Establishing a Habit of Learning

In 5 Steps

Establishing a Habit of Learning

5 Ideas for Supporting Employee Learning

to Empower Your Learners

5 Ideas for Supporting Employee Learning

6 Ways to Learn When Your Interests Are Always Changing

6 Ways to Learn When Your Interests Are Always Changing

When we decided to grow Degreed LENS from an after-work happy hour to a full-day event, we weren’t exactly sure how things would shake up. But in true Degreed fashion, we said “go big or go home” at the top of our lungs, and put together a two-day extravaganza featuring a client summit and a day-long innovators conference.

We chose the theme: The Business of Building Skills, because if learning organizations want to be seen as a contributor to the business, we have to start talking and acting like it. So each session paired an L&D leader with a business unit exec like finance, innovation, strategy and even a couple company Presidents and Partners.

In a glimpse, we had:

  • Attendees from 35 states and 12 countries
  • 13 sessions with 26 speakers (50% of which were female!)
  • 361 attendees
  • 199 clients
  • 15+ industries represented
  • 400 Expertise Economy books signed
  • 7 sponsors
  • More laughs from Dan Lyons’ session than anyone could count (seriously, we tried!)

We don’t mean to brag, but there were truly too many highlights to capture. So we picked our five favorite ideas.

  1. Answers from a company President: The correct answer to ‘why should I upskill my workforce if they will end up leaving?’ is ‘because they will leave sooner if you don’t.’
  2. Advice from a CFO: When you think about asking for funding for a program, it’s immensely helpful to frame it as how that program or platform is going to contribute to the overall business goals for the future.
  3. Suggestions from a Head of Corporate Talent & Strategy: Employees are an asset even though they aren’t represented that way on a balance sheet. That’s means skills are a currency we need to support.
  4. A challenge from a Partner: We don’t need to invest in expensive strategies – they will change in 3-6 months. We need to invest in talent that is agile and can refresh itself to adapt which means you can’t have a business strategy if you don’t have a talent strategy.
  5. A new framework from an Executive Chairman: There isn’t a standard metric for measuring skills even though that is a top question for CEO’s today. So Degreed created a measurement suite including the new Skill Review. With it, organizations can benchmark employee skills, signal their expertise inside the company and see how people are progressing over time as they prepare for their next role.

If you were there, we thank you. If you weren’t, you are likely suffering from FOMO. And to be honest, we wish you were there, too.

But sometimes things don’t pan out the way we want them to. That’s why we are in the process of putting all of the presentation materials in the 2018 Degreed LENS Pathway, which you can enroll in here. We also recorded a bunch of the sessions and will have those videos live soon.

Next year will be even better – keep an eye out for our 2019 location announcement.

Look forward to seeing you at a Degreed event soon.

In case you didn’t notice it, there has been a monumental shift in the learning market, with analysts beginning to diagnose a new trend.

  • The Sierra Cedar 2018-2019 HR Systems Survey white paper cites Learning Experience Platforms (LXP) as “an emerging trend in the Talent Management application space.”
  • Brandon Hall is calling it “the beginning of a movement that has been set in permanent motion to transform how organizations look at learning and improving individual and organizational performance.”
  • Josh Bersin says the “potential LXP market is huge,” and is currently valued at $200-250 million and growing at 200% or more.
  • Craig Weiss, learning technology consultant, calls the category, “Learning Engagement Platform,” and calls it a stronger product [than an LMS] in an inevitably expanding niche.”
  • In its 2018 Hype Cycle for HCM Technology, Gartner states, “Learning Productivity Platforms” has just entered the innovation trigger which occurs when there is a period of rapid development and growing interest. The market has finally been validated and defined and is expected to reach mainstream adoption in the next 5-10 years.”

Though analysts can’t agree on a name for the category, they all agree that there is something new and big here.

Engagement is a Prerequisite, Not the End Goal

Analysts remain focused on the front-end portal, the employee experience, and engagement. For many in corporate learning that are utilizing legacy Learning Management Systems, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that the end goal of all learning is engagement, measured by time, activity, and satisfaction.

If your company is like most, voluntary usage of learning systems might average 4-6% in a given month — anemic by almost any standard. Increasing learning activity 9x as we’ve done at AirBnB, having 25% of employees spend 3-4 hours learning every week at HP Inc., or getting a 69 Net Promoter Score at T-Mobile would seem to be goals worth striving for. And they are. Without engagement, nothing else is possible.

