to the right. Then you’re going to get to success and fulfillment. But you have to go through all of those stages.

And like I said, most people, they quit and repeat phases one through three. So this is really important for you to understand, because you may be going through this yourself as well. So as someone that you are going into a new job, you might go into this and think, I’m so excited for my new job. And then you think, oh, my gosh, what did I sign up for? This is a lot of work.

And then the Valley of despair of like, oh, my gosh, I shouldn’t have left my job. I need to see if I can go back to that job. This was too much. This is more than I can handle. This is more different than I thought.

But then it’s pushing through again to informed optimism and success. So keep this in mind as you go through change. And as you build relationships with your new stakeholders, with your new direct reports, and whenever you’re creating change within your Department or organization, your employees, your staff are going through this cycle on some level. So the resistance isn’t necessarily them pushing back or not liking your idea. It’s just natural in their psychology, and they will come through the other end with the right support.

Okay, number five is to be approachable. So I know being approachable is a no brainer, but I have this on the list because I think people think they’re approachable when they’re not. They’ll say things like, I have an open door policy, but that isn’t enough. So I want you to think about what would be approachable for you. What would someone have to do or say for you to feel comfortable to go into their office at any time, to share with them a concern?

What would they have to do for you to have that level of comfort? And a lot of approachability comes from your communication skills. When you’re having conversations, are you listening? Are you open minded? Do you offer when and how people can communicate with you when people reach out unexpectedly?

Do you make an effort to be open and welcoming, or do you let them know how busy you are or how inconvenient the timing is? It’s important to not only state how to best communicate and get what others need from you, but also practice it in your actions. You can be approachable and have boundaries. So approachability doesn’t mean letting anyone walk into your office at any time, but it is being clear on when you’re available, holding your meetings, respectfully, respecting other people’s time and be open and present.

The more approachable you are, the more comfortable others will be around you and will trust you, which is critical to effective leadership.

So I can tell you about a leader that I worked with who said she had an open door policy, said you can come to me anytime but was always busy, always in chaos. And when you did go to her, it was often met with a smile and let’s schedule some time, but the time never got scheduled. So you have to think about following through as part of your approachability, the experience you are having with people and the impression that they are getting because it is much more than words.

Okay, the last strategy that I want to leave you with is to manage your stakeholders, and this one is closely tied to having a connection plan. But I think it is important to call it separately.

So as an exercise, you can take out a sheet of paper and put yourself in the center like a nucleus and then branch off to that and jot down all of your stakeholders, which includes your direct reports, your boss, your matrix, team members, any person or group that you provide a service to internal or external. And this will give you a picture. And from there, think about how you can manage the expectations and needs for these people and groups. What do they need from you? How would they define success for you?

You can ask them. Don’t make assumptions. I like to have a spreadsheet, but I’m Super organized that way so you can put all of your stakeholders in a spreadsheet with notes about them. They’re ways of communicating. Last time you spoke with them any action items, it can help you stay organized and see visually.

If you have a stakeholder that you need to follow up with, that you haven’t talked to in a while, so keep those relationships warm. Okay, so that was my six strategies that will help you have a psychologically safe team foundation, and that is make a connection plan. Have an open mind. Use the one on one framework. Know emotional change, psychology, be approachable and manage your stakeholders.

And if you apply these, they really do make a difference in how effective you are as a leader. There is so much more that we can get into on this topic. Leadership development is such a passion of mine. If you’re interested in coaching and want to learn more about how I can help you excel in your career as a leader without sacrificing your home life or your values in the process, then reach out to me. Send me a message.

You can go to my website. www.melissamlawrence.com. I offer a free consultation call where we can talk about your goals, how we can help you and determine if we are a good fit. So I’m going to link a number of podcast episodes and how to get the one on one framework in the comments.

So some of the other podcasts that you may love are reporting to a new boss. The perfect one on one framework. How to be an awesome boss and the one leadership behavior you need. So I will link those in the show notes so you can listen to them if you haven’t already. All right, have a wonderful week and I will see you here.

Same time, same place next week.

I get asked all of the time. How do I know if I’m in the right career now? You can find out I created a free quiz using my criteria for what makes a great job fit. You can take the quiz at my website www.melissamlawrence.com/quiz

 and in less than three minutes, you’ll know the answer so you can stop guessing and take some action. And as a bonus, if your job isn’t a great fit, you’ll get some resources to help you decide what to do about it. Head there now.

