Personal Learning Networks 101 (#PLN)

What?

A #PLN is a group, real or virtual, of people with a common interest sharing ideas, findings, theorising, challenging and the like resulting in personal development. The #PLN you create around yourself will guide and steer your future personal development, and in turn you may contribute to the #PLN of others.

Why?

With the exponential growth in new technology, innovation, disruption in societies worldwide at the moment it doesn’t matter what industry you belong to or see yourself as a part of, the need to continually grow and develop has never been stronger. To keep ahead of the game, creating a #PLN will ensure you never stop learning.

Who?

Find the thought leaders in your chosen field of interest. Search them out, get opinions from others, follow their progress and validate who they are and what they stand for. Find those that align with your thinking, and are in line with the future direction you want to take.

Where?

Social Media is a near one stop shop. The obvious ones being twitter, facebook , google+ and LinkedIn. For more specialised areas of interest you may need to look a little further online, but there’s something for everyone.

Blogs are another great source of learning. Find people who’s thinking aligns with yours, then check out who’s liking and following their posts as there’s a high probability they’ll be like minded.

Looking further than social media and the comfort of your couch, MeetUps are a fantastic way to meet people in real life (#IRL) with similar interests to yourself. Head to www.meetup.com as a starting point.

How?

From a social media perspective, join groups, participate in conversations, follow hashtags. Get involved! And don’t be afraid to have a different viewpoint or question something as this often sparks debate, resulting in more learning for all. When you find someone you really connect with – check out who else they’re connected with as a great source of people to begin expanding your network.

In real life, be bold and be brave. Introduce yourself. Make the first move, not everyone is a natural networker, so most people will be grateful when you initiate the conversation, and remember you have a natural opener as you’re all there for your shared interest.

My #PLN

Next steps for me are to compile a snapshot of my #PLN centred around the People Professions…HR, People, Culture & Performance, Learning, Development , Recruitment and the like – so watch this space is that’s also up your alley!

#WellnessWarrior

The hash tag in the headline is used across social media for those on a health kick and endorsing a healthy way of living, but it’s also used for those living with chronic illness or disease. The number of New Zealanders living with chronic illness is scarily high and on the rise according to figures from the Ministry of Health New Zealand Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors Study, 2006–2016, and I feel certain NZ won’t be alone in this phenomenon. Those who I do think could be feeling very alone are those dealing with chronic illness at work. Be it physical or mental, these are illness’ no one else can see, often described as invisible illnesses and being chronic, won’t be just a one off occurrence.

There is much written on this topic on line and in papers & magazines from the individual perspectives of those dealing with these situations; they describe  reactions from others towards them and their situations as ranging from disdain to disbelief and vague understanding to sincere sympathy. But even given how much information is out there and being written to raise awareness and understanding I think more often than not they simply exist without any acknowledgement. Most people living with chronic illness, especially those that can’t be seen prefer to do so in private for a whole host of reasons. They don’t want to be judged. They don’t want pity. They want to be able to join in conversations on normal topics without their viewpoints being taken the wrong way. And most of all they want to appear normal. Chronic illness or disease is often multifaceted, so not only will it recur, but there are so many moving parts to it in some cases that people feel unable or unwilling to explain the extent of their illness, using an umbrella approach or describing one part of the issue/s if at all.

So what can be done to help those living day in day out with chronic illness or disease? First and foremost as with everything in life be mindful; treat others as you would have them treat you, if you haven’t got anything positive to say don’t say anything at all and all those other wonderful mottos to live by our parents gave us. Just be aware that we don’t always know what other people are dealing with. And should they choose to confide in you be understanding, be sympathetic but don’t be patronising. And try to avoid offering helpful advice if you haven’t got any first-hand experience on what they’re going through. Suggesting trying yoga to someone in chronic pain or sympathising with how tired you are too to someone which chronic fatigue won’t help and are things they’ve probably heard a million times before. Instead ask them what, if anything, can be done to help them during the bad times, encourage them to let you know when they’re having particularly hard times so at the very least they’re not going through it alone.

