A year or so ago, my friend and colleague, Kassy LaBorie, invited me to join a group of fellow trainers and training designers for their monthly, virtual chit chats. Over the past year, as part of this group, I’ve met an incredible group of people, passionate about their craft and always willing to lend a helping hand.
Some of us work in larger training teams, some of us are “teams of one”, but we all need support, advice and a helping hand from time to time. In today’s podcast, I brought in some different voices from our monthly, virtual training group to share what they find valuable about our meet-ups, and what you might want to consider if you’re thinking of pulling a group of people together.
Brian Washburn: Welcome, everyone, to another episode of Train Like You Listen, a weekly podcast about all things learning and development in bite-sized chunks. I’m Brian Washburn, I’m your host. I’m also the Co-founder of a company called Endurance Learning. And today’s podcast will focus on the benefits of finding a group you can nerd out with when you want to talk about training stuff. And I am joined by four industry friends who we’ll meet in just a second.
But before we get to that, I do need to let you know that today’s podcast is brought to you by Soapbox, which is an online tool that you can use for about 5 or 10 minutes, and you can take care of about 50 or 60% of the work when it comes to developing a live, instructor-led training. You basically tell the computer how long your presentation is, how many people will attend, whether it’s in-person or virtual, what your learning objectives are, and Soapbox instantly generates a training plan for you with clusters or training activities designed for you to help accomplish your learning objectives. If you want more information about that, go visit www.soapboxify.com.
Brian Washburn: Now, before we get into the questions, I need to introduce each of our guests today. So why don’t we just go around? And if you could just kind of share your name, your role, how long you’ve been doing training, that would be a good way for our audience to get to know who you are. Why don’t we start with Jeray?
Jeray Lenihan: Sure. Hey, everyone, Jeray Lenihan. I am at CVS Health. I work in our compliance and regulatory. I’m a Learning Advisor. I’ve been in the L&D space for 13 years, and I’ve been at CVS Health the whole time. So, I’m a lifer, I think, but I love it. And I can work from home with my puppies, which is fantastic.
Brian Washburn: Awesome. Why don’t we go to Rebecca?
Rebecca Kaloo: Yeah. Hi, thanks for that, Brian. I’m Rebecca Kaloo. I run a company called Borough Learning, and I would say that I focus around that management learning space, particularly around finance, leadership and strategy. I’ve probably been doing it for about 20-plus years. I don’t like to admit to it too much – how long it’s been. And, increasingly, I’m more in the virtual space than I am at doing kind of face-to-face work.
Brian Washburn: Awesome, thank you, Rebecca. How about Kassy?
Kassy LaBorie: Hi, Brian, it’s so good to be here and to be on a podcast with you again. My name is Kassy LaBorie, and I am the Principal in my own business called Kassy LaBorie Consulting, where I help develop trainers and designers to be virtual. So I’ve been doing virtual training for the last 20 plus years, and I run Train the Trainer, Train the Designer, and also Train the Producer certification program for people all around the globe.
Brian Washburn: Awesome. Welcome back. And then why don’t we go to Dean?
Dean Griess: All right. Thank you, Brian. So I’m Dean Griess and similar to Rebecca, I’ve been in the learning industry for the better part of two decades now – worked in a variety of different companies from in-person facilitation of all different types and so forth, and primarily been focused on the latter part of my career in the learning leadership space. I’m in the process of wrapping up, actually, one role before I start a new role with a new company here in the next couple of weeks. So certainly a fun journey to work with new teams and, unfortunately, sad to sunset others as well. But excited to be here. Thank you, Brian.
Brian Washburn: Yeah, thanks for joining. And thank you everyone for giving me a little time and letting me record today’s meetup because we do this on a monthly basis. And it’s not just the five of us, there are a few other people who are missing today who couldn’t make it. But we also meet up with them and if we were to combine– I was just doing quick math – if we were to combine the L&D experience of just the group of five of us, there’s over a hundred years of L&D experience. And so to you, dear listener, listen up because there’s some wisdom to be shared today. (CHUCKLES)
What Was the Motivation to Put Together this L&D Support Group?
