Highlights from Adam’s discussion with Michelle on The Future of People Initiatives podcast.
Introducing Michelle Braden
Michelle is the Vice President of Global Talent Development at WEX. In one way or another, she’s been working around the L&D space for 25 years. Early on in her career, a mentor helped her discover that she had a knack for simplifying the complex. She found a natural fit in the learning and development space.
The Era of Activation
“People learn the most from conversation that is proven. So how do you open up that conversation? And how do you give them more conversations?”
There’s been a major shift in the focus of L&D — from a focus on creating classes and workshops to asking how people can activate the knowledge they already have. Michelle’s main goal in developing a learning experience is to “deepen what they already know.”
What might surprise those who aren’t in L&D is that Michelle and her team spend very little time creating classes or seminars, instead they focus on crafting learning experiences. Much of this takes the form of facilitating conversations. These conversations help people learn from their peers instead of sitting and listening to a lecture that may or may not be relevant to their role.
Curated learning experiences are intended to present information in different ways. Because, as Michelle notes, individuals process information in different ways, and the way we consume it has changed radically in recent decades.
The Employee Value Proposition (EVP)
“L&D isn’t about influencing the EVP, but activating it.”
The Employee Value Proposition is core to organizations’ talent retention and engagement strategies. For Michelle, L&D plays an integral role in realizing its potential.
To paraphrase Michelle, the EVP is the reason why your talent work for you and not someone else. What L&D ensures is that the proposition is successfully carried out. For instance, if your EVP is all about being a part of a great team and teamwork — then the role of L&D is to help people work with teammates, to collaborate, and communicate.
Who Owns the EVP?
“Talent activation officers will be the ones who are trying to ensure that what we’re doing from an organizational perspective is actually helping the employee move to that next level.”
The EVP has an organization-wide impact so the question of ownership is significant. As we find out, ownership of the EVP (and L&D by extension) is quickly evolving.
Michelle noted that for a time she believed that the Employee Engagement Officer would be the one to own the EVP – but we’ve passed that point now and new a role is emerging: the Talent Activation Officer. Since titles can often lag behind the actual roles, she believes there are already many Talent Activation Officers, but usually go under different names.
Focus on Relationships
“When we develop leaders, we develop them to be supporting leaders so that they are providing everything that the team members need in order to be successful. So, whether it’s breaking down an obstacle, approving a decision, or making a decision – they are supporting them.”
Here the conversation turned to the importance of relationships in activating the EVP and developing leaders.
Michelle believes that the way we think about managers and employees should be turned on its head. Instead of thinking about managers on top giving orders to employees at the bottom, we should imagine leaders serving their teams. This change in mindset helps cultivate healthier relationships that foster growth and learning among teams.
Active Listening is Overlooked
“Even on Zoom, you can see body language, you can tell when people are shutting down, you can hear it in their voice if they’re really listening.”
Few conversations about leader-team relationships would be complete without discussing active listening. By now active listening has become common sense for most leaders.
Of course, common sense does not always translate to common action. Michelle believes leaders should be doubling down on their listening abilities to foster better relationships with their teams.
Final Words to L&D Professionals
“I don’t think anyone should wait once you identify what the future should look like you should start working towards it.”
Michelle ended the talk with some advice for L&D professionals seeking to grow. She notes that learning and development professionals need to stop putting themselves in the ‘L&D box’. For Michelle, this means embracing new challenges and leaning into the work that makes L&D a more prominent player in the company.
The final words Michelle had for L&D professionals looking to grow was, “Look for opportunities to help other people become successful.”
Listen to the full podcast.
So Michelle, after our previous conversation, something really stood out for me. And it made me think of a quote by Einstein. Any darn fool can make something complex. It takes a genius to make something simple. I get on these phone calls almost daily talk to leaders across major enterprises, you know, on a weekly basis, and often the conversation is very complex, in, in my opinion gets into frameworks and often into the weeds. So I was thinking about what helped you develop the point of view that you have today? I know you have an interesting background from Xerox and sales and technology, you’ve been a global leader for l&d, from SAP to tell us International and wax Inc. That that’s my question, Michelle, how did you form the point of view that we’re going to hear today?
