ASTD 2014Self-awareness and adaptability might not have been the official themes of the 2014 ASTD International Conference and Exposition in Washington DC, but were themes that we heard again and again from the keynote speakers. To anyone involved in talent development, these are regularly featured topics in our education program. But how often do we, the ones responsible for helping others become the best versions of themselves, take a step back and grow and develop ourselves?

The Monday morning kick off to the General Session established an idea that we would hear again and again. The landscape is unrelenting; businesses are required to manage change at unprecedented levels. And while there are many key things that we can do to help with the managing change process- establish a vision, communicate with all levels, examine internal structures- ultimately, it comes down to the individual. Change always begins with me. Unless I choose to take action, nothing is going to change.

Luckily, when it comes to change we have a choice. Don’t let change happen to you- embrace it with purpose and intent. The easiest way to make this happen? Start with just one thing. And then do it again. And again. Be the person who changes an attitude, a process, or a culture.

Arianna Huffington inspired us to redefine success and #thrive in the face of challenges. She described the unrelenting environment in which she operated while launching her media outlet, the Huffington Post. During this period of time, Huffington allowed the unrelenting landscape get the better of her. Exhausted and sitting at her desk one day, she fell face forward into her desk breaking her jaw. That literal slap in the face was a rude awakening, but it illuminated the fact that she was struggling to manage her own destiny.

She began to think about what success really looked like. What steps could she take to keep from having change happen to her? It comes down to 4 pillars:

  1. Wellbeing: increases our ability to prepare and respond to change, and is an express elevator to the top. Where to start? Find quiet time, focus on just one task at a time, get just 30 more minutes of sleep.
  2. Wisdom: it’s not about intelligence, but how you are feeding your mind. Start with what you want to achieve in the world, not what the world wants to tell you.
  3. Wonder: there is a purpose to what I am doing. Life is not just about ourselves.
  4. Giving: a shortcut to happiness that has the same impact on a person as the feeling we get from an increased income. Focus on the “go-givers” in our world not just the “go-getters”.

Nothing kills creativity faster than burnout. But if you focus on what is good, you have a scale to replicate it. Her four pillars inspired us to examine our own lives, address possible areas that could lead to burnout, and make the decision to thrive. Huffington also invited everyone to send her an email with a story of their own burnout experience or the steps they’re taking to live a successful, thriving life.

Tuesday morning, Martha Soehren, SVP Chief Learning Officer of Comcast, reminded us that if we are thriving, our organization will too. Soehren shared four lessons from her own career to help us in our own professional development:

  1. Take charge of your career. Don’t let other people set goals for you.
  2. Set small, specific goals with realistic objectives.
  3. Be bold and take calculated risks.
  4. Be flexible- you always have a choice in how you react to the challenges life presents.

Soehren also advised that if we did not already have a support system- we needed to get one. In her view, having someone who believes in you is the biggest boosters to professional success.

General Stan McChrystal started off by reminding us that life isn’t always what we expect it to be. Leaders have two choices – adapt and succeed or fail. And adaptive leadership starts with adaptive learning. You have to learn what it takes to be successful but things change. Typical tendencies are focused on maintaining status quo but situations demand change and adaptation.

And with the increase in technology, change comes at us quicker than ever before. Organizations must adapt organically rather than a traditional top-down change rollout. Why is this? The Predictive Hubris – What if the unpredictable happens? Because we can’t predict the future, we must find a way to adapt to change as it happens.

The key to adapting to change as it happens is Scaling Adaptability– or combining shared consciousness with empowered execution.

  1. Shared Consciousness: Do you have a tribe of tribes or a team of teams? Focus on communication within the group. Trust and common purpose must exist in order for many groups to work together cohesively.
  2. Empowered Execution: it’s not about de-centralized power, but about giving your team the insight into the way you think, the knowledge they need to make decisions, and empowering them to use that information. Create an environment that fosters growth.

What excited us the most was that we could see Emergenetics in everything we heard. Understanding > Empowerment > Action and Improved Performance. The best way we can prepare ourselves for this unrelenting landscape is by knowing where our strengths lie, what gives us energy, and the personal strategies we can use for improving our interactions with others. By revealing our own preferences for thinking and behaving, we can fully realize our potential as leaders, educators, and talent developers.

We would love to hear from you! Share your 2014 ASTD Conference Reflections with us online #Emergenetics_ASTD2014