But before we get into that wisdom, I want to get into– and I’ll kind of look at Kassy and Dean to start this because I’m a relative newcomer to this group. I’ve been kind of checking in with this group maybe for the last year or so. You know, what motivated you, Kassy and Dean, to pull together a seemingly random collection of L&D professionals for these monthly– and we call it the Master Facilitator Conversations?
Kassy LaBorie: Well, interestingly, it’s connected to that 100 years that you just mentioned, Brian. (LAUGHS) I was presenting at conferences– actually, one of the virtual ones in like I think around June of 2020- and Dean had attended that. And there were, you know– we had open Q&A, and we started having a lot of conversations throughout that process, and one thing led to another, Dean and I ended up connecting. And just the way that he was asking questions and the things that he was interested in, it occurred to us both that we’ve been in this industry for hundreds of years. And we were interested in networking with other people who have that level of experience.
And initially, Dean and I were looking at specifically the job role or the task of the master facilitator idea where what we primarily did was to develop other people to do training. And so what about those people and what are those techniques? It’s one thing to do training, but you’re not the trainer doing the training. You’re the trainer doing the training of the trainers, and that’s the thing. And so that’s where that started, but it didn’t morph beyond that to some other things. And that’s how we ended up getting a few more people that do more than that in our group. And I’m going to let Dean add on to that.
Dean Griess: It’s funny. I don’t know how much additional I can add, but what prompted my series of questions to Kassy is I nerd out when it comes to watching amazing facilitators do what they do best. And so– and I’ve connected with a number of different people within the industry for that exact reason. When I see them presenting content or facilitating a session, it is so cool to see the magic happen. Because, if you’ve been in the profession long enough, you can tell somebody that’s kind of faking it or trying to, you know, pretend if you will, versus somebody that they just have it.
And then when I sat down and when I attended Kassy’s session at ATD, I was like, “She gets it. She is absolutely in that space.” I was like, “I have to connect with Kassy because I think just how she presents she and I would probably get along quite well in regards to how we view a facilitation, whether it’s virtual or in-person.” And within like a two-second correspondence, I’m like, “Cool, I was totally right because Kassy’s absolutely phenomenal.” If you ever get a chance to watch Kassy, please do. She’s wonderful. So that is what prompted our connection point was truly just that love and interest in watching very gifted presenters and facilitators do their work.
What Can Happen When You Start Having Conversations
Brian Washburn: I love that story because it really goes to show what happens when you just start talking to people, right? So I have had so many occasions when I did a presentation, or just through LinkedIn, somebody reached out to me, and we struck up a conversation. And suddenly– and I think Dean used this phrase, the magic happens. It really is amazing what can– maybe, you know, when you talk to somebody, it’s going to be a 15-minute conversation and it’ll be a really cool 15-minute conversation. Sometimes there’s other things that come out of it.
For me– and I really feel fortunate to have been invited to be part of this group. You know, there’s something that happens every month and I get a takeaway. I know that one time we said, “Oh, why doesn’t everybody just kind of bring a training challenge to them or a real-life work challenge that they’re having?” And I happen to be at that point. I’d been asked to write a chapter in a book and I kind of got stuck. I wasn’t quite sure where to take that chapter. And so I presented my outline to this group and I got so many questions from the group about, “Oh, have you thought about this? Or have you thought about this?” And so many suggestions that the chapter of that book was so much better as a result of just kind of throwing it out to this group, throwing it out to a group of like-minded people.
How about– and I’d love to hear from everybody else in this group- we take an hour of our time to come together and talk about training stuff. For each of you, what’s so valuable about this group that you put other things on pause to connect for an hour?
What is the Value of Having a Support Group?
Jeray Lenihan: I think for me, it’s going past what you can get in books, right? And articles. I can read ATD all day long. I could, you know, be book smart for sure. But until I have like-minded folks and Kassy to inspire me to go help other facilitators at my company to say, “Hey, Jeray, you can do it. People want to grow, so give them what you have.” I’m like, “Oh, that’s a great idea!” And then– so she inspired me to do that, then invited me to the group. And now like articles are great, but it’s just like a nugget. And then if I have questions, I can bring it back to all of you, and then you just kind of give me that like thing that will help it grow because sometimes it just festers in my head a little bit.
