L&D – Going Corporate – Teaser

Coming Soon…….

I’ve been thinking about writing a blog for many years.  I’ve attempted it before but it just hasn’t really taken off.  I suppose I haven’t really believed that I have anything valuable to write about.

So what is different now?  Well for the first time in 17 years I’m moving out of the public sector to work for a large and growing retail company as the L&D manager.  For me this will bring a lot of personal learning, not only because of the shift in sectors but because I’m going to be leaving a small L&D team in a Further Education College to be the sole L&Der in the new organisation.  I’m also going to be relocating to the South West of the UK in order to join the organisation at their head office.

#workingoutloud – http://workingoutloud.com/

I’m interested in the concept of working out loud and while I have dipped my toe in I haven’t really jumped in with both feet.  I’m hoping that this blog will enable me to begin to work out loud and I hope that other L&D professionals will benefit from my observations and very likely my mistakes.

Where it starts

My journey starts today.  I sit in a hotel room, nervously excited about my first meeting with the HR team and the CEO of my new corporate experience that begins tomorrow.  Nervous about the unknown and excited about the potential of the role and what I might be able to bring to the organisation.

I’m not due to start for another 4 weeks so this is a pre-start meeting, an opportunity to get an understanding of of the business goals and get to know the rest of the HR team.  I know that my job will initially be to develop a L&D strategy.  My job is a little easier because I have pretty much a clean slate to work with.  I’m deeply aware of the need to align the L&D strategy to the business and at this point I’m keen to just listen and understand.

So here’s to new beginnings and to blogging…..



Can L&D learn from Olympic successes and drive organisational performance? Part 2

Learning from Olympic Successes

In Part 1, we looked at some of the things that drive an Olympic athlete to success.  In this second part, we look at the 8 things that L&D can do to replicate the successes within their teams and the organisations that they support.

Harness the passions of others – We are all passionate about something.  Look for what makes people passionate, it’s a gateway to their motivations. Much like the Olympic athlete, passion can be used in the workplace to drive performance.  Investigate what drives the people in your organisation to do what they do and consider how you can help those that seem to have lost their passion for learning or even their work in general.

Set clear goals and provide regular opportunities for review and feedback – involve others in goal setting and seek to obtain regular feedback from others to track performance.  Its likely goal setting already happens in your organisation on a similar 4 year cycle so take the opportunity to review it with your L&D teams and with the individuals it is affecting. Use data over the period of a strategic plan to ensure you reach your targets at the end of the cycle and don’t afraid to re-plan. Finally L&D can inspire others to dream big. A 12 year old Amy Tinkler in 2012 didn’t become the second British female gymnast in history to get a bronze medal during Rio 2016 without dreaming and believing she could achieve it.

Be diverse – provide opportunities that all can be involved and achieve in.  If you are like me then you got into L&D because of a belief that everyone has the potential to succeed and so it is my belief that the L&D and most organisations are already working hard to ensure opportunities are available for everyone.  I suppose then the reason for including Diversity as a learning point is to remind us that there is always more we can do.

Create shared experiences – get to know your team and make friends with them.  Whether you are part of a large global team or a lone ranger, the Olympics demonstrates the need for teams that work closely together towards clearly defined shared goals.  To really get the most from our organisational teams, L&D should look at ways to find common ground and to provide opportunities for teams to work together as much as possible.  It needs to find opportunities to make learning and work, fun and active and its goal must motivate all involved.

Make learning difficult – stretch and challenge people when learning.  It’s unlikely to be learning if you don’t.  In developing its people, L&D should look to provide opportunities for individuals to challenge themselves and to set standards that are difficult and worthwhile.  According to Csikszentmihalyi, not only will this create the required attention needed to complete the activity, individuals are more likely to be happier when achieving them.

Embrace Technology – use it to aid performance.  As L&D continues its quest in technology, it will be equally important to consider the human aspect and must ensure that the individuals have the ability to use it.  Remember, in the end the human is the key to ultimate performance.

Reward achievements – ensure adequate recognition of achievements.  If L&D is to be successful in helping teams and individuals perform to their best and motivate them to set their own challenges, the reason for doing it has to be clear and above all a worthwhile investment.  A reward not only provides a sense of self pride but also recognition from others for achieving what you set out to do, making an individual more self-aware and raising their self-esteem.

Celebrate Success – allow the individuals to get motivated by the successes of others.  Take the opportunity to celebrate successes of L&D and the organisation.  Make the achievements of others public and work out loud with pride, so that others can be motivated by your success.