Give it a listen.

Hello. So this meditation is all about the acceptance of your emotions. We often will push our emotions aside or distract ourselves and numb ourselves with work, shopping, alcohol, Netflix, all of the things. And this meditation is all about allowing yourself to accept your emotions for what they are. So before we get started, try to think of something that is bothering you.

It may be a scenario that worries you or something that has happened in the past or something that may happen in the future. Try to think of a scenario that elicits an emotional reaction. In this meditation, you will imagine yourself in your chosen scenario. Now, if at any point you feel that the meditation is too much, you have the option to open your eyes and or wiggle your fingers and toes, which will help reground you in the present. You can also try bringing your focus of your attention back to your breath.

If this doesn’t help and you do not wish to continue the meditation, then please respect yourself and stop. You may always choose to do this exercise again later and improve your emotional acceptance through smaller steps.

Let’s get started.

Begin by closing your eyes.

If you choose to leave your eyes open. If that is more comfortable for you, then focus your attention on your feet and let your gaze softly rest and remain there for the duration of the meditation.

Start to notice your breath, each inhale and exhale after at least five breaths, notice where your body is making contact, feet touching the floor, back on the ground. Sit bones on your chair.

Now, bring that challenging scenario that you’ve chosen to the forefront of your mind.

Imagine yourself as vividly as possible in this scenario.

What happened? What might happen as a result of this scenario that you have recalled, you may notice that certain emotions arise.

What emotions are you experiencing?

What thoughts are going through your mind.

Now focus on your body.

Often emotions are represented in our bodies.

What feelings arise in your body.

Observe what you are feeling.

Maybe you feel tension or other sensations.

Perhaps you experience tightness in your stomach, around your heart or neck.

Whatever you experience, try to stay with the sensation and be gentle on yourself.

Emotions are just vibrations in your body.

You try to locate it, your head, your heart, your stomach, your side.

Is it cold, warm.

Use your breath as a vehicle to stay with those sensations and remember. Be gentle on yourself. Direct your awareness to the part of your body where those sensations are the strongest.

Breathe into that part of the body on the inhale.

Rather than pushing this experience away, try to let it be.

You can say to the feeling it is okay. You are allowed to be here.

Whatever it is, it’s okay.

Let me feel it.

See what happens if you allow yourself to experience whatever you experience at this moment.

Just stay with the awareness of these bodily sensations and your relationship to them. Breathing with them, accepting them, letting them be.

Repeat it’s okay. Whatever it is, it’s okay.

You are okay. Now, perhaps you notice that the feeling gets more intense. Maybe it will stay the same or diminish. It may also move into your body. Whatever happens, it’s okay.

Allow it to be. Observe what happens. Remember to stay with the experience with curiosity and kindness.

You are allowing your sensations to be experienced without reacting to them.

Often our thoughts can distract us from the present moment. Maybe you have thoughts about this scenario. Maybe you have thoughts about this exercise. That’s okay. Notice when your attention is focused on thoughts and then kindly direct your attention back to your experience in the present moment.

Continue to discover what happens within your body and mind without tightening or resisting it. Try holding both the sensations in your body and the sense of your breath together. Being aware of breathing with the sensations.

When you notice that your bodily sensations are no longer pulling for your attention, return to your breath and continue with that as your primary object of attention.

Just breathe.

Whatever it is you’re okay.

Now slowly let your chosen scenario. Leave the focus of your attention when you’re ready, wiggle your fingers and toes. Slowly open your eyes.

Return your attention to your room.

I get asked all of the time. How do I know if I’m in the right career? Now you can find out. I created a free quiz using my criteria for what makes a great job fit. You can take the quiz at my website, www.melissamlawrence.com and in less than three minutes, you’ll know the answer so you can stop guessing and take some action. And as a bonus, if your job isn’t a great fit, you’ll get some resources to help you decide what to do about it. Head there now.

It's totally normal to feel unsure. This is a big step. You likely haven't ever invested in yourself before. Most of my clients, it's the first time they do. I get it. Let's talk about your goals and see if we are a good fit. I can answer any questions you have. If it isn't, well at least you know, right?

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