That’s the perception for some, right? I’m in L&D so I don’t need to know those words like pro forma and business case. Wrong, wrong, and still wrong. But how does a lifelong learning nerd and dedicated people-person become more MBA like without getting an MBA?
I have a BS in English Ed, a MEd in Technology in Ed, and a PhD in Training & Performance Improvement. At no time did any class ever mention business. Yes, it is higher ed which lives in a different universe (that I love BTW). But at least half of us students in the programs would end up in corporate learning or consulting. There just aren’t enough higher ed jobs for all the students!
To avoid the rabbit hole that is the gap between higher ed and real life, I will explain what I do/did.
- I have a Director peer who is the only other female Director in my division. I was the only female for a couple of years. We bond over being female in a 75% male company/division…and she has an MBA and LOVES data. She knows all the fancy things with Excel and database queries and all those crazy words that I don’t like. So I go to her for help and advice. She looks at my data and will actually EXPLAIN things to me. Not just do it herself. She teaches me to fish.
- I talk to my boss, a VP with major business skills and an MBA. He loves organizational development and probably would have gone that route 30+ years ago if he knew about it at 18. He spent years at IBM and has worked his way up the ranks. He knows the business and how leaders like dashboards. He also EXPLAINS things to me, once. I worked hard to listen, learn, and duplicate his dashboards. He also gets me into business meetings that L&D wouldn’t always attend. I pay attention.
- I have a variety of mentors that I can talk to or I just observe from afar. I pay attention to their slides, reports, and words. I google them when I don’t know them. I ask a trusted advisor what they mean or for examples, if needed.
- I take Lynda.com courses on business topics and how to do the fancy Excel stuff. I have not mastered the pivot table. But I can do a mean formula, reference another sheet, make charts, and even do conditional formatting!
- I went to Foster School of Business at UWA for Finance and Accounting for Non-Finance Executives. It made my brain hurt and was SO helpful. I reference what I learned at least once a month. I highly recommend it.
- I went to a Center for Talent Reporting conference and I bought a year of support. This also made my brain hurt. But I still use the spreadsheets and reporting methods ALL THE TIME. I don’t know why L&D conferences don’t grab David Vance and merge his conference day into a pre-workshop. This is really something every.single.L&D.leader needs to do at least once.
- I listen to podcasts. How I Built This is a nice mix of business things and people things, which keeps my attention. There are oodles. Go to Stitcher and start listening.
So that’s what I’ve done. I am by no means done learning. This post was sparked by a Twitter convo with Trish Uhl, PMP, CPLP. She was touting the need for L&D to know business. I mentioned that a VP said “pro forma” to me in a meeting and I thought, I better Google that! Now that I have, I know what it is! I’ve seen this before. I’ve made one! It’s been a year or so. But I can do it!
In sum: pay attention, get mentors, take courses, read books, listen to podcasts, observe leaders, go to meetings and LISTEN. Basically, pay attention to the business you reside in. Imitate.