Rebecca Kaloo: Yeah, can I build on what Jeray’s just said?
Brian Washburn: Yeah, please.
Rebecca Kaloo: Funny enough, one of my colleagues, I met her for coffee the other day. It was the first time– I’ve been working with her for a couple of years virtually- but it’s the first time that I met her. She’s relatively new in the L&D space, and she asked the question, “What do you do to keep yourself up to date?” And obviously, I kind of said a lot of things that Jeray has said about “well here’s some ways you can get some great articles, and here’s some really interesting resources.” And then I said, “But you know what I really do is I’ve got this group that I meet with once a month. And actually, that’s where I can really hear everything that everybody else is doing. All of the stuff that they’ve got going on, just the kind of ideas that they’re picking up as well.” So it’s this kind of big network that you tap into, all the ideas that everybody’s got. And then also the kind of issues that people bring to it, right? So the same way, Brian, you had your issues with the book, I find it’s been really, really helpful if there’s something I’m thinking, “I don’t really maybe know what the way forward with this is” – that you’re able to just kind of pitch it to the group and then everybody kind of gives you that, you know– and it’s straight up, right? Nobody kind of soft soaks it anybody else (CHUCKLES). They just kind of go in there with all the kind of really good questions that you want. So, the feedback is awesome that you get from this group as well.
Brian Washburn: With over a hundred years of experience, right? That’s the other cool thing is that it’s feedback, but it’s not this kind of feedback running it by just people. It’s running it by people who have been there, it’s really cool. Kassy or Dean, do you have anything to add to this?
Kassy LaBorie: Yeah, actually I was just listening, you know, when Dean said about the magic, it’s like, I wanted to be surrounded by the magic. How much of that can I get around me? And then how do we learn from that and be a part of that? And what ended up happening is we gathered the group. At first, it’s like just, “Let’s be magical together.” And then, you know, we start to form relationships as we’ve done. And then we decided how do we help one another? And what are we doing? And you guys can remember the first time we had meetings, it was like, “What’s our purpose? Are we inviting others?” And we kept saying, “Um, maybe.” And then let’s figure out our purpose and then things just kind of kept happening. And I think, Brian, you started that when you said, “Can you guys help me with this?” And we realized how powerful that was. And we started saying, “Okay, how can we help one another? And let’s be strategic about how we’re going to assist one another.” And we started actively taking turns and assigning who was going to get help next. And I think we’ve grown in that way too, and it’s this really sort of solid way that we get together that does keep us coming back. And I know that I value it very much and look forward to it each month too. Very much.
Brian Washburn: I’m the same. Go ahead, Dean.
Dean Griess: Oh, I was just going to add onto what Kassy had just mentioned because just having a chance to hear that you’re not alone if you’re struggling through something in particular, especially within the learning industry. Because it is a fairly– it’s a big field- but it’s still fairly narrow because a lot of people don’t get it all the time or they just think, “Oh, you just stand in front of a group and you just present material.” Then they don’t get it until they actually peek behind the curtain or realize “Wow, that’s hard to do!” Yeah, it truly is. And so getting a chance just to get together in a setting like this, especially with like-minded folks. I’m a big proponent– I forget where it came from but they always say, you know, “You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with.” And I would equate a group like this very similarly because there’s a lot of folks that in this– well, I can’t say this entire group- but just getting a chance to have folks that get together and have similar problems to solve for is quite inspiring because then you hear different perspectives and you think, “Oh, that’s a great idea.”
I mean, one of our other members, Christina, I remember scheduling time with her because she had mentioned how they were measuring training within her organization. And she and I met offline, and she kind of gave me a walkthrough and it really launched a lot of ideas that I took with the teams that I work with and so forth. So just some of those types of things make a world of difference.
And selfishly going back to what Kassy never mentioned just a moment ago, you can also see it in the meetings when people are very gifted at their skillset because it’s very transferable and it always shows up that way. We’ve seen it with Rebecca and Jeray. Brian, yourself, as you’ve talked through this, that presence is still there. And I even take away just watching during these meetings how folks show up and how they engage, even in this virtual format. We’re spaced all over the country and even across the pond. So it is very, very inspiring, and there’s so many nuggets that can be gleaned from it.