Can L&D learn from Olympic successes and drive organisational performance? Part 1

download (2)The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something we make happen.

(Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, p.3)

There are many things to learn from sport and the Olympics is the biggest stage for elite international competition.  In the next two parts we explore what it takes for an athlete to perform at the highest level and what lessons L&D can make in order to replicate the highest performance in the organisations this it serves.

The Rio 2016 Olympics is deep into its second week of competition and the GB Ladies Hockey team has just made it through to the final to compete for the Gold or Silver medal and the Brownlee brothers have just won medals again for the second games in a row.  These are not the first example of GB success this Olympics, as they follow a long list of superior performances from the team.  So what is it that drives them and the 89 other GB medal winners so far, to peak performance and how could L&D learn from their success?


You might think it obvious to start with passion.  Of course, an Olympic athlete has passion for their sport but what is striking is the amount of passion and the level of dedication to it.  Across all 42 sports it comes through every time in every country.  Stories of daily training sessions 6 days a week and training camps away from home with little social life are common in every sport.  There are also many examples of competitors coming back again and again.  The likes of Katherine Granger who continues to put herself through what appears to be deep lows in a quest to feel the high of an Olympic medal once again.


The Olympics provides an athlete with a powerful cycle of clearly defined targets and levels of achievement every 4 years.  It is exactly this clarity that helps to drive and motivate an athlete to compete.  They will receive constant feedback leading up to an Olympic year from a range of sources including training data, coaches and competition results.  It is this knowledge that tells them if they have the skills and abilities to reach their dream and what they have to do if they aren’t there yet.


The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practised without discrimination or any kind, in a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

(International Olympic Committee, IOC)

Alongside the Paralympics, the Olympics is the biggest stage in which to promote diversity and the benefit it brings.  The inclusion of the Refugee Olympic Team this year is testament to this.  With exception to Egyptian Judo player Islam El Shehaby, competitors at this year’s games compete without discrimination and promote themselves and their sports positively, providing good examples for others to follow.


Even during individual events the value of the team does not go unmentioned.  Each competitor relies heavily on the vast array of people that work in the background in order to achieve success.  A competitor’s entourage is made up of coaches, nutritionists, physiotherapists, sports psychologists, sports scientists and biomechanics experts, data analysts and in some cases designers and engineers who create the equipment that they use.  The GB Ladies Hockey and Diving teams both highlight how much time they spend with each other during training and socially and how they are all close friends.  The power of a shared experience is huge when it comes to teams and teamwork.   This connection through shared experiences usually comes from a shared goal and a passion to reach it, which all Olympic teams have gone through and are going through right now


As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi states in his book, Flow: The Psychology of Happiness, the best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.

The challenge of achieving Olympic/Paralympic gold most certainly holds this statement true for an athlete during competition.  All athletes choose to be there and choose to make the sacrifices required to compete in the games, giving themselves the chance of winning.  What seems to be clear is not that winning is the most important thing to happiness, but it’s the ability to have the choice to set the challenge for themselves and that they believe it a worthwhile pursuit.  Not winning is feedback and an opportunity to set new goals.


In all of the events, technology is key to the success of the athlete and to the function of the sport.  Global Positioning System (GPS) and Augmented Reality (AR) have been available to aid the athlete and the coach during training for a while now as well as aiding the viewing experience.  Technology also exists in the game play of the event.  Hawk eye is now available in Tennis and Badminton which can be used to question an umpire’s call. A great deal of technology and engineering goes into producing equipment from a road bicycle, fit for the mountains to a running suit fit for a sprinter.  The common theme with all the technology, is that it acts as an aid to the performance although it is still the human competing.  The American track cycling team believed that by moving the front gearing from the right hand side to left would provide them greater aerodynamic properties yet they were still unsuccessful to win in any of the classes on the track.


The reward of a medal is the greatest of all when it comes to the Olympics.  It is what drives all of the athletes competing.  Some have even said that this reward is life changing and in many cases it doesn’t have to be gold, as any colour is enough reward and recognition.

Success creates Success

Finally as the games go on, it appears that the success of one drives the success of others.  It has acted as a driver of belief systems throughout team GB who have seen successes in events that were previously not seen.  As confidence grows, it has almost become an expectation that we will be successful in cycling and sailing and that Mo Farah couldn’t possibly lose, could he?