Pandemic reflections

Things have definitely developed fairly quickly over the past few weeks. Just a month ago (on the 17th of February) we were traveling into Toronto to go to the car show, and now doing something like using public transit to attend an event attended by tens of thousands is unthinkable.

Since then, things have been slowly shifting, we went from fairly typical activities (going out for groceries and haircuts, going to the dentist, seeing friends every week, going to the gym, to none of that. I had planned to travel to Boston to visit my work team and attend some meetings, and that was cancelled as travel restrictions ramped up.

For me, the shifts were doubly interesting because I went from a job where I was going into the office every day, to one where I was working from home every day- before we had additional work from home directives. So I was ahead of the curve in that regard- we have already set up multiple workstations at home (my husband also works from home nearly 100% of the time).

It felt like things started to go away slowly, then quite quickly- I made a comment to my work team that the schools were still open after our March Break and then about an hour later we got an announcement that they were closed until April 6. I had already planned to take March Break off, so was able to spend that time with the kids, staycation-style.

Since I switched to working from home back on February 23, the transition doesn’t feel quite so dramatic, but the overall feeling of urgency and stress is not lost on me. We’re also going to have the kids home with us as we work through the next few weeks at least, so we’ll have some adjustments to make as we manage that.

Thankfully my workplace and others understand the situation everyone is in so there’s a bit more flexibility around having a kid show up on your conference call (that had happened for me a couple of times already and thankfully everyone was cool).

Overall I’m feeling grateful that I already had put in place what was needed to effectively work from home, I’m grateful my kids are old enough to manage themselves for short periods so I can focus on some things (though I still do have to intervene to get focus time here and there). I’m grateful we have service through Good Food and PCexpress to get groceries we need with minimal need for interaction. I’m grateful our house has space for us to spread out a bit and get out of each other’s ways.

There’s a lot to be nervous about but I’m feeling very grateful overall. As an introvert I’m able to get plenty of social interaction without a lot of effort using technology, which is great. I got to do a cool video chat with my regular tv-watching group this week, did a dress-up fancy party on Facebook (with everyone dressed up fancy in their own homes of course) and have more fun things planned. I’ve been able to donate to some of the fundraising efforts providing relief to those much more affected than me, and help out a few folks as well.

Back to work this week- we’ll see what the next week brings but I know I’m so lucky.

Strong leaders

This month, I finished a 10-month-long leadership development program offered by Communitech called Strong Leaders. As a learning and development professional who works on leadership development programs, it was awesome to be a participant in the program.

There was a built-in coaching component which I found super valuable, and it was a great way to build connections with other leaders in the community.

The pacing was incredibly useful as well- the every-three-weeks cadence of the face-to-face sessions made it easy to take the time to process and recall each new concept or approach we learned.

Overall I found it really valuable and use things I learned from it every day!

Certificate!

Next in my development- I’m starting a masters program in the fall! Super excited about that.

5 small things that can make you look out-of-touch

As a business leader, your credibility is tied to your connectedness to the needs of your customer, team, and organisation. In everything you do, it’s critical to keep this in mind, and to ensure that both you and your team are focused on the most important work to advance your goals.

However, most leaders have times where they do or say things that are out-of-step with the world around them, and these things send messages that you may not want to send! Keep an eye on these things to make sure you’ve got your finger on the pulse and eyes on the horizon.

1. Disconnect from current technology and how your customers and workforce use it

If you’re using out-of-date technology, it’s a dead giveaway that you’re not in touch with the times. If you need to use certain applications or hardware due to your work, it’s important to acknowledge that so that your teams and customers don’t assume it’s because you just can’t be bothered to keep up. Keep your fax machine at home and join the video conference instead.

2. Lack of awareness of your team’s people challenges

Your team has some major challenges with people- all teams do. Whether the challenges are within the team or elsewhere, it’s something that has the potential to suck up a lot of employee time and energy that could be better spent on adding value for your customers. If you’re blissfully unaware of it, it will only get worse, not better. Make sure you’re aware and on top of these challenges, and work with your team to improve their interactions.

