Learning on your terms
Stacia C. Aylward, Chief Executive Officer at Zelos, LLC. Alexandria, Virginia.
You’ve heard of powerful questions. They’re the questions people ask you that cause you to pause. They might make you say: “hm. I’ll have to reflect and get back to you.” They help you look internally and notice what’s happening there. If you’re stuck, they’ll help you get un-stuck. If you’re being too narrowly focused, they’ll broaden your view. If you’re making excuses, they’ll pinpoint real issues. If you’re obstinate (like I am at times!), they’ll open your mind.
Now, what if you start asking yourself powerful questions? And, what if you could do a structured activity to explore that powerful question and your responses to it? What if you did that every day? Here’s what will happen: you will have “a-ha” moments; you will want to share them with your colleagues and friends; you will practice new behaviors and thought patterns; you will—over time—become a better colleague or supervisor or leader. You will, in short, learn. And by learning through these powerful questions and activities and practicing every day, you will excel.
Do you want to get started? Right now? You don’t need to buy a book, or sequester yourself in a quiet room for hours, or even pay anyone any money. Just grab something to write with and something to write on (a post-it, the back of a receipt, whatever), and get started!
Powerful question: How can you discover your personal and professional blind spots?
To discover your answers to this powerful question, follow these activity prompts:
Think of something that you know to be true, but that others believe to be false. Describe it: __________________________________________________.
Who can you approach (who holds the opposing viewpoint) so you can ask them about their perspective? ____________________________
Now, go have a conversation with that person. As you do, remember: do not judge their responses or defend your perspective—just ask questions to help you understand. Repeat back what you hear until you are sure that you can restate and really “get” their viewpoints. (This is the hard part: don’t argue! Don’t introduce counter evidence! Just listen and listen and restate and listen until you are certain you understand them. It’s not about you!)
I wouldn’t ask you to try this activity without trying it myself. I’ve explored some very personal topics I have some strong opinions about (immunizing children, letting your teenagers drink alcohol at home, borrowing money, recycling), and I’ve explored some work-related topics where I am rather bull-headed, such as being aspirational with organizational vision and goals, striving for perfection with our communications, not settling for “good enough”, and more.
Here’s what I am discovering: I am often wrong about why people don’t think the way I do. I can finally say: “I can understand why someone would look at it that way,” even if I do not agree. And the people I’ve talked to appreciate the opportunity to explain and be heard. Being able to engage in these conversations is strengthening my ability to examine all kinds of issues and challenges from a different viewpoint. I seek other viewpoints much more often than I used to; back then, I’d sit around and lament!! I’m learning, and I’m doing it my way, on my time.
To learn, you don’t have to wait for your manager to tell you what to do. You don’t have to get in your car and drive to a windowless building for an all-day class. You don’t have to buy a big book and haul it around in a heavy bag. You don’t need to sit still with your phone on silent listening to a talking head. Learning doesn’t have to be painful. You can learn what you want, when you want, and how you want.
The above powerful question is one of hundreds of PATHZ Daily Challenges that Zelos developed to help people learn what they want, when they want, and how they want. Visit https://pathz.work/challenges to find a new powerful question every weekday. They are free; no sign-up or sign-in required. Did you hear that? These Daily Challenges are free! Watch the introductory video to learn more about why we made them, who made them, and how they can help you.
The Zelos, LLC team—well-known to Virginia local governments for our strategic planning, customized consulting, and engaging training services—created the innovative and comprehensive set of services we call PATHZ – A Professional Growth Challenge®. This set of connected services helps teams and people grow and develop professionally for themselves, in bite-sized pieces that are relevant to every workplace. We designed PATHZ with different needs, preferences and styles in mind—with online content like the Daily Challenges, in-person workshops and forums, and one-on-one guidance by phone—all at different price points. Our local government clients are incorporating the innovative PATHZ services into their standard learning and development offerings; customized organizational packages and pricing are available. Contact me any time at firstname.lastname@example.org; also, we’ll see you at the VLGMA Summer Conference in Virginia Beach!