Posted on: June 22, 2021
Author: Bradley Davis, IACET Individual Affiliate and Volunteer
Over the last eighteen months, every professional field — from healthcare to home care to CE/T — underwent substantial trials.
Many of us had children at home with us for hours on end, Zoom served as 2020’s hottest club (assuming their data privacy challenges didn’t get in your way), and Lysol wipes became the new-age currency, right next to hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Throw an ambient anxiety level that’s perpetually in crisis mode alongside a virus we just didn’t understand, and you have a cocktail for one of our society’s greatest challenges.
But in the field of workforce development, isn’t that our call? Across the globe, instructional designers, project managers (PMs), subject matter experts (SMEs), and curriculum aficionados define challenges at a scale that empowers the learner, taking the elephant in the room and turning it into a mouse. For those of us in CE/T, meeting our volunteers (and volunteer leaders) where they’re at, when they’re at it, became the principle rallying cry. In the height of winter, I made a commitment to both my team and myself, and I hope that you can share in our lessons learned as we continue through the crises of 2020 (and counting … ):
- Where and Whenever You Are. Over the last eighteen months, assumptions, expectations, and judgements have defined workforce development projects. Constructive criticisms became personal attacks, charged with expectations of how people should be acting. But in CE/T, we know that each learner is uniquely diverse, composed of learning preferences, diversities, and home-bound challenges that define a unique circumstance for everyone. With that in mind, our team viewed collective phone calls as a growth opportunity, allowing us to “meet” our SMEs, PMs, and contractors on their own terms. In turn, this helped us acknowledge their unique circumstances without compromising project details.
- Be Stronger, Together. In the early- to mid-90s, “emotional intelligence” reigned supreme as the secret sauce to better project management. Over the last 18 months, however, the rubber band of emotional intelligence has stretched to the brink of snapping. Building upon our emphasis of working alongside our collaborators (as opposed to holding them to unrealistic standards), we emphasized a culture of collegiality. Simply by starting Zoom meetings with, “How are you?” or “Is there anything we can do to help?”, we can build camaraderie with external parties whom haven’t interacted with your colleagues during high-stress situations. By emphasizing the collective synergies of everyone on the call, you can not only ensure that everyone has a seat at the table, but the table is supported by the collective strength of the community.
- Don’t Let “Perfect” Break Your Best. As we all know, “perfection” is the slippery slope of the 21st century. How many projects, ideas, or enhancements have fallen off the radar because they, “could be better.” Rather than constantly looking for the singular, future-focused solution, our team adopted the moniker that valuable content is valuable through its challenges; the more that a learner interacted or reflected on the content, the greater their personal connection with the conversation became. As an added bonus, those who felt particularly engaged -- positive or negative -- oftentimes reached out, giving our team access to a wider array of talent, expertise, and energy. Considering that most projects are iterative, continuously growing and changing to meet the future need, you can capture market interest in the present while committing to growing the initiative over the long run.
- Manage Your Resources. Innovation requires adjustment, and as the various simultaneous crises of the last year continue to impact our society, it’s important for CE/T leaders to acknowledge their capacity and capability at any given moment. When we think “resources,” we tend to think strictly in terms of human capacity and financial capital. As you grow, pivot, and adapt, don’t forget that relationships and reliability (the merged attribute of wellness, holistic vision, and active-listening charged presence) are key elements of growth. Summed up as the “Four Rs” (Resource, Revenue, Reliability, and Relationship), our team found strength in the ability to be the keystone to volunteer success, building upon these lessons to develop a stronger future way forward.
Now, with the light at the end of the tunnel getting brighter with every passing day, we find ourselves pivoting once again to hybrid approaches, building lessons and modules face-to-face alongside learners and leaders while “phoning in” our friends across the world. Still, few lessons learned have brought the impact of facilitating the silence, understanding the value of mere presence alongside the privilege of direct, intentional collaboration.
About the Author
Bradley A. Davis is the current Manager for Education and Online Learning at the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM). An intentional project manager and cross-functional collaborator, he has worked over the last decade in the non-profit association space, bringing innovation and intentional data and content strategy to shape organizations supporting Military History, Government Service, Education, and Cross-Enterprise Healthcare spaces. His leadership philosophy — emphasizing meeting SMEs, contractors, staff, clients, members, and prospective personas where they are, wherever they are — has ensured strong connections across his various work environments, promoting life-long value throughout constituent’s tenure with his various employers. In his down time, Bradley enjoys reading, cooking, and wine tasting in Northern Virginia alongside his partner, in addition to supporting a variety of non-profit organizations as a recurring volunteer.
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