Carol Hodes (right) and Diane Simmons (left) have a lot in common. Specifically, they are both veterans of the learning business and they are both entering a new phase in their lives—retirement.
Carol recently retired from NIGP: The Institute for Public Procurement where she was serving as the executive director of knowledge management. And Diane, chief learning officer for the American Academy of Dermatology, is just a few months away from retiring and beginning the next chapter in her life as well. Each of them has great deal of wisdom to share from their long and varied careers in the learning world with practical advice that can benefit us all.
In this episode of the Leading Learning podcast, Celisa talks with of Diane and Carol about their paths to retirement, what they’ve seen – and expect to see – that excites them most about learning, as well as some of the biggest lessons they’ve learned over the course of their careers.
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[00:18] – Jeff and Celisa acknowledge the Founding Sponsors for a new initiative they have under way. Specifically, they are very close to helping the folks at 100Reviews – Ben Martin and Teri Carden – launch a new learning management system review site – ReviewMyLMS – that is built on the same model as their very successful ReviewMyAMS site. They are helping to create a very transparent space in which an LMS user can review the systems they are using so that other organizations who are looking for an LMS have access to that information as part of their decision process. The four companies that have stepped up to help get this off the ground are:
If you are looking for an LMS, we really encourage you to visit these companies and see what they have to offer.
[02:05] – Highlighted Resource of the Week – Resources for Organizations in the Business of Lifelong Learning – a document that serves as a single point of reference for accessing many other documents. In it we’ve organized our tools, models and frameworks, our research reports, and a range of other resources in a way that makes it easy for you to see what they are and access them. This document is free, and all of the resources it lists – other than our two annual events – are free.
[03:04] – A preview of what will be covered in this podcast where Celisa talks with two veterans in the learning business, Carol Hodes of NIGP: The Institute for Public Procurement and Diane Simmons of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
[05:07] – Introduction to Carol and Diane.
[05:59] – Carol gives a brief history of her career including the 18 years she served at NIGP: The Institute for Public Procurement.
[07:19] – Diane gives the short version of her career history where she was involved in healthcare serving in a variety of capacities with 20+ years in the association world.
[08:47] – Let’s talk about timing. Did you always have a goal for a date by which you’d retire, or is that something you arrived at more recently? From having the desired date in your mind, what’s the process like for sharing that and preparing your organization and team for your departure?
Diane says she never had a date in her mind but the timing seemed right from the perspective of where the organization is in terms of the next step of development. She also had the realization that the time was here but admits it was daunting to think about leaving after all those years. She did give the organization as much advanced notice as possible and choices around the timing of her exit, which is why she is staying through their big annual meeting held in February.
Carol shares her exit timeline and process for her retirement, which also involved staying through their organization’s big annual meeting. Although it was a good time to go, Carol admits it was difficult to say goodbye to that many people publicly. She also didn’t have a set date for retirement but, like Diane, it just felt right. She had a variety of experiences in her career so she’s not sure what her next opportunity will be but she’s ready for the next challenge.
[13:16] – When you look back at what you’ve learned over the course of your careers, what’s one of the most important lessons you learned? Maybe think about this as what advice would you give to someone who’s at an early career stage or what you would have told your younger self if you could have?
Carol shares the biggest lessons she’s learned were:
- Not to be afraid to take risks—there’s always good learning that comes from failure. If something doesn’t play out the way you anticipated it, Carol says the piece that seems to be missing is that we don’t do enough self-assessment/reflection to have discussion about it – and that should include everyone that was involved.
- Adult learning doesn’t happen in a bubble. The teacher approach to adult learning has to take into account the entire person. You have to work at finding the best way to provide the learning in a way that meets their needs and supports what they’re doing at the time.
Diane shares the important lessons she’s learned:
- Don’t be afraid to take risks.
- Use your imagination and stay open to the possibilities – learn what you can about what the next opportunity might look like and think as creatively as possible about where you might fit in with that. Diane says this is true for organizations as well but finding that balance between what’s possible and what’s imagined is where the really sweet stuff happens in terms of program and professional development.
[19:46] – What happened in the learning field during your career that most excited you? Was there some innovation or new technology or an event that really got you excited by its potential?
Diane says the most exciting thing that’s happened for her is around the transition from education to learning. To the outsider, this may seem like a subtle difference but it has made an enormous impact on the kind of delivery methods/approaches we are now using. The other thing she sees evolving is a transition in our thinking from learning and education as big extravaganza-type things to focusing more on the moments of learning where you can truly make an impact in micro kinds of ways.
Carol agrees with Diane about how the shift from professional development has really moved toward learning. Acknowledging adults learn differently and that they each bring some type of knowledge to the learning experience is important and it’s heartening to know that it’s not teacher-centered anymore but rather learner-centered on every level – and technology has added to and supported this.
[24:36] – What’s on the horizon for learning that most excites you?
Carol shares that it’s around advanced applications and the opportunity to provide more than just the basics. For example, situational learning, competency-based, incremental learning opportunities where you can provide limitless options. We used to be very single focused and silo driven on how we educate and provide professional development but it is now becoming a continuum which is very exciting.
Diane shares that, like Carol said, we are going to see more of this continued learner-centric kind of learning which will result in more individualized education as people assess their own competency and skills. She thinks we are at a crossroads between the mass delivery methods for education and those that are more tailored to the individual. Diane adds that there’s not a lack of information but it’s how to disseminate that in ways that are going to be readily accessible and available to people which is the next horizon.
[28:53] – What role, if any, do you think learning will play during your retirement?
Diane admits this is a stressful transition but the best advice she’s gotten is to allow herself to be in freefall for a year without any externally imposed agendas to free up space in her brain and soul to see what that next opportunity might be. She thinks it’s important to allow that space to begin to define itself, adding that the beauty in this stage is having the gift of time to include learning things she previously thought were a luxury.
Carol adds that it’s the time to reflect and do things as simple as reading the newspaper that she’ll enjoy. She emphasizes however, that there will always be learning because if we’re not learning, we become stagnant.
[33:25] – What is one of the most powerful learning experiences you’ve been involved in, as an adult, since finishing your formal education?
Carol talks about how her association supports a certification program and how at one point she was spending a lot of time promoting this. She shares how while doing this somebody called her out on the fact that she herslef didn’t have the certification. This was very humbling and made her realize she needed to walk the talk, which resulted in her taking the CAE exam. This was a truly life-changing experience for Carol and challenged her to grow and improve and become a better provider.
Diane shares one of the most profound learning experiences she had was being involved with an association that was in significant crisis. It was the ultimate lab for learning and really embodied all of the principles of leadership development related to integrity, clarity of communication, focus, vision, etc. Although it was painful to go through at the time, Diane acknowledges that it helped her learn more about herself as a leader and about what matters to her as a leader in terms of skills and behaviors than probably anything else she’s ever done. There were other moments in her career that were big aha’s but they were just that—moments. They may have happened casually or formally but what’s fascinating with learning is finding a way to capitalize on those.
[39:52] – Final thoughts:
Diane: We all learn best in community – stay attached to your tribe or whoever else can help accelerate your learning and the learning opportunities for your organization.
Carol: Community/your tribe is a great place to start. Keep listening and learning from one another and keep living because it’s all worthwhile.
[41:27] – Wrap Up
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[43:03] – Sign off