Michelle Braden 0:55
Well, I think it’s a combination of all the different things in my background. So, you know, learning that starting my career as a software engineer, developing code, I mean, reading core dumps, getting down to the bits and the bytes of the ones and zeros. It that breaks it down very simply, right? So you can understand that things are not as complex or as magical as possible, as you know, as you might imagine, but they’re really down to the very simple basics. And I think then that and taking it to the to being in sales, in sales, I had a very common sense approach. And it was very much how do I help this customer solve their business problem? And it was not, how do I sell this product? Because that makes me very uncomfortable. But it was more, how do I help them solve this business problem, and I looked at everything, almost like a logic problem, like, you know, if you’re looking at this, and then this, and then this and it, the programming helped me with that course, I had a natural aptitude towards that. So I think all those things together, kind of get me to a point where I just break everything down to very simple concepts, and try to keep it out of the complex area. In fact, I tell my team all the time, we need to make this simple, not more complex. So let’s figure out how can we simplify it,
simplifying the complex, I actually, you made me think when I when I talked to our technology, folks. And then I think about our sales folks, or even though whether it’s marketing or learning and development folks that are in the in the storytelling business, it almost seems like they speak different languages.
Michelle Braden 2:39
Well, it is. And I remember back when I was at Xerox, in tech support, trying to figure out where to go with my career. And I had a gentleman who later became my mentor, I think he was my mentor at the time, and I didn’t realize it, but he said to me, you know, your skill, your strength is simplifying the complex. So taking something really difficult, really complicated, and putting it in simple terms, for other people to understand. So whatever you’re doing your career, you should focus on that. And that’s what I did
love it. So let’s, let’s take that approach of simplifying the complex and start at the CEO level, kind of, as you and I discussed, as close to the sun as we can get to begin our conversation. What in your mind are some of the biggest challenges that the CEOs are taking on today?
Michelle Braden 3:35
The CEOs? Yeah. Oh, well, you know what I think part of it, and especially because of the last two and a half years is they’re not, we’re not moving fast enough in their minds. So we’re not, we’re not innovating as quickly as possible. And I think the pandemic in some cases, it increased the productivity, but it also slowed down the innovation. And maybe that’s because of the lack of collaboration, the lack of connectedness that we had previously. And so while individuals are more productive, and maybe even individual teams, overall, the corporations, a lot of CEOs are, you know, we need to we need to innovate faster, we need to move faster. And I’m afraid that this hybrid environment is slowing us down. I think that’s one of the biggest issues that CEOs have right now. And then, but then you add into that the the idea that we’re in this great while they say great resignation, but I don’t know if we’re still there, but we, that whole period of time, you’re losing people, so you’re losing some of those people that are going to help you innovate. So there’s a concern around retention, and what do we do to keep those top performers. So that’s another thing that and that’s going to impact our ability to innovate. On the other hand, when you’re losing people, you can also gain some new people. So Maybe you get new ideas and things like that. And I think they’re, they’re hoping that those new ideas are gonna come in and, and move quickly as well.
You know, the connection between innovation and collaboration, right? I think it’s so key. I know I feel it personally. A lot of the times the biggest spurts of innovation ideas happen when the meeting ends, you’re just hanging out, you’re having a conversation, you’ve got a half hour, you have an hour between your this meeting and the next meeting, there’s a board and off you go with ideas. Now, when the Zoom when that schedule is finished, you typically hang up and you move on with your day. What a what a huge challenge for organizations, you’re so right. How do you how do you see that lack of innovation and its connection to other goals within their organization? That may be our critical goals with metrics behind them? What’s the connection between that and say, revenue, or customer service? Or any of the other measurements that are presented to the at the board level?
