Monday, December 05, 2011

The Legacy of 3 Learning Leaders

I strive to be grateful every day, but Monday has become my day of gratitude - the start of my week where I devote myself to activities focused on the people in my life who have given me the gift of their time, attention, and support. 

Today it seems especially fitting - as today marks the start of Employee Learning Week - that I find my attention fixed on three learning leaders who radically changed the learning profession.

It is a privilege and an honour to pay tribute to Deb Colky, Carol Susan DeVaney, and Terrence Wing - three ASTD leaders who leave legacies behind that have, and will continue to, influence the learning profession and learning professionals for years to come.

In each case, we lost each of them much, much too soon - but to leave the similarities only to that one data point would be a disservice to them and their work.

Although they were much different as individuals, they each represented some of the same learning lessons --

Consider the following common tenets to who they were, the work they did to inspire an emerging profession, and the legacies they leave behind:
  • Be yourself. Deb, Carol Susan, and Terrence each were beyond comfortable in their own skins - each was very much her/his own person. Self-possessed. Authentic. Real. To talk with any of them was to have an interaction with a genuine, present person.
  • Live life with passion. Each was not only passionate about who they were, but also what they did - and they let EVERYONE know it. Their energy was infectious; you could not help but get caught up and inspired to action.
  • Just do it. That's also the point - it wasn't enough for each of them to model behavior and take action; they were dedicated to inspiring others to take action as well. They didn't see life as a spectator sport, and they expected those around them to roll up their sleeves and get busy too - no excuses.
  • Organizational objectives; business results. ::shaking my head:: These were not "fluffy bunny" training people saddled with outdated views - old mental models - of training's role in organizations. These were learning leaders who knew the true value of learning & performance as a driving force for workforce development, talent management, organizational change, competitive differentiation - learning as a strategic partner contributing directly to the bottom line and organizational outcomes. They understood 21st century learning & performance as transformation, globalization, innovation, and strategic enablement - and they dedicated their careers to advancing the profession forward.
  • Contribute. Support others. Deb, Carol Susan, and Terrence dedicated much of their work and their lives to us - the learning community. Experts in their own individual areas, they were generous with sharing their experiences and supporting the development and professional growth of others in the learning field. We were exceedingly fortunate, in the ASTD community, that (amongst other roles and responsibilities), they each volunteered their time and service to serve as ASTD Chapter Leaders.
  • Challenge yourself and others - every day. I don't know about anyone else's experience, but I can tell you that I was challenged by each of them --
I am smiling through tears as I say this, because I can hear each one in my head giving me the "What for" about something that I initially showed a bit of resistance to; that I eventually pushed through at their insistence. 

Deb would get on me about my academic work; she also convinced me (on more than one occasion) to remain on the CCASTD Board of Directors. If it wasn't for Deb's intervention years ago, there's a good chance I would have left the ASTD community (that I now can't imagine my life without) and I certainly would not have continued my chapter leadership and my work with CPLP. 

Carol Susan kicked my butt (and necessarily so) throughout the CPLP Pilot; she instilled in me strong leadership skills by administering some tough love when I just wanted to lay around and be a wuss. 

Later, she and I - warrior to warrior - discussed our respective battles with cancer; our frustrations with cancer treatment; our perspectives on life, living, mortality, and dying; and encouraged each other to remain strong, determined, resolute. 

It is important to me that all learning & performance professionals also know how much Deb and Carol Susan contributed during the CPLP Pilot, and afterwards, to shaping and influencing the integrity inherent in the ASTD Certified Professional in Learning & Performance (CPLP) credential. 

Both were involved in the creation of the certification, the execution of the Pilot, and its  industry adoption. Deb, for example, was ahead of her time as she was the first - in any academic institution worldwide - to overhaul the graduate program at Roosevelt University to align to the - then new - ASTD Workplace Learning & Performance Competency Model (upon which the CPLP is based).

You will find no greater role models of what it means to be CPLP than Deb and Carol Susan; those who aspire to become CPLP certified should recognize that they truly stand on the shoulders of giants.

Terrence, well, Terrence - quite literally - challenged me from the first moment we met - over a "random" lunch table at the ASTD International Conference & Exposition in Washington D.C. His first words to me (as he noted my conference name tag flair identifying me as a member of the conference planning advisory committee) were (and I quote) - 

"There aren't enough people on Twitter at this conference. We need to do something about that." 

I - immediately and without hesitation - agreed with him. He didn't leave any room for disagreement! 

What's really really flippin' AWESOME is that, well, he - we - did exactly that. Amongst other adventures, we served on the following year's ASTD ICE planning advisory committee together and - in large part, through Terrence's passion and leadership - the Twitter back channel has grown at ASTD events ever since.

Terrence then went on to influence happenings all over the learning technologies spectrum - from ASTD TechKnowledge, to DevLearn, to other industry events involving social media and technology. 

Part of my daily routine became seeking Terrence out in the Twitter ecosystem - to tune in to the next episode of #elearnchat, to ask his advice, or just to exchange friendly hellos.

There is no doubt that Twitter has paled over the past few days in the absence of Terrence's voice.

"To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die." -Thomas Campbell

So this week, my friends, colleagues, and learning peers - this week in particular as we move ahead with our Employee Learning Week activities - I am eternally grateful for - and want to celebrate - the lives and legacies of Deb, Carol Susan, and Terrence.

To do so, I challenge you - learning professionals worldwide - to create your personal Action Plan by reflecting on:

A year from now, what will be your learning legacy? What will you have done to leave your mark on our emerging profession? What contributions will you make? 

I can think of no greater way to honour Deb, Carol Susan, and Terrence's work and memories than by joining together to continue the work that these learning leaders started with the same spirit, integrity, passion, and iron-will that they imprinted on all of us.

This is your Call to Action. 

Draft your Action Plan. Roll up your sleeves. We have work to do.

With gratitude,

~ trish

~ Trish Uhl, PMP, CPLP
The CPLP Certification Expert
Coach, Facilitator, Author, Speaker, ASTD Chapter Leader, Mentor
trishuhl at owls-ledge dot com

>> Learn More About Deb Colky, Carol Susan DeVaney, and Terrence Wing by accessing the links below:
Terrence Wing's eLearnChat co-conspirator, collaborator, and partner-in-crime - Rick Zanotti - is hosting a memorial eLearnChat for Terrence this Wednesday, December 7th. 

Live broadcast and past episodes can be found at: