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25 things I’ve learned while leading training initiatives at the world’s largest eye bank

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Today is my penultimate day as the Director of Learning and Development at SightLife. Join me as I take a little stroll down memory lane and reflect on some lessons learned along the way.  

Among many other things, the past 5 years, 11 months and 10 days at SightLife have taught me:

  1. If you have a chance to work for the best organization in the world – in any industry – do it!
  2. The people around me make me better.
  3. This is usually true even when I don’t like what they have to say.
  4. Or when I don’t really like them.
  5. Sometimes you have to go too far. You might even have to take some heat for it.
  6. If you want people to adopt your crazy ideas, you need a champion within the organization (but outside of the L&D team).
  7. When you’re working in a small team of trainers (or if you’re a team of one), Twitter and blogging can open the door to a whole bunch of other (virtual) L&D voices.
  8. Not sure who to follow on Twitter? Here’s a list of 18 people that I’ve put together over the past several years.
  9. If you’re in a position to build out your own team, do not compromise on the quality of your people.
  10. Point #9 seems like a no-brainer, but in practice I’ve seen too many people compromise and it doesn’t end well.
  11. Flying from the west coast to the east coast (or vice versa) doesn’t give you jet lag.
  12. Flying from the west coast to India does.
  13. Hitting the gym as soon as you check into the hotel helps, even if it’s 4:30am.
  14. Speaking of hotels, if you’re going to Delhi, stay at the Hilton Garden Inn in Saket, they’ll treat you like you’re family.
  15. Kahoot makes staff meetings more interesting.
  16. Principles of adult learning and dialogue education transcend countries and cultures.
  17. Even if certain cultures or fields of study (like medicine) traditionally revolve around lecture-based teaching methods and didactic instruction, participants will still thrive if they’re asked to engage with the content and think critically through an activity.
  18. People like to play, regardless of whether they’re students in school, front line staff, senior executives or high powered uber-successful surgeons.
  19. If you’re in New Orleans and you’re invited by co-workers to hit Bourbon Street at 1:00am and you have a meeting at 7:30am, your answer should be “no thank you.”
  20. Sometimes you need to say, “Yeah, sure!” even when you should have said “no thank you,” because that’s what awesome memories are made of.
  21. Watching Jumanji during work hours isn’t goofing off or a waste of time. If it’s done right, it can be transformational.
  22. When you’re stuck in a car with co-workers for six hours (and the ride should only have taken three hours) and nobody falls asleep and nobody gets bored and the conversation doesn’t stop for even one minute, you know you’re working with some amazing people.
  23. Mr. Sketch markers are a natural icebreaker. Participants inevitably take the caps off the markers and sniff each one and compare their favorites.
  24. Elearning is a great way to scale training initiatives… if your audience has access to a computer, an Internet connection and understands how to use a computer… none of which you should assume to be true.
  25. If your co-workers don’t break out a laptop in the middle of the restaurant and play a round of Kahoot at your going-away Happy Hour, you obviously haven’t influenced them enough.

There you have it, some of the most essential lessons I’ve learned over the last six years. The next time you read a new blog post from me, it will be from my new perspective as co-founder and CEO of Endurance Learning. What kind of CEO would I be if I didn’t throw in a shameless plug? If you’d like to work with me in the near future, drop me a line!

Before signing off, I’d love to hear a landmark from your own memory lane; what’s been one of the most important lessons learned from your work and your current employer?

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Brian Washburn
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