Michelle Braden 6:01
Well, I think it’s, it’s connected in that the innovation, you’re trying to look at doing things differently. So transforming the way that you work, right? So it’s, it’s, we’ve we’ve been, we’ve spent so many years doing the same thing over and over again, and we tweak it a little bit, right, we get a little bit better. But it’s really the really innovative ideas come in, when you look at a situation almost with a with a fresh look blank slate, and say, What can we do that is really different? And how can we take a different approach and one of the things I did with my team, when I first came into this company was I put them all through a design thinking workshop. And all of a sudden everybody’s like, Oh, wow, I’m thinking differently about this now. And it’s, you know, even though design thinking has been around for a while, some people think it’s just for designers. It’s not it’s for everybody. It’s everyone can use that sort of approach where you’re looking empathetically at? What is our what is our internal or external customer wanting? What is it that they need? And when you take that approach, from an you know, when you’re trying to innovate, look at it that way, you come up with things that you never would have thought were possible, because now you’ve put yourself in the other person’s shoes and trying to understand what is it that’s going to help them which is the approach I took? When I was in sales? It was like, How can I help that customer? Right? How can I help them grow their business?
Let’s double click on that, because that is a new experience for the l&d practitioners that you brought to the table. This is probably the first design session they’ve ever had in in their function of l&d. Michelle, as you think about putting them through that you’ve already done that. How do you think about the role of l&d? How do you think about it evolving in the current landscape, and in the context of innovation as the goal that we started to discuss? So
Michelle Braden 8:09
l&d I’ve been in the l&d space for off and on for 25 years. And I would say that it has transitioned from, you know, building a training course, right to teach someone how to do something, how to use a product, or you know, how to write a story or whatever, to now it’s really about how do we give people learning opportunities or experiences that help them activate the knowledge that they have. So and also deepen the knowledge that they have. Sometimes people want to expand into other areas and what they realized, but they don’t realize probably is that they already had a natural aptitude for that area. And so the l&d world, we’re here to try to help them expand that knowledge. And, you know, maybe it’s through collaboration and learning circles or something like that with other people. I mean, people learn the most from conversation that is proven. And so how do you open up that conversation? How do you give them more conversations, and in in our leadership programs, we have a lot of facilitated discussions, and they’re not necessarily facilitated by the expert. They’re facilitated by it’s shared facilitation. So they have a lot of the conversations, we never know where the conversation is gonna go. But people are learning throughout the entire conversation. And they’re learning from one another. And they’re expanding their thinking and as you said, like when you leave the meeting, I think and then some innovation occurs. You said earlier, is this. What I like in that too, also, is that people process information differently. And so as a learning and development for unction we need to understand that that people are going to process it. You know, maybe during the meeting, maybe after the meeting, maybe after the class maybe a year later, who knows. But we need to give people that opportunity in that space for them to actually explore, and to learn, and develop and grow over time. And the auto from a training class,
you know, processing information differently. It’s also processing information differently today than we used to three years ago, five years ago, right?
Michelle Braden 10:34
Oh, my God. Well, and I think it has to do with the amount of information, right, it’s just like, you’re just inundated. I was explaining to someone yesterday about how I have these routines for taking my vitamins every day remembering that. And I said, I don’t think it’s that my memories bad that I need to have a routine. It’s just that there’s so much stuff that I can’t remember, especially when you’re working from home, you’re like, where was I? When I did? What was I doing that day? What did you know, it’s just so much going on? That we and we put so much pressure on ourselves to try to remember all this stuff. Right? And, and it but there’s just so much going on, it makes it harder and harder. And that’s why going through a lot a training program and trying to remember what is this acronym was, it’s like, so difficult. And so in my function, I really believe that we have stepped up to a higher level of really trying to help people just kind of like apply what they’re learning in a really productive way.
So the era of training catalogs, building training catalogs, and you were the one to introduce that concept, I think I’m going to always refer to it as the era of building training catalogs is over. Now the era of activation, the era of conversations, the era of on the job, which will require an entire new set of thinking for l&d. And what really piqued my interest in our discussion is a took a store of the employee value proposition. What is the connection between l&d the innovation of the goal for the organization but also the value proposition for the employee? So can you shed some light as how do you see l&d influenced the employee value proposition for the organization?
