10L: Michelle Parry Slater

10L: A few simple questions about how leading professionals see their work.

About Michelle:

Michelle is an excitable L&Der curious about Organisation Development, strategic consultancy, workplace learning & learning delivery. She has a keen interest in creating effective, efficient, engaging and enjoyable learning solutions which are the right solution, for the right problem, for the right people, at the right time, for the right reasons, delivered in the right way. Harnessing the best from digital & social learning to meet your business needs, she is also keen to enable everyone to make learning an everyday event. She is enthusiastic because life is for making a positive difference.

So, what do you do dear?  Describe your work to an elderly relative. 

I help people to do their jobs effectively, efficiently and enjoyably; a kind of teacher for adults.

What was your favourite learning experience (Could be work, personal, school…anything is valid)? What were you trying to do? Why did it work so well for you?

Being a parent to my three children has taught me the most in life. They are totally dependent on you and love you unconditionally as youngsters. Then as teens they are trying to find themselves and their own ways. I have tried to raise my children to be kind and happy. It is a tough gig. You learn so much about yourself, your values, and your beliefs. You have to iterate on the fly. You make a lot of mistakes, which you have to learn from. You have to swallow any pride, lest you become that “embarrassing parent”. You have to focus on the here and now, plus plan for the future. Like I say tough gig, but so educational and worthwhile. 

Enough already…What one thing do you wish people in your industry or profession would stop doing? (What gets your goat?)

Enough already with the pseudo-science, the unsubstantiated faux-catch alls as a lazy route to evidence. How is it that the myth of learning styles perpetuates despite so much debunking? How are L&Ders still relying on a questionnaire to tell all about an individual? L&Ders need to seek and embrace real evidence and data. 

Same again please…What has changed for the better in your professional world as a result of COVID working practices? Should it be retained for the future (whenever that might be and whatever it might look like)? 

When I started my consultancy, Kairos Modern Learning 7 years ago I thought I had a couple of years in business before everyone would ‘get it’ in respect of the value of digital and social learning. Apparently not. Fortunately I think COVID-19 has turned that attitude around. Even those who were against digital in all forms have had to admit there is value in digital learning, especially live online learning. When done well I feel live online can be a better learning experience than live in person learning.

From the good old days…What do you miss most about working life from the pre-COVID world? Do you think it will return? 

Despite what I have just said about live online being better than in person, there is one element which is simply does not translate as well to online, and that is the networking elements of in person experiences – those serendipitous shared moments are harder (but not impossible) to recreate online. I hope that when Covid goes away and we are all allowed out again that we don’t rush back to face to face learning, rather we blend across live online and in person, and that we make better use of flipped classroom so the in person elements encourage great networking. Call it what it is and I feel the value will increase. 

Theft is the sincerest form of flattery…Which part of which other industry or profession do you think we should learn from and adopt (or just steal)?

Marketing have a lot to offer L&D in terms of how the whip up a frenzy of excitement. L&Ders create some wonderful stuff, and then people think it is OK to cancel at the last minute because something ‘more important’ came up. The technique of campaign marketing is an effective cross over to L&D. It helps place learning as that ‘more important’ thing people have to do. 

You know who would be great for this…Which famous person (live or historical) do you want to join your team and why?

Immediately I thought of my two favourite famous people, Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg. I am not sure how much work I would get done if I had those two amazing talents on my team. However, it does remind us we need to have a laugh in our work. Work doesn’t need to be, indeed shouldn’t be, all very serious. Human beings’ predisposition to enjoy life and be happy needs feeding in many workplaces. I end my book, The Learning & Development Handbook, with a chapter called ‘Hold It Lightly and Celebrate Success’. This was a very deliberate choice to remind L&Ders, indeed all people that life gets in the way of the plans, so we need to hold our successes and learn from the mistakes. Let’s not be too hard on ourselves. So yes, Robin and Whoopi with all their giggles would be a very welcome addition to my team.

If only I had…What did you learn from your most recent mistake?

As a result of going a bit bonkers in lockdown, I recently let my emotions simmer over at work and that affected a colleague, who also reacted emotionally. That is all fine; people are emotional beings and I value authenticity in the work place. The mistake however was not pushing for a resolution for the disagreement sooner. By allowing the miscommunication to drag on as other people tried to fix it, that was totally wrong. I am always someone who faces into the tough stuff, but I didn’t follow my gut on this one. Consequently the whole thing became a bigger thing than it was. The lesson learnt? Go with your gut, as it is usually right; nipping stuff in the bud is best.

There can be only one…Which one tool or piece of kit would you keep if you could only use one from now on?

My phone. Such an amazing multi-functional tool. I consistently moan at my children for ‘always’ being on theirs, but I totally get why they are!

The picture of success…Which image or picture is a good representation of how you would like to develop your practice over the next five years?

Kalapaki, Hawaii. This is my picture of success because apart from UK camping trips my children have barely been on holiday growing up, unlike their peers, other than a weekend trip to Paris and a week in Portugal in 2016. In 2019, after years of saving, we took a 6 week trip to North America. This is my favourite moment of that trip. The overwhelming gorgeous fragrance of my plumeria flower lei, the beautiful mountains, the sandy bay, the crystal blue sea, the palms in the breeze. It was utterly perfect and the place I always go to in my mind to relax. Why is an image of to represent my practice? It reminds me that learning needs space, it needs kairos time to land, embed, and see results. This holiday was a long time in coming; working hard needs to be matched by playing hard. Life is short, live it well. 

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