The Hidden Key to L and D Success

Over the past several years, I’ve found that there is a hidden key to my success as a learning and development professional.

It’s not mastery of adult learning techniques (that’s a big, not-so-hidden key to success). It’s not mastery of the latest version of Adobe Captivate or incorporating the latest brain research into your instructional design or gamifying your next project – each of these are important design tools, but not necessarily hidden keys.

The hidden key that I’ve found is simply this: never eat lunch at your desk.

Lunch

It opens doors.

Door #1: Perspective. It’s easy for L&D professionals to fall into what I call “training snobbery”, losing sight of the fact that not everyone in the organization cares about adult learning principles and good slide design. One of the things I enjoy most about eating lunch with my (non L&D) colleagues is learning what they’re working on, what’s keeping them busy every day and maybe even where learning gaps exist. These conversations also help me better understand why they don’t (can’t) spend more time on their presentations.

Door #2: Relationships. It’s one thing to work with a group on a training project. Yes, I get to know the various project team members, but what I really care about are outcomes and delivering the project on time. It’s very easy to get frustrated with project team members who miss deadlines and to label them irresponsible slackers. When I have a chance to “break bread” with my colleagues and talk about life and family and what happened last weekend, I find our working relationship benefits. It’s a lot easier to be patient and find more productive ways to work through conflict.

Door #3: Physical Separation from Work. Even if I have no desire to be around anyone else at lunchtime, I find that taking a walk to a park and scarfing down my food provides a much-needed mental break from my projects. I often return to my desk after lunch with renewed energy and maybe even a bright idea or two that I wouldn’t have had if I was staring at my screen while trying not to drip the innards of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich on my keyboard.

Do you have any hidden keys to success as a L&D professional? Let’s hear about them in the comments section.

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