Saturday, May 22, 2010

1976: I Begin a New Learning Journey

It was the winter of 1976, and I was an Army captain stationed in Germany. That would make it, um...34 years ago - an interesting time of life for me. Later that summer, my wife and I went to London to celebrate the U.S. Bicentennial. That fall, I submitted my dissertation on John Cheever to my faculty adviser at Duke University.

But as I say, it was winter, and as Chief of Human Resources for the 32nd Air Defense Command, I went to Munich to attend a four-week facilitator certification course. My goal was to absorb the material so that I could teach what I learned to the drug and alcohol and equal opportunity program managers throughout the command.

I was in for a surprise...

The course was more about skill-building than about knowledge-learning: listening, giving feedback, and facilitating group process. And during the four weeks, there was ample time for practice. I actually learned how to apply the skills.

Back then, the idea that interpersonal skills were important to organizational development was an outside-the-box notion. I didn't even know such skills existed. I realized immediately how powerful they were and how essential they were to leadership. I remember how excited I was after the course. I stayed up all night telling my wife about what I had learned, even introducing her to some of the skills.

Today, my work is about helping people improve the behavior patterns that make them stronger for the challenges of life and work. What skills and personal strengths are essential? What does it take to ingrain these skills?

As I look back on it, I think about how unlikely it was that such a course had been developed for the Army. And how fortunate for me that I was able to attend. It was a major turning point in my professional life. Pumped up by one epiphany after another, I began a lifelong journey of asking these questions and passing the answers along to anyone who wanted to know.

No comments: