The Power of Adult Learning | Dr. Carrie Graham

EP150 Dr. Carrie Graham square

How can adult learning transform your life and create a vibrant culture?

In this episode of the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast, I interviewed Dr. Carrie Graham, an adult learning strategist and training consultant. Dr. Graham discusses the importance of adult learning in personal and professional development. She emphasizes the role of leaders in fostering a culture that values learning and the need for training programs to be customized to individual learners. Dr. Graham also shares her personal experiences as an adult learner and her approach to helping organizations enhance their training practices.

Here is what we covered in this podcast:

  • Discussion on the barriers and challenges of adult learning
  • Importance of behavior in leadership and how it is not solely defined by position or title
  • Dr. Graham’s personal experience of going back to college as an adult learner
  • Role of adult learning strategist in analyzing and customizing training programs for organizations
  • Importance of including learners in the training process through activities and discussions
  • Significance of application in the learning process
  • Creating structures and processes for consistency and quality in training and development
  • Dr. Graham’s personal approach to adult learning and its impact on her personal life
  • Role of leaders in training and development and creating a culture that values and supports adult learning

Whether you’re seeking personal growth or aiming to enrich your organization’s culture, this episode is a must-listen for those eager to unleash their potential and create a vibrant, purpose-driven future.


As the host of the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast, I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Carrie Graham, an adult learning strategist and training consultant. Our conversation was rich with insights on leadership, behavior, and the importance of supporting adult learning in creating a vibrant culture.

Understanding Adult Learning

Dr. Graham introduced herself as an adult learning strategist and training consultant, explaining that adult learning focuses on how adults learn and the barriers that can hinder their learning process. Unlike children, adults have prior experiences and knowledge that they draw upon when learning new things. She mentioned that the prefrontal cortex, responsible for critical thinking and decision making, is not fully developed until the late 20s which can explain some poor decision-making in college students.

Dr. Graham emphasized that adult learning is happening all the time and can be leveraged to support an individual’s growth and development. As a strategist, she finds adult learning fascinating and believes it has the power to transform lives. Adult leaning has influenced how she communicates with others and how she takes care of herself.

Leadership and Behavior

Our conversation highlighted the importance of behavior in leadership. We discussed how leadership is not solely defined by one’s position or title, but by the effective behavior they demonstrate. We gave an example of a young woman who, despite being a walk-on in a sports team, displayed leadership qualities through her actions.

The Role of an Adult Learning Strategist

Dr. Graham shared her personal experience of going back to college in her late 40s and the challenges she faced as an adult learner. She emphasized the importance of understanding the emotional barriers and negative past experiences that can hinder adult learning. As an adult learning strategist, her role is to help organizations analyze their current training practices and customize training programs to meet the needs of individual learners.

The Importance of Application in Learning

Dr. Graham also emphasized the significance of application in the learning process. Engaging learners and generating interest is important, but it is equally crucial to help them apply the skills and knowledge they have acquired.

Creating Structures and Processes

Dr. Graham talked about the importance of creating structures and processes to ensure consistency and quality in training and development. She mentioned examples like McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A who have established training programs to maintain consistency in their products and services. She also mentioned a hot dog joint called Pal’s in Tennessee which won the Malcolm Baldrige award for excellence.

The Role of Leaders in Training and Development

We discussed the role of leaders in training and development. They emphasize the importance of leaders being actively involved in training and connecting it to the organization’s vision. Dr. Graham shared an example of a president who attended a training session and demonstrated the connection between the training and the company’s vision which had a positive impact on the participants.

Shining a Light on Your Own Gifts

Dr. Graham emphasized the importance of shining a light on your own gifts and speaking up. She encourages listeners to take ownership of their talents because no one else will do it for them. When you do, people will stop and listen and they may even take action based on what you have to say.

Mentioned in this episode:


Dr. Carrie Graham: Recognize what your gift is. Stop hiding your gift. Acknowledge it. Acknowledge it to yourself. Acknowledge it to others. And once you start acknowledging your gift, I encourage you to start shining a light on your gift, whatever it may be. Shine a light. You shine your own light on your own gift because no one else will do it for you.