We agree that something huge is going on here, but it goes deeper than the surface level experience analysts are seeing. There is plumbing and wiring hidden under the surface, and driving this experience behind the scenes is a robust skills data set that matches people to what they need to learn, driving more engagement.

We believe a new operating system  for learning is emerging that will enable companies to make talent decisions.

It’s what you do with that engagement that matters

Engagement is not enough. It doesn’t mean that outcomes are being created, or that value is being generated for the business. It’s a bit like how startups try to grow revenues without any appreciation for the value of profits. These companies  get caught up in vanity metrics because it makes them feel like they are making progress, but they are not actually building a sustainable business. In the same way, engagement indicates that you are doing something right, but it’s not the complete story.

It’s what you do with that engagement that matters. We’ve known all along that engagement matters most when it aligns to greater performance, opportunity, and achievement for all parties, like when a company is filling hard-to-fill roles and retaining employees longer; when employees are gaining skills that are valuable to their careers, and to the competitiveness of their firms.

To achieve this goal, we made a major investment in technology, data science, and machine learning. We’ve spent the last few years, creating a framework that creates data about what can people do, how well they can do it, and matches them to learning opportunities that will help them grow their career and contribute to organizational growth.

This is something that no one else is doing today and it is already starting to yield substantial value for our clients. At Unilever, active learners are 24.5% more likely to receive 4- and 5-star performance ratings, get promoted 10% faster, and are 25% more likely to be targeted for retention efforts.

The linchpin of this framework is Skills. Knowing the skills your company has is exponentially more valuable than knowing how many hours employees spent learning. It becomes meaningful to the entire organization, especially to the C-Suite, who can leverage this data for strategic initiatives like product innovation, entering new markets, and M&A, all of which require a talent pool armed with the latest and greatest skills.

It’s time to elevate learning

To that end, we’re making a series of other exciting Skills-related updates to our platform:

  • Skill Review to assess who has what skills across an entire company
  • Team Pages and Individual Development Plans to drive employee development at a grassroots level
  • Career Pathing to help people grow while aligning careers with company strategy

All these updates are intended to build upon what we’ve already achieved and continue to elevate learning — to make it more strategic to business units and to turn it into a competitive advantage. To redirect the way we talk about learning outcomes — leaving behind metrics like satisfaction and activity, and putting new a focus on internal mobility, retention, and performance. All these things come down to helping your business do a better job of developing your talent.

With rapidly changing business landscapes in virtually every industry, we believe learning is one of the greatest internal investment opportunities of our time. Learning drives the creation of skills, and skills are what drives corporate competitive advantage. It’s our mission to make learning matter and empower organizations to make skills the center of their people operations and create a path for every person to own their future while helping their company succeed in the marketplace. These recent upgrades to our platform are a step in the direction in this mission.

Airbnb is one of the most prominent technology startups to emerge in the past decade and has rapidly become a major force in the global travel industry. Since its founding in 2008, it claims more than 4 million listings in over 65,000 cities and 191 countries worldwide.

Airbnb has experienced rapid growth in its first decade by expanding its bookings and revenues as well as its global footprint. This challenge translated internally as well – how do you ensure that more than 4000 colleagues around the world are equipped with the right skills to compete, lead, and deliver a powerful experience to their clients?

The learning team needed a model that reflected how they actually learn—consuming information on the fly, in dedicated bursts of attention, and on their own schedule. And they targeted managers first.

Amplify: Developing Leadership

As Airbnb’s learning team empowered employees to rapidly find critical information, they also kicked off a new program called Amplify to create a leadership development program at no extra cost.

The approach is built upon what the learning team knows about how people really learn and put skills into practice, particularly in a hypergrowth environment. Airbnb is in the process of rolling out the program to more than 700 globally dispersed managers—nearly a fifth of the workforce—at a fraction of the cost of traditional programs.

“A lot of the feedback that we get from people who go through Amplify is they love the fact that they can do this whenever and however it suits them, and that it’s not mandatory for them to be in a location for a good chunk of time—particularly people who are more reflective in their learning style,” says Barry Murphy, global learning lead at Airbnb.

Want to know the six core people leadership behaviors Airbnb is targeting or the structure of the training inside the Amplify program? Barry will take the stage at Degreed LENS next Thursday to share how they created the program, and there are still a few (10 to be exact) tickets remaining.

Join us before it’s too late!

 

 

“Dispersed workforce” takes on a whole new meaning when you are trying to upskill and reskill employees spread over more than 150 branch locations in 3 countries. But knowing key business objectives and improving client retention were tied to improving the learning experience of employees, Associa’s HR team took the challenge head-on, creating Associa University and launching a significant number of technology enhancements in less than 12 months.

