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The Interchange: Michael Lawrence

Our guest for this chat is Michael Lawrence. He's a learning and operational development professional at CreativAnswer (creativanswer.com).


He considers himself a walking Seinfeld episode. And he aspires to help people learn their value at work and in their personal lives, become a thought leader in the learning space and get a speeding ticket at age 100.


Michael's various achievements are being a father, creating his own space in the corporate world and learning and development, and being the first in his family to go to college from high school and graduate In this episode we talk about training and development and having fun at work.


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Transcript:

(edited for clarity, grammar, and content)


Rahel

Hello, everyone. Welcome to the interchange, brought to you by Maximyze. I am Rahel. And this is your co host, Matt. And we talk about everything related to interpersonal communication. So Matt, tell us what's our topic for the day.


Matt

So today's topics are going to be training and development and having fun at work. And our guest today is Michael Lawrence.


He's a learning and operational development professional at Creative Answer (creativanswer.com). He considers himself a walking Seinfeld episode. And he aspires to help people learn their value at work and in their personal lives, become a thought leader in the learning space and get a speeding ticket at age 100.


Michael's various achievements are being a father, creating his own space in the corporate world and learning and development and being the first in his family to go to college from high school and graduate. So welcome, Michael.


Mike

Thank you. I'm excited to join you today. So let's have some fun in the process. Let's do it.


Matt

Let's do it.


Rahel

Awesome. So I'm curious right up front. So you are a walking Seinfield?. What does that mean?


Mike

The one of the things I used to love about Seinfeld, and I saw that we did in college when I was young as well, which I wish we would have got the idea first, or expounded on it first was just seeing how funny everyday life is. And when we just take what's right in front of us and enjoy it.


We're actually really comical people in general. People watching, if you have never done it, it's just absolutely phenomenal. A phenomenal pastime, if you haven't tried it before, but that's where it came from. So some of the things like, you know, from Seinfeld episodes, like there was one where they have, you know, they have the big salad, you know, that's, there's nothing special about that. But the fact that you commented on it made it something that is actually quite comical.


And we do that all the time. And when we can kind of lighten ourselves up a little bit, it makes life a lot easier, for one thing, but you just kind of get to see the joy of what life really is on a day to day basis. So that's where that whole Seinfeld episode comes from. And we have a lot of references from those.


And it becomes kind of a second language as well, when you're even in the learning environment, people remember that stuff. And that's really what kind of gets them through all the different things that they learn on a day to day basis, in my courses, or you know, are even in their own interaction. So...


Matt

Cool. Oh, that's great. Awesome. It's been a while since I watched Seinfeld, but you're right. He was really good about just making fun of everyday kinds of things. And the more we joke, you do, you do learn more by joking. But also, you know, there's studies that show that you live a longer and happier life if you joke around more. So that's absolutely true.


So in terms of, you know, learning and development, and you said, you incorporate some of this into your learning about how do you how do you do that?


Mike

Oh, really these are the stories I know, in the more recent years, you've probably read more and seen more in the actual learning space where people are starting to celebrate stories a lot more. One of the things that always said even beforehand was you'd ask somebody how their day was, nobody comes up to you with a bullet point list.


I washed the dishes, I took the kids to school, I dropped my sandwich on the floor, you know, nobody does that everything's in this realm of a story. So as you begin to really look at that, and how would you, oh, man, you know, forget all the other details. Oh, it's just this one big event that happened where there was, you know, a raccoon got loose in the school or something, you know, and you just don't know what it might be.


But those are the things that really define who we are. So when we can begin to use those in the classroom, it makes it stick. One of my favorites from not too long ago, is we were doing some, of course, really just kind of interpersonal relations. And you know, focusing on the issue, not the individual was the big idea behind it.

But there was one character on there, that was kind of the negative guy of the whole thing. And actually, that became the motto around the office, everyone that went through that course, it wasn't so much that they took everything away from that course, they've got these six wonderful steps on how to, you know, have better interpersonal conversations, but they walked around, they walked away saying, don't be mad. But anybody that went through that course, understood immediately that their focus in the conversation was either negative, or wasn't moving the conversation forward.