There are many things that can be done in the workplace to help ease these situations, make the circumstances more manageable for people and to provide support. Many firms offer the likes of flexi working arrangements where days and hours of work can be negotiated; others offer on-site occupational health and safety in the form of nurses and or wellness advisors. Employee Assistance programmes can be useful too; both for those dealing with mental and physical illness as both can be a burden and talking it through with a professional can be immensely helpful. Above all creating a diverse and inclusive workplace culture will go a long way to making people feel they can be honest about these situations in the workplace. In today’s fast paced, technology driven, innovative, ever changing world many would feel it a sign of weakness to admit to and be honest about an illness, so it’s important we all work to create environments where this is ok.

As individuals I think if we all took just five minutes to Google a couple of hash tags we would learn a whole lot about living and working with chronic illness, and that in turn would bring more awareness in general. Hopefully that would also bring about more conversation and create more accepting and inclusive workplaces whereby people feel they can bring their whole selves to work. Therein lays my challenge to you: three hash tags, one minute for each on your choice of social media…#chronicillness #spoonie #invisibleillness to increase your own awareness.

Another Google search quickly unveiled a number of support groups, both in real life and via social media for an immense range of chronic illnesses. Ensure if someone does come to you or let you know they are dealing with something that you take it and them seriously and that you respect them coming to you. They may or may not know what other support is available out there, so help them explore the options available to them.

Be well!

Book Review: THE HUMAN WORKPLACE; People, Community, Technology. Amanda Sterling.

The culmination of a weekly tweet chat into a tangible resource for future learning is a credit to Amanda, her dedication and hard work in pulling it together  is exceptional and that’s not to mention the incredible breadth and depth of the international community she’s built up in the process. But back to the book. When Amanda first mentioned she was curating, compiling, writing and researching to pull together two years’ worth of the #NZLead chats into a book, I have to admit part of me thought she was mad (afterall she was originally planning to write as part of NaNoWriMo, which just seemed too huge), but another, larger part of me respected and admired her for it.

These tweet chats are real. They’re on-going, they get messy and way off track at times. There are some incredible lightbulb moments, a massive amount of learning, sharing of ideas and likeminded attitudes. But there are also challenges, at times debate and through all of this courtesy, camaraderie in many ways and a common desire to see a better world of work. Amanda has sewn all of this into her book. Using the real language of the tweet chats, and explaining the jargon, new concepts and the like in a manner that will ensure those inside and outside of people related roles will have no problem in following through the themes of the book. It’s as real as being in the conversation, yet structured in such a way as to lead the reader on a journey.

Overarching themes for me in the book are Culture, Collaboration, Leadership, Authenticity and Technology; all being at the essence of any “humane workplace”. And here are some quotes from the book that particularly resonated with me on these constructs:

“Leadership is not a one off event, a package or a methodology”

“Keeping people involves good old challenging, meaningful work, and a positive culture”

“Organisational Culture can become the most powerful piece in your recruitment arsenal”

“The kinds of organisations we need to create have to reflect the technology itself: open, collaborative, inclusive and connected”.

This book is a must read for anyone in the people professions; HR, OD, L&D, Recruitment and the like. In particular, those looking to develop and grow these roles into the future. You may be challenged, you may be nodding your head in agreement, you may encounter new ideas and concepts. And best of all if you’re not already involved you may feel encouraged to contribute to the #NZLead community now and into the future, for here is an on-going, evolving conversation for the better of future workplaces. And I use the term conversation loosely – as it’s my hope it’s more than that, not just a conversation but an action.

If there’s one takeaway I could possibly give you from the book and everything #NZLead has taught me it’s “Get Social”. For professional development, networking, conversations, collaboration, support, practices and learning, be brave, get out there – if you haven’t already you’ll be amazed at what’s waiting for you. If you’ve dipped in and skirted the edges, get involved; you won’t regret it. Search. Sort. Share.

To quote the book again “Information is no longer power: now it’s about networked intelligence” think on this for a moment in terms of my takeaway themes in the book: Culture, Collaboration, Authenticity, Leadership and Technology, then keeping these in mind, I leave you with this final thought “ The new workforce is a community, not a corporation”.

The Humane Workplace can be purchased here.