“We needed a way to provide engaging learning and training to develop the fundamental skills required for specific roles. Moving away from a clunky, non-user friendly system towards something that enabled both social sharing and unique learning opportunities was essential, so we knew an LMS wasn’t the answer.”
– Debra Warren, Associa Vice President of Development

Chelle O’Keefe, Associa’s CHRO, is hosting a live session at Degreed LENS that will “get in the weeds” on how they implemented their new University and technology stack and what they are using to measure success and progress.

A sneak peak? Associa was the first Degreed client to leverage the Skill Plans feature, using them to map learning experiences to desired skills and roles within their organization. Their revamped approach to learning led to a significant increase in client satisfaction and retention.

This is a case study presentation you don’t want to miss. We hope you’ll join Degreed and Associa in NYC.

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We couldn’t be more excited to announce Dan Lyons, Carla Arellano, and Jean-Marc Laouchez as keynote speakers for the nearly sold-out LENS 2018 Conference.

The theme of this year’s LENS event, the business of building skills, aims to teach business and learning leaders how to drive success by understanding the newest and smartest ways to harness technology and data to discover, build, and measure the skills their companies need. The fourth annual LENS conference will feature a full day of thought leadership, workshops, and case studies from experts like Peter Fox, Global Head of Digital Learning and Talent Technology at Citi; Tim Munden, Chief Learning Officer at Unilever; Barry Murphy, Global Learning Lead at Airbnb; and Louise Welch, Senior Director, Enterprise Learning and Development at Capital One.

“We’re bringing together the world’s best minds in learning and talent to give business leaders a bootcamp in optimizing their companies for the future,” said Degreed CEO, Chris McCarthy. “Knowing what skills your people have and what skills they need is vital to success. We believe Dan, Carla, and Jean-Marc each bring unique and important viewpoints on the business of building skills and we’re excited to have them as part of a packed agenda.”

LENS will take place Thursday, October 4 at Center415 in New York City. Those interested in attending can view the full agenda and purchase tickets at: https://lens-nyc-2018.degreed.com/

Rolling out an enterprise learning tool can be tough. Now add in the challenges of being the 3rd largest bank in the US with more than 200,000 employees and you’ve got a true uphill battle.

Want to know the secret? Citi’s Global Head of Digital Learning and Talent Technology, Peter Fox, and Digital Learning Technology Project Manager, Tiffany Abinsay, will present their journey to implementing the first global SaaS tool owned by HR during Degreed LENS.

Their session, L&D + IT + Ops: Building for Adaptivity And Stability, will share how Citi’s Learning Technology team overcame operational challenges like shifting from a tactical role to an influencer, how to market a new tool and how they got stakeholder buy-in.

Not sure your organization can empower employees to learn and develop on their own? Think again. Citi empowered learning to be more self-service, even in their highly-regulated finance industry.

Join us on October 4th at Degreed LENS in NYC for Citi’s “how they did it” story.

Want to know more about Citi’s evolution to continuous learning? Check out this learning solutions mag article!

In-demand skills come and go, but this one will stay for life.

The only constant is change. Your degree will only carry you so far. Your current skill in a certain field will only be relevant for so long. After all, many jobs that exist now were unheard of a decade ago.

The only way to survive and get ahead in this ever-changing world is to sharpen the skill of learning.

In a world that is constantly changing, there is no subject or set of subjects that will serve you for the foreseeable future, let alone for the rest of your life. The most important skill to acquire now is learning how to learn. — John Naisbitt

It’s no coincidence that the Learning How to Learn class from Coursera is the world’s most popular online course, with students from over 200 countries learning the mental framework to overcome any difficult topic. Personally, it’s also no coincidence that I was able to consistently pick up new skills and accelerate my career through monthly learning challenges.

If it’s essential to be a lifelong learner, then it makes sense to invest time in strengthening this meta-skill. As Abraham Lincoln once said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” The more you understand how to study effectively, the better you’ll be able to apply these concepts, the more equipped you’ll be to acquire skills. Win-win-win.

Here are 3 things you can do to study smarter:

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1. Make a connection between the new and old.

Our brains are made of neurons which transmit information between each other across synapses. When you learn something new, your brain literally makes a connection between the neurons.

The more synapses made, the more interconnected your knowledge and deepen your understanding becomes. Thus, it’s helpful to generate metaphors or link an abstract concept to something concrete that you already know.