Michelle Braden 12:25
Well, I don’t know if it’s so much as influencing it, as it is activating it. So it’s, it’s almost like, you have this employee value proposition. This is the why you want to be here. Why you want to be with this firm. Right? What what you’re all about what we’re all about with our employees, but I think the l&d group is really responsible, and not not all by themselves, but they’re largely responsible for helping activate that. So if your employee value proposition says, you know, we’re going to be in it has something to do with spirit of teams and spirit of teamwork, something like that. Well, obviously, we need to help people work in teams, like what is spirit of teamwork look like? What does a good team member look like? What does a good team leader look like? How does how teams collaborate? How should they communicate, you know, kind of help them through all of that. That being said, I’m not suggesting a training class. And I do think that we’ve moved from the training catalog to we have more organic ways of learning. But also, I’d say, one of the things we do more of is curating learning. So we find opportunities for people to learn, or we present them with different opportunities, we present information in so many different ways now that I was thinking about it yesterday, my treat, my team hardly ever creates training classes. I mean, I don’t think we create very much from training classes, but we do create learning experiences. And all of that designed to activate the employee value proposition. If we if we’re not activating the employee value proposition, then shame on us.
So I’d like to zoom out and then zoom back in let’s let’s think about activating value proposition and who owns that? So there’s the CEO that helps to develop it. Right? This is the value proposition for organization who owns it, then you and I had a fun conversation around that we brainstorm some some possibilities of the future titles. Michelle, who, who, which sea level should own the employee value proposition?
Michelle Braden 14:39
Well, that’s that’s a tricky question. I think there’s a new sea level. So I thought for a long time there was a chief engage engagement employee engagement officer. I thought that would be good, but I think it’s moved beyond that to where it’s the employee activation officer or talent activation off I don’t like the word employee, but talent activation officer. So I think it’s really, they’re the ones who are trying to ensure that what we’re doing from an organizational perspective is actually helping the employee move to that next level, to where they are literally demonstrating that employee value proposition, they are helping the company with their innovation and moving forward, their productivity. It’s just, it’s it’s far beyond where we are today. I mean, I am like a chief talent development officer. And I think that’s limiting if the name is limiting to the work that I actually do.
Let’s dare to dream. Let’s go beyond this. We’re on a future of people initiatives, what could this become? So we’ve got a future state where we’ve got a chief activation officer, what does the team look like? So l&d I would imagine is part or one off the resources of the chief activation officer? What are the other ones?
Michelle Braden 16:03
Well, there’s, there’s definitely got to be some AI experts in there. Some technology experts in there. I, I honestly think and I think I mentioned this to you before I read this article, back in 2004. And before that time, I was a training manager. I mean, I taught people how to use something or sell something or do something. And then I read that article, and I, it was called Knowledge warriors. And it was in chief learning officer magazine, I think, in 2004, written by Jonathan Levy, and I got so excited about that article. I was like, Okay, this is it. So then I’m trying to figure out what’s the future of learning. So it was kind of that next level of who all do you need in the room to make this happen. And then the knowledge warriors article, it’s, it’s like you’re, you’re an employee that comes in, you sit down at your desk, and up opens your desktop, and you have your calendar and your email. And, and the system knows that you have this meeting with this client. And oh, this happened yesterday in the news, here’s this article about it. And by the way, they might be interested in this solution that we sell, here’s a little quick video that you might want to watch. And oh, you know, what, I noticed that you’ve never met so and so who’s also in the meeting, here’s a bio on that person. And so that works for an employee and an office. He also described a situation a scenario with a doctor who came in and saw as lists of patients and what the ailments were and we got pop, he got pushed different videos on the different medications and disease, latest latest research on these diseases, etc. So he didn’t mean I mean, it was a I definitely in the background here. And looking at his skills, profile knowledge profile, totally knew what he what he needed that day, doesn’t mean he couldn’t still pull some things and go say, Well, I want to find out about this in this in this job, who all needs to be involved in that that is not l&d on their own. Or they need to have some technology folks involved in that. They need to have business users and doctors and whoever, as CO creators, you can’t do it in a vacuum. And this gets back to the design thinking, like it’s what is it that these people are actually needing to perform and be the most productive in their role. So there’s, there’s, I don’t want to say I don’t like committees leading things. But I’ll say that there are more than two or three roles involved. I actually think one of the people involved needs to be really a true expert at Design Thinking ideation. And also think you also need to have somebody that maybe an IO psychologist, or regular psychologists, that is really taps into the empathetic pieces of it, and tries to understand what it is going on with these different people at different times. We have anthropologists too, that are really great at tapping into how people work. So maybe they’re part of that team. But they’re not training developers, for the large part.
