Business Acumen and Other Non-L&D Words

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 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.




Today was a cheesy day. Lots and lots of cheese moving. At least, that is how it felt.

Work is moving to a brand new set of buildings. HOW FANTASTIC! We had a tour today. The location more than doubles my commute. They got the ceiling styles mixed up between training rooms 1-2 and training room 3. A major issue with acoustics and really tall slot machines. Our training rooms will not be ready by January. And this isn’t even the worst yet…it’s open office. One of my team members described it as “a sweat shop.” It isn’t but it is rows and rows of desks without cube walls. We will need the blinders!

On top of that, we dealt with a staffing issue that I fundamentally am against. I don’t want to go into details. I get the underlying concept and understand its application on large groups and in nature. However, it should not be a 100% application IRL on PEOPLE.

Basically, I had a few times today where I had to set aside my thoughts, desires, and beliefs for the better of the team. The business moved my cheese and as a leader, I need to smile and cheer through.

It’s hard.

I walked away from the group. I listened to growling and venting. I offered others a helpful path forward–advice even! I took a deep breath…several times. I ate my annual box of Nerds. I am writing this.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. 
Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. 
Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ― Lao Tzu

Change is my spirit animal when I am initiating it. When the mythical THEY is doing it, it’s hard, painful, draining, and uninspiring. This is one of the many challenges of being a leader, extra hard when your team is like a family. I truly felt like I was disappointing my kids at Christmas. It’s hard. It sucks. I can’t immediately let things flow naturally as Tzu says. I don’t have any pearls of wisdom. But I know I am not alone in wanting to resist THEY. Even if I don’t.


It’s been a great week in Annapolis at Cruising University. M and I learned oodles and made new friends. We have a different sense of next steps for sailing than we did a week ago. I think our route is clearer and has a calmer sea state (see what I did there? Heehee).

We return home today. Back to the land of boxes and a garage sale tomorrow!

I need time to process what we learned, do a lot of laundry, and eat normally again. Work is back full tilt on Monday.

59 North, sailboats, & inspiration

It’s Sunday. Mid-vacation period. I am taking a break from the Annapolis Boat Show after three days of thousands upon thousands of steps and up-down boat ladders and sugar scoops! First day, second boat, I managed to twist right ankle, stub toes, and bang elbows. At some point, I acquired a big round bruise on the back of a calf. I am sore! It has been wonderful!

This morning, M and I attended a brunch presentation on sailing the arctic circle given by Andy and Mia from 59 North. They have a well done podcast and blog. Last summer, they sailed to 80N. Andy mentioned that he wrote on the blog every day. No matter what. It is their way of capturing, sharing, and documenting. Unlike the Delos crew that was also onboard Isbjorn and documents via video, Andy and Mia prefer to participate than document in the moment. I thought that was a great way of looking at videography, blogging, photography, and as well as living a different life without sharing. To me, when you go on a journey, it is natural to want to share. When you do something like blue water, live aboard sailing that is rare, I feel like you owe something to the life to share experiences, share the harm modern life is doing to the oceans, and inspire the next generation. However, as Andy says, Delos crew spends 60 hours producing a 30m video. That’s not the life for me, or M, or Andy.

Earlier, this week, I inadvertently accepted a challenge from Sam of Sam Rogers blog to blog! I have been beyond lax with my writing. So, here I am, writing a reflection of my Annapolis time so far from my quiet and step-free hotel room in the Historic Inns of Annapolis.

First to the Arctic sailing…I would love to do this. Insane, I know. I am often the coldest person in the room and tend to ache when really cold. Like a headache in my body. Then I get grumpy. Andy shared a Norwegian saying: there is no bad weather, just bad clothes. Hence, my normal problem and my desire to sail surrounded by ice. I would be prepared! I think it would be a tough and utterly divine experience. Once I have the right gear and clothes.

Second to the boat show…the sailing community is super friendly and open. Everyone has stories, sound advice, and wants to help you join the life. Such a contrast to the modern world and politics. Really makes you pause about being plugged in, you know?

Catamarans are so incredibly livable, and pricy. We have learned that we need to set our price point higher and will need to figure out how to accomplish that. I feel that I can make any boat from 38-45 feet, cat or monohull, work for us as a home. Each has pros and cons, but each works. I am ready to sail, learn, experience, and rule out boats or features via experience. Ah, see? I am ready for experiential learning, some Blooms analysis and synthesis! Let me be an adult learner!

To that end, M and I must figure out when in 2019, we can escape to Grenada for serious experiential learning or to San Diego for basic training. Even Lake Mead at home for some basic ASA training and scuba lessons.

Those plans and using my steps to build better leg muscles are on deck when I return home. Tomorrow, I start Cruising University!

Books & more books

I have a problem. I buy books. I used to buy actual books. Space and being green made me think twice. Now I buy e-books, Kindle to be exact.

When working on my weekly planner on Sunday, I set a goal to go through a book and blog about it tonight. Tonight has come. It’s been an intense work day and an even more intense home day (the great plumbing saga continues). Now, I don’t feel like reaching my step count or digesting a book.

What am I reading? I am about 30% through The Interestings. I recently finished Meg Wolitzer’s other book, The Wife, which is limited release movie getting rave reviews! Can’t wait for the movie! I discovered that I had somehow purchased 3 of Wolitzer’s novels over the past few years and read none of them. Told ya…I have problem.

Off to read!

Hooked by Nir Eyal

This is book one of 50 gazillion that I need to read. No offense to Eyal but I think I can skim read Hooked. It’s just not my certain of focus.

Triggers, I understand. Personally, I have a bunch of triggers that make me want to eat. The action also makes sense. If I eat chocolate, I get a dopamine reaction. That’s the reward that I anticipating.

This is where my life usually stops.

Hooked continues by explaining a variable reward and an investment increase the likelihood of repeating the behavior.

The reward varies from none, to small and life changing. This is where slot machines operate and create the hook in Hooked. The investment doesn’t need to be money, like a gym membership, it can be setting up your profile or investing time.

The goal is to turn the behavior into a habit. Our work with Axonify uses these principles. It’s not the training that hooks you…it’s the games, the leaderboards, and a chance to socialize with your peers over a shared journey.

Still struggling with swagger

This past week I had the awesome opportunity to be a guest on TLDCast. It was the first time someone turned my swag statement back at me. I literally ack-ed when I open the email announcing me as a guest and used my swag statement to describe me.

Upskilling Dr & Edu Futurist ~ Implementing Performance Improvement & 
Motivating Talent Towards a Better Future

I’m still struggling with imposter syndrome. My thoughts were: why did I write that? that sounds so braggy! they are going to think I’m full of myself and a fraud. Totally not what I should be thinking. The group was really receptive and I even did a quick talk about forming swag statements (and a plug for Judi Holler).


In search of therapy, I found this article from Fast Company. I’m somewhere between Superwoman and Natural Genius. I need to work on internal validation and doing things that I’m not always perfect at (isn’t that all the time??).

I think I’m a tad isolated too. I need to work more on discussing things with L&D peers. Off to the TLD Slack channel and Twitter.