For example, making the analogy that your mind is like a library. Within a library, there are existing categories like History or Psychology to file books away under. Similarly, with new incoming information, your mind also files those away according to current labels. Thus, it’s much easier to understand something if a) you have already had an existing category for it, and b) you have examples within the category to help you integrate the information.

Knowledge is strengthened through use and meaning. Which brings us to chunking:

Chunking is the act of grouping concepts into compact packages of information that are easier for the mind to access.

Because short-term memory can only hold about four things at any given time, if you group the different pieces of information together into one larger whole, you can use just one of the four available slots. For example, if you’ve ever needed to memorize colors of the rainbow, chances are that you used the acronym “ROY G BIV”, or if you played music, you used “Every Good Boy Does Fine,” to read treble notes.

When you make a connection with something you already know, you learn and remember it better.

2. Do it yourself.

The best way to learn something is through experience because it bridges the gap between knowledge and skills.

There’s a difference between passive and active learning. Just because you highlight or underline something, doesn’t mean that you’ve learned it — and personally, the worst way to learn that is during an exam (I’m speaking from experience☺).

Also applicable to the working world, if you watched video tutorials or read guides, it only means that you are aware of the instructions on how to do it, and not necessarily the ability to carry it out. Pure regurgitation or recognition is easy but recalling it or teaching it to someone is not. If you’ve ever gotten into a situation where everything went well during studying, but when the crucial time came you realized that you didn’t actually know the material, this my friend, is the illusion of competence.

The roadblocks and obstacles we run into when we’re learning something new is what helps us store it in long-term memory. This is why companies emphasize working experience, and why side projects are helpful if you’re trying to really learn something well.

The trick is to just start. Sometimes all those open tabs to do more research are just forms of procrastination. Your brain likes pleasant things, so when it encounters something that it thinks will be difficult, it tries to switch your attention to easier things, like watching Netflix. However, researchers have discovered that not long after people actually start working on a task, the perceived discomfort soon disappeared. It’s like when you get to the gym, you realize it’s not too bad after all, and when you’re all sweaty after your workout, it feels great and you’re happy that you went.

The more you practice something, the better you’ll get, and the more enjoyable it becomes. And then you’re off to the races towards mastery! To make sure you constantly progress, you can use deliberate practice, in which you intentionally focus on weak parts of your performance and use measurement and feedback to systematically improve.

It’s only through experience that you can improve and learn what to improve.

3. Rest to get stronger.

Learning is like a mental workout for your brain. Just like a muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. And just like a physical workout, when you give it time to rest and recuperate, you get stronger.

When you sleep, the brain actually uses that time to clear out harmful toxins from the day, updates the cells, and integrates new information. So when you only get a couple of hours of sleep, it’s similar to only 50% of the new files getting downloaded into your brain storage system. Additionally, studies have shown that it’s actually best to sleep right after you learn something new so that the information is super fresh for the brain to consolidate into memory.

When we’re resting, we enter the diffused thinking mode, in which your brain relaxes and your thoughts are free to wander. This is also the mode that allows your thinking to get stronger, specifically your creative thinking. When you take a break from focused mode, it creates space and freedom for your subconscious to marinate on it. This is why people often make unexpected connections and breakthroughs in the shower or while taking a walk.

Another reason why it’s important to take breaks between learning is that according to the spacing effect, learning is more effective when studying is spread out over time, rather than all in one session.

Basically what I’m trying to say is that there’s scientific evidence that cramming is ineffective.

While it was passable to cram for exams and forget everything the day after, the real world doesn’t test on word-for-word answers, but rather application and skill. Thus, you actually want to learn and incorporate the information into your knowledge toolkit rather than restudying it every time. Enter spaced repetition.

Because we operate on a learning forgetting curve, in which we forget about 50% of what we learned within an hour of learning it (thanks for the tip Ebbinghaus), research has shown that spaced repetition, or repeating things after a couple of days, is the best way to reinforce learning. The language flashcard app Anki does a great job of using an algorithm to bring up words on days that you’re most likely to forget them so that your memory is constantly refreshed. Experiential projects also help keep new concepts on top of mind, by you directly working with what you’re trying to learn.

Education Corner

Thus, make sure to let your brain rest between learning sessions to become more creative and effective at learning.


Learning is hard. But we can make it easier by tying new information to something we already know, getting hands-on experience and making the best use of resting periods to turn fleeting concepts to long-term skillsets.

When we learn to learn more effectively, it opens up countless doors and a world of possibilities. If we don’t know something, we can find out about it. If we don’t have a skill, we can acquire it.