3. Disconnect from the day-to-day work your teams do

Nobody expects the leader of a team to be able to jump in and complete any task that their team is accountable for- but they must be aware of the process to complete it. When leaders aren’t familiar with the processes their teams work through every day, they can’t effectively remove roadblocks and elevate the capabilities of their members. Make sure you’re fully in touch with how the work gets done on your team and where the time goes, and if you’re not, spend some time in the trenches to get connected.

4. Lack of awareness of political climates and local issues that affect your customers’ lives

This is not just related to national politics, but also local issues. If your customers or team members are dealing with political challenges in their local government, labor union, school system, or other organization that affects their lives, it will have an impact on their behaviour. If you’re disconnected from this, it will create the impression that you’re not in touch with the environment that you work it and affect your credibility.

5. Public criticism of other teams or leaders

Public criticism can have a huge impact and create unnecessary anxiety among your team members. Modern leaders praise their teams and others publicly, and save their criticism for a more targeted audience.

All these things can add up to an image that you’re not the best advocate for your team or your customers. You can avoid these things by spending time on your own development, having frequent one-on-one meetings with your team members, and engaging in social learning. More tips to come in a future article- in the meantime, keep learning and stay connected so that you’re always in-touch!

2018: Year in Review

2018 was a big year for me. I’m going to do a quick-hits bullet point list of my accomplishments in 2018, so I can reflect.

  • Worked with 5 wonderful high-achieving mentees to help them achieve their goals
  • Worked with a great mentor and a fantastic coach
  • Spoke at my first overseas conference
  • Analyzed, designed, developed and delivered several training programs, elearning courses and curricula
  • Took over as chair of the WWA Chapter of the Institute for Performance and Learning
    • We had 10 networking breakfasts
    • 4 pub nights
    • 1 full-day PD event
    • 1 half-day PD event
  • Got a promotion to team lead
  • Planned and ran 2 concurrent pre-conference training tracks for another conference
  • Hired three team members and contributed to the hiring process for several more
  • Progressed into a new manager-level role
  • Increased my income and doubled my freelance income
  • Increased my savings and retirement savings
  • Joined the Grand Philharmonic choir again and sang 7 concerts

2019 is shaping up to be a big year as well! I’m looking forward to it.

January 2018: Recap

So much has already gone on in 2018, I feel like I need to write it all down so I don’t forget.

  • Presented my team strategy at work to the CEO and got approval
  • Attended and presented at work Sales Kick-Off event
  • Team won 2nd place in the Dragon’s Den contest at said event
  • Took on a new mentoring project which has been going really well
  • Started a new courseware development project
  • Completed several Daily UI challenges
  • Got a talk accepted to a conference in the Netherlands
  • Transitioning into new role as Chair of the Waterloo, Wellington and Area chapter of the Institute for Performance and Learning
  • Started designing and developing the first of 4 key facilitated sessions that will become a key piece of my company’s new training program
  • Did a singing video for fun because someone asked and it was well received
  • Donated to the Humane Society
  • Joined YW Kitchener-Waterloo
  • Walked over 163k steps (so far, looking to increase this number in February!

And it’s not even fully over yet.

2017 Year in Review

2017 was a good year for me personally and professionally, and as always, I learned a lot! Here are some stats and highlights from my year for reflection and preparation as I look into 2018.

If I had to sum up 2017, I would say it was a big-deal year. It felt like the importance of everything I’ve been doing has been increasing, and I’ve been jumping into more and more interesting and complex challenges.

Travel:

I enjoyed several opportunities to travel this year, taking three big trips! I had a quick trip to Omaha in May, then I travelled to Ottawa with my whole family in July, and then in August, got to go to Belgium and Germany. I learn so much when I travel, and it was great to get to visit these three very different locations. Aside from that, I did a quick trip into Toronto for an industry conference (more on that below).