Fascinating. So we’re almost creating a brain organizational brain that then helps to personalize or create really relevant experiences that are supporting the activation toward the employee value proposition. And that brain requires all kinds of brilliance from technology, brilliance to behavioral to design, thinking, learning and development. It’s the mobilization of this new group. Ken in a way, Ken how cmo has An entire group allocated to figuring out what are the right communications? What are the right channels? How do you craft the message? How do you craft the visual so that you can engage the customer? Something similar is not needed on the on the inside? Would there be an accurate way to describe it?
Michelle Braden 20:17
Yeah, I think that’s a great way to describe it. And I would say that there’s one more element in there. And that’s that sales element. And that comes in with really tapping into the value proposition. Like, what is it about everything that we’re doing? That’s going to grab the individual, maybe we know what they need, but they don’t know what they need? You know what I mean? Like, they’re unconsciously incompetent. So it’s like, how do you pull all of that together? So you have a nice, big, rounded package.
And now and now, whatever that is that this brain comes up with? Would you would you agree this needs to show up in wherever work gets done? No one is going to log into another platform, download another app? We gotta meet them, wherever they are. Oh, would you? Yeah, go ahead. Michelle. I’m
Michelle Braden 21:06
sorry. I would absolutely agree with that. We do have to meet them where they are. And it’s not? Oh, gosh, I don’t know, I’m trying to imagine I don’t think they’re putting on a headset or anything like that. I think, I think that it is truly just meeting them where they are, whether they’re, you know, mobile, in their office, wherever they are, it’s almost omnipresent, if you will,
and I’m thinking whether they’re working on Microsoft Teams, or Yammer or slack, or they’re in whatever employee app experience, email, SMS, just ensure that they don’t have to go out of the way to receive the communications.
Michelle Braden 21:46
Absolutely. And you know, what would be ideal Adam is in the future, if you didn’t have email, SMS, Slack, all these things, if it was integrated, so that it’s, it’s all it’s all one. And you’re not, you’re not sitting back and looking at it to separate entities. Like I have checked my email, I feel like, I mean, today’s world, it’s like, I gotta check my phone for my SMS, I gotta check my email, on my laptop, I just like, you know, and I gotta have my chat window open to see if anyone’s chatting with me. It’s so much, and you miss things. And wouldn’t it be great if it was all combined in one view, and no matter where you are, what device you’re on, it’s you’re getting all of it.
One view from one brain. Simple, simple, but super complex to create.
Michelle Braden 22:37
super well. And, and that’s, that’s the trick, right? So I remember years and years and years ago, I read a book called customers.com. I don’t even know if it’s still in print. But the one thing that stood out to me it was around when you’re building websites and portals is that the simpler the site, the more complex the back end, the more complex the site, the more the simpler the back end. And so this is something I talked about with my team all the time, I’m like, Look, if we’re going to build something, it has to be really simple for the end user, the employee, the team member, but we’ve got to do a lot of work to get it to that point. And that’s, that’s our job.
Our CTO often talks about, just think about a duck that’s on the on the on the water really come up above. But if you look below, the feet are moving really fast. So So what I’d like to ask your opinion on the audience’s we talked about the brain, we talked about the single view in the future state. And of course, in our organization, everyone matters. But we also understand managers have an amazing influence on on on someone’s experience in their organization think it’s 70 plus percent variance is the relationship with the manager. So how would you prioritize the manager not not that they’re more important, but they of course, have an impact, and their behaviors matter? Because there is a multiplicative effect of what they do.
Michelle Braden 24:06
So I prefer not to think of them as managers and prefer to think of them as supporting leaders. And I think it flips it on its head. And when you when you think about, am I managing all these pieces, and I’m trying to keep all this moving? It’s kind of like, I don’t like that. I like it. When I think oh, the person that I supposedly report to is supporting me and everything I do. And so when we develop leaders, at least, you know, where I am now, when we develop leaders, we develop them to be supporting leaders so that they are providing everything that the team members need in order to be successful. So whether it’s breaking down an obstacle or whether it’s approving a decision or making a decision or whatnot. but they are supporting them. They’re not overseeing, you know that kind of that it’s a whole different mind shift. When you think about it that way, it’s like, you’re like the managers on the bottom and the employees are on the top. And so you kind of flip it. And it’s amazing what happens. Because when someone says you will support so and so you have to think differently, like, what does support look like? Well, I need to understand what they need, oh, no, I’m gonna have to, you know, have a little empathy here, maybe some compassion. So it’s a completely different way of looking at it. And so that’s what I would say, even in this, you know, in any type of future world or, you know, you have the brain you have the person Yep, the manager is there kind of in the background, helping that person or that individual be successful.
