In our Learning Diaries series, seasoned HR and business leaders share how they make time for a critical but often overlooked aspect of their jobs: learning. It's an inside look at how successful people navigate their busy schedules to continuously improve their skills—and advance their careers.
Mike Montague is what you might call a "serial learner." He’s the VP of online learning at Sandler Training, a global training company that empowers sales professionals around the world to gain the skills they need to excel in their roles. But with so much time spent helping others embrace their learning journey, how does Montague carve out time for his own learning and development? Below is his learning diary.
Best Advice for Approaching Learning: I like to think about professional football players in the NFL when I think about my own learning journey. These athletes spend about 3 hours per week (for 20 weeks straight) playing games. The rest of their time is spent training, recovering and learning to be the best players they can possibly be. It goes to show that performing well is important, but preparing for big wins and recovering from those experiences is equally, if not even more necessary.
When I’m learning, I try to embrace the mindset of an NFL player by asking myself questions like, "How much time am I spending training versus performing versus recovering?"
Biggest Struggle With Learning: My biggest challenge is creating the space and time for deep, focused learning. I need to be in the right mindset and exhibit enough energy to learn well. Stress, distractions and too much pressure prevent me from learning effectively.
Total TIme Spent Learning This Week: I would say I average about four hours per day in formal and informal learning activities. That probably sounds like a lot for the average person, but because I am an L&D professional and someone who loves learning, I think that is about the right balance for me. I like the time I have to learn, and I often experiment with different methods, like video, audio and traditional text.
My Learning Diary
Day One: Preparing for a Productive Week
I try to focus my learning in a lot of different mediums and topics. I like to start and end my workday with a training session for my mind, body and spirit. I work out, listen to a podcast or watch a video, and then do a quick five-minute meditation. I lift weights on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and I run 3 miles on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Today, I begin my learning practice with a deep dive into some relevant LinkedIn articles. I read Seth Godin’s blog, which always has relevant information on topics like design thinking and marketing best practices.
When it comes to learning, it’s all about presentation. A well-designed site goes a long way and can help increase engagement with our learning software. I spend some time researching best blog display templates for Sandler.com and talk over some concepts with the marketing team.
I take a walk and listen to a podcast on data analytics for instructional designers. I find that it’s important to get outside once in a while. It’s a great opportunity for me to put in my headphones and continue learning while taking in some fresh air.
When it comes to learning, I have somewhat of an unfair advantage. Most of what I learn is free online or free for me to participate in through Sandler, but I also regularly buy books and purchase online courses I am particularly interested in. I’m working on limiting my TV intake and wasted downtime so I can learn instead.
Day Two: Learning Through Teaching
I start my day with a few small—but nevertheless important—tasks. First, I record a sales webinar for a group of roofing contractors. Then, I conduct an internal training session with our corporate team on Up-Front Contracts, a Sandler tool that sales professionals can use to communicate with their prospect and mutually agree upon what will take place during an upcoming meeting.
I find that teaching is a great way to learn. It helps me clarify my thoughts and processes and gives me a chance to learn from an audience through their insightful questions and comments. I agree to present on a topic or mentor a young professional any time I am asked, but I am more exclusive when it comes to my own learning and development. At this moment in my career, I am highly motivated to learn about gamification, instructional design and user-experience and engagement, so I often seek out learning content that relates to those topics.
As a part of my role at Sandler Training, I host a podcast calledHow to Succeed. This is perhaps my favorite part of my role, because it allows me to interview established experts and learn about what they do to succeed at work. Today, I conduct an interview about how marketers and organizational leaders can effectively repurpose content marketing assets, such as blog posts, case studies and e-books.
5:00pm - 6:00pm
I log onto TD.org, the official site of the Association for Talent Development, where I take some online courses and read a few blogs on the growing trend of gamification in learning. While browsing the site, I realize my access to the ATD Conference talks expires at the end of the week, so I make a note to log in again in a few days and take advantage of some more free learning content.
I’ve been talking all day, so I decide to listen to someone else talk for a little while. I turn on the Something You Should Know podcast with Mike Carruthers. In this episode, Getting Your Dream Project Done, he interviews Phyllis Korkki, author of The Big Thing: How to Complete Your Creative Project Even if You’re a Lazy, Self-Doubting Procrastinator Like Me. This advice was particularly useful to me on a day like today, where I ended up spending more time teaching others than digesting formal learning content on my own. I find that it is easy to get distracted by other people’s needs, priorities and agenda if you don’t have one of your own. And it’s a lot easier to hit a goal if you know what you are aiming for.
Day Three: Meetings, Meetings and More Meetings
Wednesdays are my meeting day to catch up with team members and different stakeholders for my projects. I like to keep all of my regular meetings on one day so I don’t get interrupted or distracted on other days.
I meet with a client success manager to learn about some support issues with the LMS and what we can do to solve them.
I meet with the production manager to learn about upcoming course creation.
I attend a meeting with Innovation Team to get an update on a new app project. (30 minutes) 1:00pm-2:00pm
I call into a meeting with Cornerstone OnDemand to talk about integrations and the delivery of our joint Sales Subscription offering.
I lead a meeting with my whole L&D team to update them on progress, get feedback on their projects and discuss key initiatives for the month. I strongly believe that internal communication is an important indicator of success, so I try to meet with my team regularly. I conduct one-on-one meetings with all seven of my team members every other week and teamwide meetings on the alternate weeks. This helps us stay on track and communicate transparently about progress and challenges. These meetings also provide an opportunity to brainstorm ideas on upcoming items.
One of my biggest takeaways from today’s meetings is to focus on others. I find it easy to think and worry about my needs, but the best results come when I listen to and understand other’s needs. When I remain present and exercise empathy toward my employees, we can find solutions to our business challenges together.
Image: Creative Commons
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