“When we are confident in our ability to learn, we can plunge into the life we imagined, like a child at play.”

Which one of the tips from above will you start incorporating to get better at learning? Tell us in the comments and start learning at Degreed.


This post was authored by a Degreed power user, Yunzhe Zhou, who founded One Month Projects to coach driven professionals in acquiring a meaningful skill in 30 days. We thank Yunzhe for her insights!

Did you know the average person spends a little over four hours commuting to and from work every week? That adds up to 9 days a year. Wow. So how can we help make that time useful for building skills?

Hot off the press: You now have the ability to make that time worthwhile, with the new Podcast feature in Degreed. As an admin, you can now enrich their library with audio content by adding it to their catalog. Track the Podcasts you are learning from and listening to and…

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…add Podcasts to your Organization’s catalog for your team to learn from, share with others and build their skills.Screen Shot 2018-05-18 at 11.54.03 PM

Why this matters: Degreed believes you should be able to track all your learning, no matter what it is or where you are. So join us by listening and sharing your favorite Podcasts to Hack your Learning (and commute).

 

 

Learn (and Track!) Podcasts and More Anytime, Anywhere at

www.Degreed.com

Part one of our 2-part xAPI series taught us the basics of Experience API (xAPI) including the definition and how it works between systems. This post will explore getting started with xAPI and the data that comes with it!

Do I need to build it myself? How do I get started?

Good news! If you’re an L&D professional (not a vendor), you have many options in getting xAPI enabled in your organization without doing much, if any, coding work. First, you’ll have to make sure you have a Learning Record Store where your data can be stored. There are many free and paid versions with varying capabilities.

You’ll also need to choose the tools you want to use or evaluate your existing learning tools’ capabilities. There are currently hundreds of tools, such as an LMS, social learning platforms, authoring tools, and more that are already equipped with xAPI. You simply need to ask your vendor if and how they support xAPI. In the case of existing systems that don’t support xAPI yet, you can still bring that data into an LRS using a data converter or third-party connectors.

What am I supposed to do with all this new data?

More and more organizations are using xAPI to connect learning technology products to build the learning ecosystems they need. When applications already support xAPI, integrations can be as simple as plug and play.

Once your learning systems are integrated and all your learning records are stored in one place, your data is perfectly primed for learning analytics. You can start exploring your data to get a clear picture of what’s happening in your organization. Evaluate learning programs and explore the reasons behind the most popular or successful training. And, once you’re armed with a better understanding of these programs, you can begin to positively shape and enhance your learners’ future experiences.

To learn more about xAPI, access helpful resources, and explore how other L&D practitioners are using it, visit xAPIxAPRIL.com.


Lizelle_Holstein

About the Author: Lizelle Holstein, Director of Marketing at Watershed

A huge thanks to Lizelle and our friends at Watershed for part 1 of this 2-part guest series.

What do you hope to accomplish here and beyond? Right now, my here is “Degreed.”

When I was prompted with this question, it was a month after I joined Degreed. Founder, David Blake, led with his curiosity that day and asked us about our hopes and dreams. It’s the kind of question some of us dread (enter: Ron Swanson from Parks & Recreation). But oh boy do I ever love this kind of stuff. I have Leslie Knope levels of enthusiasm about it.

One of the reasons I embrace this question is because I ponder similar questions often. Such as: What are my core and peripheral gifts? Which ones are needed for whom and when? The answers to these questions are how I make sure that I’m aligned with my “Why.” The more I understand why I join, serve, labor, or otherwise share my gifts, the more I can bring my full self to whatever I do.

I framed my answer to David’s question with three goals:

1) what I hope to accomplish here (at Degreed),
2) what I hope to accomplish next,
3) what I hope to accomplish before death.

Responses are italicized below:

  1. Hope to accomplish here: Reframe learning for individuals and organizations.
  2. Hope to accomplish next: Untether and experience the world as a digital nomad. City hop and country hop while working remotely until marriage or health forces me to re-anchor.
  3. Hope to accomplish before death (key theme for eulogy):
    • Friend to the forgotten (someone who upheld dignity in the final stages of life for hospice patients).
    • Storyteller-in-residence for my daughter. (someone who coached more than dictated, who inspired more than proscribed. We read together a lot and share a love of stories. I want her to remember me as a guide and not a warden).
    • Hacker of expertise (Real estate broker. Architect. Doctor. And whatever else I reach for next. I want to demystify the cult of hidden titles and inspire others to be boldly curious).
    • Creator of beautiful experiences(Delightful architecture. Global Excursions, Walking Classrooms).
    • A fulfilled Legacy (someone that brings pride to my tribe, here in the states and in my father’s country of Eritrea).

