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BLC Diploma training session Bill with Debi

How does a busy manager fit study around life?

Bill’s story

Why would you want to keep learning new things, at work of all places? Let’s have a look at this through Bill’s eyes, and the eyes of his facilitator, hear their story!

Investing in staff

Bill works for an organisation that made the decision to invest in their staff through funding a training program in leadership and management. The reasons why Bill opted to complete this leadership program was because learning new work skills and strengthening those you already have are critical to your career success and happiness. They increase your self-confidence, make you more employable, and open new career opportunities. Over the years learning is something Bill has always engaged in, whether it be formal or informal.

Work life for Bill started as a boat-building apprentice, and then morphed into designing boats as well as building them. There were many iterations of this along his learning journey, which has led to him becoming manager of IT in the company where he now works..

Bill asked himself the question, “Why not?” He knew that the benefits of learning new skills were countless.

Simply put, Bill believes that learning is essential to success in your personal life and your work life. He thinks of it as exercising his brain, the same way he exercises his body.

Continuous learning

Continuous learning is especially critical in today’s workplace where technologies, processes and how we interact change constantly, radically and at lightning speed. This is especially true for Bill in his role as IT manager. He has a team of staff to support and nurture and through developing his leadership skills Bill believes he will be able to do this more effectively.

It’s safe to say it’s not enough to keep your skills up to date. Your employability depends on your willingness and ability to stay on the cusp of new trends and technologies (and sometimes even ahead of them!) and to widen your skills and knowledgebase. So whilst Bill is getting towards the end of this phase of his career he wants to become the best leader of the young team he has in his charge.

Bill is also doing it to ensure the organisation he works for remains agile and responsive to change. He wants to be a multi-faceted employee who is not only capable of executing a role, but who is also flexible, resourceful, lateral thinker– skills gained from constant learning and application.

And this is where I come in: the facilitator!

I need to nurture, support and guide Bill in his new learning journey. I need to lead him to continue to think of himself as a life-long learner and that the learning he has decided to engage in is just a small step in the continual learning process.

The learning journey

From reading the beginning of the story you may think that Bill has ‘all the time in the world’ to complete this new training program. This is not the case. Bill has a big workload, a team of staff to lead, budgets to manage, research to undertake. He also has a busy personal life and one of his fears of heading back to study was that he would be overwhelmed and would not be able to manage his time. With work, study, family and life in general to juggle, he found himself thinking ‘how am I going to fit everything in’, ‘when is everything due’, ‘where do I have to be and what is it that I have to do’?

Support for study

As Bill’s facilitator and guide in his learning journey the first thing I did was get to know him (as well as all the participants). The first time I met Bill I spent some time finding out his story and this then enabled me to support him in the most appropriate way.

We discussed Bill’s challenges and Bill was able to put a few simple strategies in place to help him in his learning. Bill went back to basics and developed a calendar where he wrote down all appointments, important dates and assessment deadlines. He also got his team to develop a calendar related to what their priorities of work were each day so they could also become better at managing their time. At home, Bill drew up a study management timetable to help him visualise when and where his study would fit within his routine.

To ensure that Bill is able to achieve the objectives of being flexible, resourceful and a lateral thinker I, as the facilitator and assessor of this program, needed to constantly link the learning back to Bill’s work role. I discussed with him how he could implement the new skills and knowledge into what he does on a daily basis.

Bill also keeps a ‘Reflective Learning Journal’ in which he writes what has worked well for him, what didn’t work so well and what he can do differently. As part of our face-to-face learning sessions I always allow time for students to reflect and discuss how they can successfully transfer their new knowledge and skills into their work role.

Develop a team

In one discussion Bill shared that one strategy he was using to transfer his skills was through modeling to his young team. Bill believed that his staff would be the workers who step up in the future (when Bill has moved on). Through this discussion, Bill was able to develop further strategies to develop his team and he continues to share these each time we meet.

Facing the challenges of study

Before Bill started the learning program he found himself worrying not only about all the things that might go wrong, but what he would do and where he would turn if they did. This is a common returning to learning fear, that you’ll be facing the challenges of study on your own but as the facilitator of this learning program I ensure that Bill and the rest of my students know that they are not working alone. I shared with Bill that I would be guiding him through the assessments each month when we meet. I am also available via email or telephone if Bill needs to discuss an issue related to his study.

As a mature age student Bill also set very high expectations for himself, wanting to have great marks and a solid study schedule while keeping his career and family life sailing along smoothly too. While fearing failure is normal, unrealistic expectations can stop Bill from enjoying all there is to experience in his study journey. It is therefore my responsibility, as the facilitator, to ensure the program and associated activities are delivered in a way that supports Bill in achieving success. This means that I need to develop Bill’s skills and understandings through activities, which are fun, has relevance to Bill’s work, challenges his thinking and guides Bill to his highest learning potential.

Commitment to undertake training

All of these things are the reasons why Bill made a commitment to undertake the Leadership and Management training program. He uses the analogy of:

“Remember how hard it is to drag yourself to the gym every day? Yet, I do it anyway, because I know it’s good for me. So I made the same commitment to learning new things.”

Learning is a habit – most habits are learned in six weeks. Bill has been a learner all of his life. He has made learning a habit, something he embraces each and every day.

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