Voice Over: This is the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast, your source for the strategies, systems, and insights you need to turn your dreams into your destiny. Every week we dive into dynamic conversations as our host, Nicole Greer, interviews leadership and business experts. They’re here to shed light on practical solutions to the challenges of personal and professional development. Now, here’s your host, a professional speaker, coach, and consultant, Nicole Greer.

Nicole: Welcome, everybody, to the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. My name is Nicole Greer and they call me The Vibrant Coach. And again, I know I’ve got an incredible guest today. Here with me today is Dr. Carrie Graham. She is an adult learning strategist, we’re going to find out what that is, and a training consultant who helps businesses improve employee engagement in learning information retention and long term skills application. She helps them do this by developing a customized learning journey for employees and clients. She collaborates with executives to establish strategies that improve employee training outcomes offering immediate solutions and 50%, hey, don’t miss that, 50% long term improvement. So we are so pleased to have you here. I get to call her Carrie. Hello, Carrie, how are you?

Dr. Carrie: Hi, Nicole. And, hi to the vibrant community. I am absolutely honored and excited to be here. And, most importantly, I’m just literally on the edge of my seat to see where our conversation is going to go today.

Nicole: Oh, that’s so cool. Because, you know, Carrie and I were really like, you know, we have these darling personalities, but we’re like, super nerdy. We both love learning. So were you one of these gals in school like that? Got her Trapper Keeper and, like, couldn’t wait to go to the Target and get her brand new pencils and erasers and you would, like, put it all together the night before school. Was that you? That was me.

Dr. Carrie: Okay, I am going to tell the truth. I’m at a stage in life where I believe in being honest, okay? And I’m going to tell on myself. So, as a kid, yes, I would get super excited about the pencils and the pens. I went to Catholic school, so it was like I got a new uniform for the year. I got new shoes and socks. Like, there wasn’t much more to do, right? Like, shoes and socks. But, I wasn’t a good student. I wasn’t, I was not. I was a very average student. Like, I loved learning. I loved to look at the encyclopedias. For those of us who are old enough to remember, I would look up words in the dictionary, like, I loved learning, but it was that pressure of performing that I would just break every time. I would break every single time. So, I was a very average student, and I grew into, you know, all of it, like most of us do. But, that’s a little secret about me, Nicole, and all who are listening. Please don’t tell that publicly. Like, just don’t let that secret out. Please don’t.

Nicole: Well, I think, first of all, don’t miss what she is displaying. One of the things that I think is so essential for a vibrant culture is that we practice this thing called truth telling, honesty, and candor. Right. So, you know, and here’s the other thing. She’s also displaying, like right out of the gate because she’s a superstar, that, you know, you can change. Yeah, people can change people. So, don’t miss that. You know, I really didn’t like learning in terms of, you know, competing. But, now she’s out there. She’s an entrepreneur. She’s making it happen so people can gain these desires and they turn into skills or the skills turn into a desire, whichever way it goes. So, fantastic. All right. So, I want to know – we’re collecting definitions of leadership. So, right out of the gate, what is your definition of a leader?

Dr. Carrie: Yeah, absolutely. My definition of a leader starts with behavior. Not the role, not the position. True leadership is about effective behavior. You know, if we look at Merriam-Webster dictionary, you know that term of what a leader is. In my opinion, it’s all about the behavior. And the reason I say that is, not only has that been my experience, but early in my career, I worked in division one athletics. I remember this one particular season. There was a young woman who was a walk on. She always sat at the end of the bench because she was a walk on. She was not the most skilled. But, when you look down the bench and hear, like, who’s got the loudest voice in terms of cheering on the team, it was consistently this young woman. You can, anyone can be a leader, even from the end of the bench. But, it’s all about the behavior that you demonstrate in supporting other people and that is a lesson. It was an incredible lesson for me, because I really recognized I don’t have to be in a position. I don’t have to have the loudest voice, but it’s an opportunity for me.

Nicole: Yeah. That’s awesome. Yeah. And I love kind of underneath what you’re saying. She had the loudest voice. She was always cheering them on. Because, you know, a lot of things I talk about on the show, Carrie, are about leaders who have to have great character. So, you know, I would call this young woman, you know, like an encourager. Yeah. And, I think that’s a huge leadership trait. And, just to tell somebody, you know, you’re doing a good job, I mean, yeah. And, really be the person on the bench while they watch you in the field. And, the other thing which just landed for me was, you know, noticing what people are doing and commenting instead of just taking it for granted that your peeps are working.