My core gift is to be a herald. Some characterize their gifts by identifying it as a spirit animal, MBTI type, mythical assignment, or divine purpose. After exploring the many paths to self-discovery and being described as a foxy ENTP that might be a “3rd-grade teacher with a secret life,” I simplified mine to herald. I’ll explain.

Goal #1 (Hope to accomplish here) Explained: Each day, I serve to reframe learning for individuals and organizations by heralding the promise of this brave new world of learner-led experiences. I have many assignments in my current role, but I thrive most in those face-to-face or virtual modalities where I can show and share the path. It flows naturally and I could do it for hours on end with unwavering delight. My core gift provides the fuel to perform not from a place of obligation, but from a place of joy.

Goal #2 (Hope to accomplish next) Explained: As much as I enjoy sharing my gifts through my work, I enjoy recharging and soaking up the beauty of the world. Before using the Degreed mobile app, I was missing some visibility into my own curiosities and personal growth. Meticulous as I am, I tried to close this gap by journaling my ideas and learning into a Google form that fed into a Gsheet, complete with quantitative and qualitative questions. The problem with that is…I would only use it once a month or so. Now, when I’m riding in a cab in NYC I can kill time by reading articles in my feed or capture the hours of learning spent listening to an audiobook while on a flight. And the app captures it all for me, making it easy to track and cultivate that habit of learning. Given my love of data, seeing what I’ve learned tracked in one place along with my trending topics and interests offers me exciting insights.

Goal #3 (Hope to accomplish before death) Explained: This is the long view. It answers the question “How do I hope to be remembered?” Without expanding on all the bullets, I’ll end with a story. I received a text a few weeks ago from the volunteer manager at an organization where I normally serve as a hospice patient care volunteer. She needed help with an event. I checked my calendar and responded with “Yes.” I arrived at my post at 7:55am on a Saturday and was charged with directing cars at the lower level of the parking deck until 9:15am. She mentioned that she was disappointed because the other volunteer was a no-show. I was instructed to guide arriving guests to park and go to the lobby where they will wait to be escorted to the rooftop restaurant venue. Not only was I unbothered the other volunteer was a no-show, I was excited. Why? I would have the privilege of being the first person they encountered–to wield the power to set the tone for the guest experience.

What the volunteer manager did not know was that I had been hired to greet visitors and deliver presentations at the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, VMworld in Barcelona, CES in Las Vegas, CES in Shanghai, Bett Show in London,  to name a few. I was about to show up in that parking deck in the most magical way for these people– for free and with a huge smile! What you learn from working with industry titans at events on that scale is that your message is bigger than your talking points. My mission was not to give the arriving guests a list of instructions on how to get to the lobby. My mission was to surround them with warmth and confirm that “Hear Ye, Hear Ye: We’ve been waiting for you! Welcome!”

Most of the guests who arrived were kinda sorta sure they were in the right parking deck. Each time they tentatively drove in and rolled down the window, I knew why they were there. No one else was hosting an early morning event. But I still let the experience unfold for each person by asking “Hi there, are you here for Missing our Mothers?” Each time, they would answer “Yes.” And each time I would start their journey with “You’re in the right place! And we’re so glad you’re here!” Each time they would smile. Then I would tell them next steps.

That wasn’t on my list of talking points. That was the core gift of knowing the difference between reciting instructions and heralding good news. Each of those women were at this event to celebrate the memory of their mother– mothers they do not have when others are with their mommies on Mother’s Day. No matter whether the volunteer post was to be an emcee (that job was taken by a famous journalist) or to play a medley on a violin or to park a car, every moment of the guest experience at that event was meaningful. We all made sure of it. What an honor it was for me to be their first smile.

Truth be told, 9:15am came all too quickly. Most unexpectedly, when I finished my shift I enjoyed a front-row seat at a reserved table to enjoy the program. All because I said “Yes” and I showed up. That other volunteer really missed out– maybe she thought it was just about parking cars.

So I leave you with this question: What are your core and peripheral gifts?

Consider how you practice using them and what you hope to accomplish with them wherever you are. Continue to build your collection of learning and tag them with skills to look for patterns. And remember that the more you understand about your gifts, the more you can unlock experiences that help you bring a fullness, a purpose, and an enthusiasm to all that you do!

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