Servant leadership, definitely flips it on its head. And that has to, has to be throughout the entire organization scatter go all the way up to the sea level, otherwise, it won’t work.
Michelle Braden 26:05
Absolutely. And that’s some of the work that we’ve done is that we’ve, we’ve built in habits for executives, and you know what, and they’re based on servant leadership principles and practices. And, you know, people have said to me, gosh, Michelle, That’s so old. And I’m like, and it’s so relevant today. So relevant.
Can you can you think of a new any examples that you could share either most impactful or most common? And then I often hear a common sense is not common action. It’s not about doing something revolutionary, it’s about doing something really simple not forgetting to do it, and it makes a difference. Can you share some with the audience?
Michelle Braden 26:43
Yeah, so um, we’ve, this is really simple. Everybody thinks that they know how to do this. But we’ve doubled down on active listening. So, you know, really, I mean, everyone thinks they do it, right. But do you really do it? And so it’s really trying to understand what the other person is saying, not necessarily just what they’re saying. But what are they saying, and looking at the end, you know, on Zoom, even, you can see the body language, you can tell when people are shutting down, you can hear it in the voice if you’re really listening. So it’s like, yes, the arms crossed, anything that you can, you can, you know, you we watch, and we listen to things and, and I think a lot of leaders tend to think they’re listening, when actually they’re trying to plan their next sentence, but they’re not listening. They’re trying to figure out, okay, so what this person said, How can I counteract that, and it’s not really trying to understand where they’re coming from. It’s so simple. It comes from, you know, the work that Steven Covey did with the seven habits, it’s like, so simple to really seek to understand, but it’s so overlooked. And it’s just not done as often as it should be. So we’re really doubling down on that trying to help leaders with their communications with their team members. One of the things I say all the time, err on the side of compassion, well, that just was unheard of several years ago, or even a couple of years ago. But now it’s err on the side of compassion, trying to understand compassionately, what’s going on? Why aren’t they performing? Why aren’t they delivering? Why are they showing up to work? I mean, all these things, try to have an understanding. And it’s amazing. When you start taking that view, what you’ll see that you didn’t see previously
moving into servant leadership, then guiding your your, your servant leaders how to be servant leaders, because that’s an entirely new way of thinking and acting and, and erring on the side of compassion. You’re right, these some of these things are simple. But back to our original point, from beginning of the conversation, simple as that is also very complex to do. What does it take to be an active listener, you almost have to be present, you Power down your own all of your own programs that are running all of your concerns and stresses, you have to be open. There’s a lot that goes into a manager, servant leader, my apologies being an active listener. Do you see some of these challenges? Are your folks open to sharing them?
Michelle Braden 29:23
Well, yes, what I focus on the what the team and I focus on when we talk with leaders is one of the best ways to be an active listener is to not only be silent, but acts ask questions, ask open ended questions. And you and I, I find that there’s a lot of leaders that are afraid to ask questions, because they don’t want to appear that they don’t know something. But it doesn’t hurt to ask a question you already know the answer to. You’re trying to understand the other person’s perspective more than anything, you’re not trying to get the answer to the question and you know, to match what you think you’re trying to understand where are they coming from? And so we have, you know, leaders that we work with that we’re like, okay, you want to be a better listener, you also need to better be a better questioner. So think start thinking, don’t ask the why questions. So you know, you hear the five why’s that has its place? When you ask a why question, people tend to get defensive. So it’s more like asking the questions, you know, when, where, how, what those types of questions are going to get people to open up. And you’re going to get this kind of, you know, fluid conversation. And then you can ask the next question, the next question, next question. And usually, what you find out in this sort of process is that it’s a really great tool for handling conflict as well. Like, you know, trying to understand instead of trying to get someone to understand your viewpoint, try to understand their viewpoint, and then figure out where are the commonalities that you have between each of you.
