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Always take the conversation

two people talking

At the beginning of the month, Betty Dannewitz released a podcast that we had an opportunity to record together and in which we talked about the importance of reaching out (from her end) and always taking the conversation (from my end).

ifyouaskbetty

It was a fun conversation and if you have a bit of time, I’d love for you to give it a listen and let us know what you think.

I really enjoyed the opportunity to take part in this conversation because it got me reflecting on the importance of two things:

  1. Not being too shy to reach out, and
  2. Not being too busy to take the conversation.

As L&D professionals, constantly learning and finding new sources of inspiration should be in our DNA.

On not being too shy to reach out…

There are a lot of smart, inspirational, knowledgeable, experienced people in our field. Sometimes we have the good fortune of listening to them at a conference. Sometimes we even have the good fortune of someone offering to introduce us to them.

Sometimes we’re on our own, pining for new knowledge or to pick someone’s brain for a bit, yet not quite knowing how. Or perhaps we do know how, we’re just too shy to actually do it, because the “how” involves putting ourselves out there. You know the place. That place of vulnerability, where we can end up red-faced with embarrassment because we asked someone for a few minutes and they said: no.

Of course, “no” is about as bad as it could get. And so what, what if you ask someone for a conversation and they say “no”? You’ll never see them again.

But what if they say “yes”?

Being willing to hop onto LinkedIn or Twitter to find someone in our industry – perhaps it’s someone you’ve heard speak at a conference, perhaps it’s an author of a book that you were able to learn a lot from – is a way to network and learn more through one-on-one interaction.

A bunch of years ago I had the opportunity to sit down with Bob Pike at an ATD conference and pick his brain and it was one of the most memorable and inspirational interactions in my entire life.

I’ve reached out to an editor at TD magazine and had an opportunity to get published. I’ve reached out to fellow bloggers to bounce ideas around and nerd out on training. I’ve reached out to some of my favorite L&D folks on Twitter and created conference proposals before we’d ever met in person.

Don’t be too shy to reach out, because what if they say “yes”?

On not being too busy to take the conversation…

In this Age of COVID-19, it’s certainly more difficult to grab coffee with someone, but Zoom (or Skype or whatever) is a reasonable platform to continue to meet face-to-face.

Perhaps you work in a job where you’re inundated with work. Lucky you, that’s job security!

Personally, I’ve never had a job where I was too busy for an entire month not to make time to meet with someone who’s reached out for me. I confess, sometimes it’s a true pain to make time to squeeze in a coffee, especially when I know it won’t lead to new business.

Or will it?

The truth is, who knows where a conversation can lead. While someone else – perhaps someone more junior, perhaps someone simply looking to network and connect with kindred L&D spirits – has reached out to request 30 minutes of conversation. It can be tricky to try to fit it into a packed schedule.

And.

I’ve never regretted taking the conversation.

Inevitably I’ll have a chance to listen to someone else’s journey, usually a journey that accidentally led someone to falling into an instructional design or training role. I’ll also have a chance to share my journey and the projects I’m working on and at the very least, I walk away feeling energized and refreshed, having had a moment to remember why I got into this line of work in the first place.

One of these conversations led to one of my company’s biggest clients. Other conversations have led to work several years down the road – an unexpected message via LinkedIn requesting a proposal for a project. Other conversations have led to conference proposals or podcast interviews. Some just led me to re-think how I do things or have helped inspired me with new and fresh ideas.

In short, we should all have 30 minutes from time to time. Will we get more by checking Facebook, or by taking that conversation and seeing where it could lead?

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