And those are the type of things where you just when you see it, it makes you laugh, it proves the point. And it keeps it from being a drawn out conversation. And it lightens the mood at the same time. So it was it was just an excellent example really, where that just kind of permeated an entire organization, you know, to the point that almost t shirts were made, to that whole concept of just being positive focus on the issue, not the person, you know, lead by example, all the different things that were a part of that were just gathered in that one, you know, what is it Don't be that three words, you know, it's beautiful.


And that's, that's where really those particular exercises were solidified. In my mind, if we can laugh a little bit, we can find something that represents the bigger picture, you know, we can all move forward at the same pace and then a lighter mood, which helps us to think better as well. So what I want to do is nerd out on the whole neuroscience of learning too. So if you've never just put in neuroscience learning in Ted, here's a shameless plug for Ted Talks. You can learn a lot from that as well, you know, in short, 15 minute bites, which is also nice.


Matt

Yeah, we love TED talks in neuroscience as well so that the last business that we owned before the pandemic was called mind gym. So we were focused a lot on something called neuro aerobics. And aerobics teaches you to use your brain in a different way, like, stand on your left foot or brush your teeth with your opposite hand or eat with your eyes closed. It's about engaging your senses but in a different way and creating different pathways in your brain.


Rahel

Yeah, I really like what he said about the, you know, you come out of there saying, don't be mad. And just focusing on that, instead of coming out and saying, what are all the positive things and thinking of all the positive things? It's a different way of thinking. Because usually when you go to a course you just hold on to the positive things. But when you focus on that, don't be mad. Oh, it's, it kind of changes your mindset on how you win. Okay, so how do I not be mad for the rest of the day? So that's cool to think about it that way.


Mike

Yeah. And it's a ripple effect. That's the beautiful part about it to that one conversation, or that one statement really does kind of ripple through the, you know, the organization or those that are involved in that conversation. And that was one of the things that I saw that was so amazing to me, was from the individual contributor all the way up to our executive level, saying that one phrase could get everyone's attention and like, Okay, well, what is it? What's causing it?


So now we move over into root cause analysis? Well, why? what is causing this, you know, and they start looking at that, is there something in our process we need to change to make this easier. And just like you say, just opening your mind up to doing different things, but just being by once, I mean, literally was an hour and a half course, that literally changed the mindset of an organization around how we thought, which is pretty spectacular.


Matt

Absolutely. That's great. That's great. So in the learning and development world, are there any areas that you see where learning and development maybe is, is not doing so? Well? And maybe it's, it's failing?


Mike

Yes, I'm facing it now. For those that I guess nobody's gonna know. So for those that don't know, because I'm on television every night. There's my brain at work. No, but we're just in the most recent just using my own experience as an example. Just this past March, I was laid off from my last organization that I worked for. And in the process of being back in the job market, as I'm approaching even other professionals that I know, or have known for years, that have an idea of what I do, when I try to explain to them what it is that learning and development is, they don't really get.


So I think as an industry or as a profession, or as really more. So as a part of the culture of an organization, the learning in the relevant areas is really behind, and really stamping out. This is what I do in this organization. This is my role in this organization. And I think that's why it's so easy to be the first one out when it's time to cut the budget. Because the value of what we do is not really understood. And for a long time, it was hard to measure as well. So we're getting better at measuring it.


But the impact, you know, when we get to the point where we can really begin to measure impact, and we're doing better takes time, of course, to get there, but when we can begin to really validate the impact that we make, it will sound bright, you know, it'll sound a lot louder for for learning and developer, but I think that's one of the areas that we could get so much better, from the training coordinator to the instructional designer is doing one product, just making sure people understand why, you know, what start


Why are we here, what is what we do, what we do, we do for the organization, even at the highest level, you know, when it comes to the goals, or or, or cultural values of the organization, how does what we do impact all the way to that level. And I think that's what's missing, a lot of times, it's training, a, something that gets pencil whip is something that you dread going to, it's forced on you, instead of being seen as an avenue, or a tool for you to get better at what you do.


And that, to me, is the downfall of the learning and the really the corporate and business space. And an individual level. We do it every day. We're on YouTube all the time with Google everything that we want. But we fail to take those cues as to how our culture is working and begin to use them in that corporate and business world. So that there's a similar flow. So if you can't tell this from a soapbox of mine it's a big pain point. It became so much more magnified as I'm explaining to people what I do, or how I do what I do in this season, and it's really like wow, they don't ge