My Oprah Moment: ATD ICE 2019

Oprah was the keynote speaker at the Association for Talent Development, International Conference and Expo (ATD ICE) this morning and she dropped the mic on all of us. 

I wish I could say that everyone got a car, but I guess that is not what the universe had in mind for me today. What the universe did have in mind for me, was to awaken my spirit. 

I’ve just now gotten back to my hotel room after the keynote, because I wanted to hammer out some work before I went back to the expo hall. However, the more I walked the more I realized I had a message that needed to get out. 

Why Oprah, Why now?

Oprah was the keynote at ATD ICE. Is Oprah an “expert” in our field? Well, no – not literally, but I would hazard a guess that she knows a thing or two about people.

I ran across several people here in DC and online who were questioning Oprah’s appearance at the conference. “Couldn’t they find someone in our field”? To this I say, yes – and ATD did…about 500 of them all in the session rooms for the next 2.5 days. 

If you came to the keynote expecting to be further regaled with tales of workplace learning, then you missed the point. As I walked through the halls of the conference hall yesterday, I saw plenty of people sitting alone on their computers. Maybe, some people had been moved to write, maybe others were capturing notes – if I had to guess, I’d say the majority of them were answering emails when they could have been getting their groove on at a session. If you want to hear case studies, get guidance on a topic, or receive a new framework – then go to a session. 

Moments of Discovery

The recent keynotes are about our looking after our affective state. Taking care of our hearts, not only our minds. It’s rare that a learning professional attends more than one learning “event” or conference a year. I’m one of the lucky ones, my career is based on attending several of these types of learning events a year. It’s easy to become jaded and think there is nothing new or interesting. If you cannot find something new to learn at ATD ICE, out of 500 sessions, you aren’t trying hard enough. But I digress…

Here’s the thing. Our jobs are based on the premise of helping people be better at what they do. In whatever form “success” looks like. We are supposed to be part of the engine that moves organizations, leaders and the people forward. We don’t create “learning”. We create moments of discovery. Those discoveries, in turn, are used to enhance the job or the workforce. 

I don’t know about you but creating those moments of discovery can be a tough challenge during the best of times. There are times where you may not feel you are making an impact, where you feel you aren’t appreciated, or heard. Perhaps your spirit needs to be uplifted or awakened. As Oprah stated, the best thing we can do for others, is to take care of our spiritual selves. This is not to mean religiously – this is to mean, whatever your core self requires. Be that a run at dawn every day or reading motivational articles over coffee, whatever floats your spiritual boat.

Hearts and Minds

It’s very easy to feel disenfranchised and burned out when you feel you are the only person focused on the growth of people. Even HR has a different agenda – they may care about the people, but not in the same way a trainer or learning professional does. Caring for the professional growth of people is in our hearts. It’s in the job DNA.

Oprah was the perfect person to help lift our souls. To bring about inspiring thoughts and actions. She was candid about her failures. Not in an esoteric manner either. It was straight up, “These are two ways I failed…and failed BIG TIME…after I reached success”.

We often hear about failures paving the way to success, but we don’t often hear about failures after success. This was good to hear. I’ve known success, and I’ve known failure. When Oprah says she’s not good at something (managing people) …well…I guess it’s okay for me to not be good at something. You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief and appreciation in the room. 

Drop the Ego

Oprah also focused on alerting us, that our egos are our biggest enemy. This is a direct hit at many L&D professionals. KABAM!

Much of what we do has the potential to be an ego trap. Such as, purchasing an LMS system that is easy to create reports for us but terrible for people to use, creating half-assed workbooks because creating full participant guides are a pain in the booty, “sage on the stage” – feeling the need to hear ourselves talk. The list an go on and on.

The paradigm change here is about releasing our ego into the universe and focus on our intention. Trainers (and training in general) have a hard time with this concept. When we say something is not good for our organizations, the challenge is to think – is that really the case? Or is that the solution is not good for you and the way you do business at work? Change may mean you have to learn something new or take a different approach to the way learning is presented in your organization. 

Oprah has shown us it’s time to view things from a different lens. Ego versus intention. The intention is not about us. Ego makes us want to be the star of the show and control everything.

If Oprah has shown us anything over the course of many years of being on television with her wicked good interviewing style – it’s that she is never the focus, nor sometimes is the guest. The focus is on the issue. How can we bring intention to an issue so PEOPLE can be better and shine? Put aside the ego, bring the right people in at the right time, doing the right things and solve the issue.

To Wrap this Up

So, for those of you who didn’t show up because it was Oprah, and “What does she know about what we do?” …then you missed out. And to be blunt, you are also missing the point about what we do for a living. 

Workplace learning is ALL about reaching the hearts and minds of people. No more, no less. Oprah reached my heart this morning. Now, I’m going to find some sessions to feed my mind. I hope you do the same. 

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Shannon Tipton

Shannon Tipton

As Owner of Learning Rebels, Shannon Tipton is a skilled learning strategist, content developer and International speaker. Shannon has over 20 years of leadership experience developing successful learning strategies and infrastructures for training departments within organizations in North America, Europe and Korea.

Shannon works with people and organizations to develop learning solutions that brings actual business results. Recognized as bringing real-world expertise into the learning field, Shannon integrates technologies and social learning tools to strengthen workplace alignment, enhance collaboration and increase learning connectivity.

As author of “Disruptive Learning” Shannon frequently speaking at conferences across North America and Europe and ranks as one of the top 100 L&D influencers on Twitter (@stipton).

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