Brian Washburn: I love it. And I was gonna mention that, you know, there’s groups out there, right? So for people who are looking for, kind of, their own training tribe or whatever it might be. You know, there’s local ATD Chapters or interest groups within those ATD Chapters. There’s other ways that you can kind of connect. And for us, geography isn’t a consideration, right? So we have Rebecca in the UK. We have Kassy in the awesome city of Rochester, New York. We have Jeray in Arizona, Dean you’re in Colorado. I’m in Seattle. And we have other people from the group too, who are– so you know this is kind of a Zoom thing.
For people who are listening who are like, “I haven’t quite found the right group. I think this is really cool with what we have done here. How would I bring a group like this together? How do I make sure that they’re the right people?” I think that the last question I’ll throw out to this group is: for people who are listening and who want to put something like this together, I would say that one of the keys to a group like this being successful is finding the right people. What advice might you have to help people make sure they’re bringing the right people together so the conversations are productive?
Advice for Bringing the Right People Together for a Support Group
Dean Griess: Brian, I’ll start first on this one really quickly. And this was a stretch for me because even though for me personally, people– I make their brains hurt when I tell them “I’m a natural introvert, but I do an extroverted job.” They’re like, “No way. You’re not an introvert.” I’m like, “I promise you. I am.”
However, the biggest launching point is reaching out. That’s exactly what I did to Kassy – she had no clue who I was, but I just said, “Oh,”– and I just sent her a note to say, “Absolutely loved your presentation. It was so cool.” And I just kind of walked through these different things that I really took away and that’s all it took and it was just a spark. And then thankfully, Kassy just built on it. After that, it’s like, “Ooh, I know somebody else! Oh, I know somebody else!” And then it started to continue to grow because we were finding those like-minded folks. But in some cases, it has to start somewhere, and it’s just reaching out to somebody that you admire or you really like their craft. That can be a great launching point.
Kassy LaBorie: You just never know what’s going to happen. It’s like, who do you want to hang out with? You know, who you want to learn from and why? And I think I belong to a number of networking groups and I, you know, have different experiences at each of them. Some of them online, like you mentioned, Brian, some of them in-person. And you know, sometimes even though you may join a local group with common interests, you may still not connect with the people there in the way that you want to.
So I think really paying attention. Who do you find yourself following on the different social sites that you’re on? Who do you find yourself tuning into on different podcasts? And also who have you been inspired by or impressed with in just whatever way? Because we’re all just normal people out there. Flattery went a long way with Dean, as you can see. So just saying, “Hey, you’re cool. I want to hang out with you.” CHUCKLES It’s not what Dean said actually because I was like, “Hey, do you want to hang out?” After he said that. (CHUCKLES)
Dean Griess: It was pretty close. It was like, “Oh my God, you’re amazing. Can we be friends?” And luckily, Kassy said “okay”. (CHUCKLES)
Kassy LaBorie: It goes both ways, man.
Brian Washburn: Rebecca were you going to? Yeah, go ahead.
Rebecca Kaloo: I was just going to say I had a pretty similar experience as well because one of the other guys that’s in the group, Nick, I think he had met you Kassy and then we were chatting. So he was sort of my go-to person to bounce ideas off before this group. And we were chatting and basically, you know, we’d always stop being focused on work and then we’d end up just talking, geeking out talking training basically, right.? And he said, “You know what? I’ve met somebody that I really think you need to meet.” And so that was kind of my intro as well to this group as well. It’s just that idea.
But it also made me think when you were talking, Brian, that one of the other things that I think is really great about this group and really kind of helpful to think about is that we probably had a pretty clear idea I think from early on about the importance of people having that experience because that was kind of really what we were all tapping into. But one of the things for me that’s brilliant is that people are coming from really different roles as well. So we’re kind of narrow in terms of that experience, but we really broad in terms of whether people are kind of working within businesses or whether they’re working kind of in an external role and so on. And kind of the range of different kind of focuses as well that we’ve all got too. So, that’s been amazing for me as well.