Totally makes sense. I was just reflecting a couple of moments in the last few days in my life, where we’re, I think that practice would have been very helpful for me. So, Michelle, so we’ve talked about the the behaviors, the activation of behaviors for servant leaders, let’s zoom all the way back out to the creation of the brain to the future chief activation officer, in what is your take on how long will it take for us to reach that state? Where are we now? Do you think any market conditions that are taking place now if they change will slow it down? I’m just curious, for those who are listening, who who agree, is this the time for them to begin working toward that future? Should they wait? What’s what’s your take there?
Michelle Braden 31:59
Well, I don’t think anybody should wait on anything. Actually, once you identify what the future should look look like, you should start working towards it. Instead of waiting, like I said, I read that knowledge warriors article in 2004, we’re still not there. But just a few years ago, four or five years ago, I think it was, you know, an innovation to say you were an engagement officer. And now that’s kind of like, okay, engagement, fine, we’re past that. Let’s move on to this activation. I think we’re at that point where we need to start thinking that way, and start thinking maybe we don’t call it that yet. Because that always takes time. But let’s start thinking that way as as to what is it that we’re doing to help activate the team members, the employees of a company, the leadership of the company, the company, and as a whole, what are we doing, and from a learning and development standpoint, I would say, Stop putting yourselves in the Learning and Development box. And even though the company, they’re still really comfortable with it, trust me, they like that term. But they asked us to do things. And and I’m sure your listeners would agree with me, that are in this space, they asked you to do things that are way outside of learning and development, but do align with that activation. So I think it’s we instead of resisting doing those things, embracing doing those things, and then leaning into to all that sort of work that gets us makes us a more prominent player in the corporation. And the, the pandemic helped us get there, by the way, got us to the table, everybody needed us. It was all of a sudden, urgent that we get people ready to embrace this new way of working and, you know, then we had the social unrest, and then all sorts of things that have come along with it, right. And we so we, we, they, they saw our value. Let’s capitalize on that. Let’s now take it a step further and do the things that are needed in order to really become those activation officers. And like I said, it may take a few years before you have that title. But that doesn’t mean we can’t start doing the work today.
So on the way it looks like pandemic became the accelerator for l&d to almost snap out of l&d, you know, cliches or l&d old way of thinking into Now what’s really interesting where you mentioned is those projects that you get from I assume business and operation partners, lean into those, because they’re, they’re mission critical. And instead of those being projects, maybe that becomes a bigger part of what you do because now you are an active enabler of business goals. Is that right?
Michelle Braden 34:52
Absolutely. Absolutely. And they’re gonna, they’re gonna come more and more to this group, to the l&d folks for helping that day. area. And it’s more important than ever, then that the l&d folks continue to develop themselves, right so that they can handle these things like, you know, getting more adept at business acumen, change management, communications, the servant leadership principles, all the things that we’ve talked about. You have to expand your horizons. It’s not a matter of, you know, learning objectives, topics, you know, content, it’s now it’s much, much, much bigger than that. And I think it’s a great place to be, it’s a lot more fun.
Michelle, as our walk on the beach is coming to an end, and you just shared a lot of advice. But any last piece of advice for an l&d Professional practitioner that’s listening in who isn’t perhaps a champion within their organization, and is not afraid to be a disruptor? What would be the first action item you would suggest for them to do?
Michelle Braden 35:56
One thing I tell everybody on my team is to be flexible, resilient, and accountable. And so when when you see someone having an issue or hear about a team having volunteer to help, where the were the helpers, were the one so I would say l&d People who are wondering what to do next, I would say, look for opportunities to help other people become successful. Other groups, be successful, other parts of the business achieve their goals. And we have a lot we provide so much value, so many things that we can offer. And they just a lot of groups don’t even know about it yet. So let’s let’s make them aware.
Amazing. Michelle, we could keep going on this walk for quite some time, but this has been fabulous. Thank you for joining. Sure. It’s my pleasure. All right. Thank you, Michelle.