I love Belgium, particularly Brussels. I am so fascinated by government and policy, and the EU Parliament has both in abundance. Köln had amazing history to see in and around the Dom. We also flew in and out of London, and I was reminded again how much I love that city. All in all, another great trip to Europe (our 6th!)

Below:  Me with the Palace in Brussels (which I loved!), my son with the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa, and me with my best friend Summer and her daughter and her friend.

Work and Learning:

I did a lot of work with seven new-to-me or updated tools and platforms. These included:

I’d used some of these prior to 2017 but not to the degree I did this year. I got updated photos and did updates tomy website. I went to the Institute for Performance and Learning Conference (which I helped to program) and helped program 4 professional development events locally as well.

I completed a Marketing course on LinkedIn Learning (and have touched on a few more!) I checked out a few different MOOCs, and joined the xAPI cohort (though I haven’t started on a project yet). I started doing the DailyUI challenges, and haven’t looked back (I’m about a third of the way through, now, check out my posts here or on Twitter!).

I did high-level design and initial development for a two large learning programs with big audiences, some of which will be realized, some of which might not. I designed and developed three new eLearning courses, and updated many others. I took a new job with a fantastic co-worker and am jumping into bigger and better things there. I’m moving back into the world of customer experience and professional services, and it’s great to be getting back into doing what I love- helping people solve problems and do meaningful work using technology.

I re-certified as a CPLP and have sent in my recertification for my CTDP as well. It has been three years holding those credentials and the learning never stops! I’ll never have a problem hitting my numbers for PD hours

I’ve learned a ton about design, tech, and communication this year, which is fantastic.

Giving Back:

I made monetary donations to 12 different charities this year, along with ongoing volunteer work, fundraising, and a few blood donations (when I pass the hemoglobin screen). Giving back has become a bigger and bigger part of my life, continuing from the plans I started in 2016. While I may not be able to give as freely of my time as I once was able to, my monetary donations have increased to take up the slack.

Below: Economical Insurance Heart and Stroke Big Bike Team, I’m in the first row, second from the left!

Health and Wellness

I lost about 25 pounds this year, and really settled into my 3-times-a-week gym schedule. I’ve managed to make activity and health monitoring an easy part of my routine thanks to my Fitbit and my Aria scale. I got better at eating breakfast every day which seems to make a difference. My resting heart rate has been greatly improved over 2016 and I look forward to keeping things going in the right direction on all these fronts. Check out my weight graph below:

2017’s Thumbs Ups:

  1. This has been the year of fantastic coffee mugs. I had a great mug at work that made every day easier.
  2. I finally stopped being so lazy about my hair and now book regular hair appointments like a grownup. I found a cut that works and am sticking with it!
  3. I stopped answering the phone with “hello?” which has saved so much time in my life.

2017’s Thumbs Downs:

  1. I definitely did less reading books and more Facebooking than I would have liked.
  2. Still working on becoming more relaxed and even-keeled in general. Trying to balance excitement that keeps me engaged vs. excitement that makes me anxious is an ongoing effort.

More on 2018 goals in my next post.

Daily UI Design Challenges: Challenge 023

Challenge 023 was Onboarding.

Daily UI Design Challenges: Challenge 020

Challenge 020 was a location tracker.

Daily UI Design Challenges: Challenge 019

Challenge 019 was a Leaderboard.

Daily UI Design Challenges: Challenge 005

Today’s chaallenge was “App Icon“.

The hint was:

Design an app icon. What best represents the brand or product? Or is it incredibly unique? Does it look great at a distance and does it stand out when put on your home screen alongside other apps?  

I found this incredibly hard. The limited space and aspect ratio, and trying to think of something and make something that would communicate the purpose and still stand out on the home screen. I definitely didn’t succeed but it was a learning experience for sure.