Brian Washburn: I’m glad that you said that. I was thinking the exact same thing – is that we all have different roles, we’re in different industries. Some of us are, you know, kind of working for our own companies, others work for larger companies that we’re a part of. I think that all of that stuff really helps to make this a little bit more magical than, kind of, being with a group that where everyone’s kind of coming from similar backgrounds. Jeray, do you have any thoughts on this?
Jeray Lenihan: Yeah, no, I like what you said, Brian, Rebecca. Of course, variety, I mean, we definitely bring some of that. And when Kassy asked me, I was like, “Oh, this is interesting. I guess I never really thought of it.” And I kind of just work in my own little corner here at CVS and haven’t really thought about branching out. And now look, I have all these friends in this group and I think, you know, one of the things that I like that we do is we bring agenda items. So it gives you time to put some thought around – you’re not on the spot. There is a point, whether– I mean, you can add, even if you have no experience – like if it’s about how you get out and market. I don’t really get out and market, but I love to hear how it’s done because if I want to change in a career, you know, we have like a huge group of brain nerds right here to learn from that. So, yeah. Oh yeah, for sure. Dean just put “passion for topics”. Yeah, this group for sure. So, I would say those are all really good things to have when you build a group like this.
Dean Griess: And Brian, if you don’t mind, I wanted to add one really quick item that I think was a beautiful by-product of our particular group is not only do we learn from each other, but I have been able to value and take advantage of– Brian came in and worked with my team. He came in and shared some insights based off of his What’s Your Formula? book, which was awesome – went over super well. People raved about it. Kassy also had her book about virtual producing – that went over very well. And so just some of those connection points makes a world of difference.
I mention that specifically because, like we said, find the people that are like-minded, but just tread lightly. Because I don’t view Kassy and Brian, since they run their own companies, as they’re going to come in and try to push their products on these other people. My opinion – you don’t want those folks as part of your group. It just happened to be a by-product because, through these conversations, I immediately made that connection to say, “Brian, what you are talking about will resonate tremendously with my team. Would you mind if we made that connection?” Same thing with Kassy. So– Kass, I know you mentioned earlier about the ATD Chapters and so forth. I’ve been to those and those are always kind of tough for me at times because people are either there networking to try to get a job and/or pushing their products. And so having a group like this to me is much more beneficial versus people showing up with an agenda. Not just agenda items like we talked about, but with their hidden agenda of what they’re trying to get out of it versus what they are giving to the group. And that’s what I love about this group.
Kassy LaBorie: Yeah. It’s not, like we said, “Let’s create a networking group, Dean.” It’s like we said, “Let’s create a group of people who like to nerd out and just talk about this because we want to talk about it.” Oh yeah, we happened to have jobs, and oh yeah, we happen to have things we have to do. But really we just want to talk about L&D and nerd out on it. It’s like a prereq. (CHUCKLES)
Dean Griess: Exactly.
What Can You Bring to a Group vs. What You can Get Out of a Group
Brian Washburn: Jeray just put into the chat “giving.” And I think that is one thing– so again, when you think about being intentional of who to include in a group like this, I think this idea of giving, it’s almost like the first– and I don’t know how you test for that or measure that or kind of figure out who really is. Kassy and Dean you’ve pulled people together who I think have an abundance mindset and have this idea of give first – what can I offer in terms of value to the group and the conversation? How it can be enriched versus what can I get out of the group, which is really cool.
Well, I think that we could take this conversation for a long time. But unfortunately, our listeners have only a limited amount of time they can listen to us, so we’re going to end it right there.
Thank you, Jeray, Rebecca, Kassy, and Dean for joining me and just having this conversation about this and being able to share this with other people. And who knows? Maybe somebody else will be inspired to put together a group like this, and they’ll do great things as well.
Thank you everyone for listening to this particular podcast. If you know someone who might find today’s topic on Training Support Groups to be important, please go ahead and pass along the link to this podcast. Please subscribe at Apple, Spotify, wherever you get your podcasts. Better would be if you could give us a like or a review. It’ll only take you a minute, but it would mean a lot to us at Endurance Learning. If you’re interested in learning more about a broad range of learning and development topics, you can pick up a copy of What’s Your Formula? Combine Learning Elements For Impactful Training at www.amazon.com. And until next time, happy training everyone.
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