Dr. Carrie: Right, right. She was like this consistently, whether the team was winning or losing, she always knew it was next to no chance that she was going to get to play. But, her level of energy and encouragement was consistent. Not only game after game, season after season, year after year in practice, during games, you know, and her senior year, they voted her as the captain. And I’m delighted to say that she’s actually gone on to become an attorney. And, so, I really believe it’s about behavior. Effective leadership is, in fact, about behavior. I think we can all attest that there are some individuals who have held one of the highest positions that we can imagine in this country. Are they the best leader? Like, what is there? You know, like it’s just out there in the ether. What does that individual’s behavior demonstrate? And, so, for me it really is about behavior.

Nicole: I couldn’t agree more. That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Well, as I said in the introduction, Carrie, Dr. Carrie Graham. And, when you get to know her on a first name basis, you’ll be able to call her Carrie. 

Dr. Carrie: Yes. 

Nicole: She is an adult learning strategist. And, so, people are like, what’s that? That sounds cool. What is an adult learning strategist? I love this and don’t miss this. Adults need to learn. So, talk about that.

Dr. Carrie: Yeah. So, adult learning in general is focused on the ways in which not only adults learn, but how to support their learning. And, what are the things that get in the way of their learning? Now, I’m sure someone out there will say, or is questioning, well, what’s the difference between adults and children? And that is a key question. When we think about our little ones, they have no prior experience of really anything. They’ve got no mental models of how the world works but us. With some lived experience, we are consistently drawing on our past experiences, our current understandings of whatever the topic is, and we’re leveraging that knowledge and experience to help us learn new things or refine what we know in the moment. So, from a scientific perspective, if we think about the executive system of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, that’s where our critical thinking and decision making happens. That isn’t fully developed until the late 20s, mid to late 20s. And, that is why, sadly, some college students make poor decisions. It’s because of, you know, that part of the brain hasn’t fully developed. So, when I talk about adults,

Nicole: It could be the beer. 

Dr. Carrie: It could, you know. I didn’t want to bring it up. It could be the beer. Just. Okay. 

Nicole: Sorry. Go ahead, go ahead.

Dr. Carrie: All right. So, when I talk about adult learning, it’s really, okay, we’re talking about people who have some life experience,that’s typically mid to to late 20s, they’ve developed some belief systems and some patterns of behavior that we can actually leverage in supporting their learning. And, it’s fun. I have to just say adult learning, as a strategist, it’s fun. It’s everywhere. It’s happening all the time. And once I learned about it as a doctoral student, it changed my life literally. So, it has impacted how I communicate with people. It has impacted how I take care of myself and offer myself grace and love and different things. And, so, it really is a great resource and tool when you want to create a vibrant community and culture.

Nicole: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. I couldn’t agree more. I’ll just tell you a quick story. I didn’t get my college degree done, Carrie, till I was in my late 40s. And, so, I went to this university. And, at this university, they just kind of looked at me because, you know, of course, the person working in the registrar’s office looked at me and they were like, oh, she’s kind of old. I know that’s what they were thinking. They didn’t need it in a bad way. But, like, this person could be my mom. And, they said, Miss Greer, before you take any classes, you have to take this other class called the adult learner. And, I was like, okay, you know, whatever I got to do, you know, I’m user friendly, whatever. And, so, I went to the class and I, you know, read the little book and basically it said, you know, like you, you haven’t been trying to learn in a really robust way in a while. And, so, you’re going to have to really get your head in the game about being a student again. And, so, they said it takes something like seven times to tell an adult the same thing it might take a child once because the adult is going, should I do this? 

Dr. Carrie: Yeah, yeah.

Nicole: Go ahead, go ahead.

Dr. Carrie: Absolutely. And that’s why I say, when we think about adult learning, we’re not just thinking about what supports what they’re learning, but what are the existing barriers. Right. Like, if we’ve got negative past experiences, I’ll admit I don’t like technology. I want to go back to a world where we use a would number two pencils with the rotating pencil sharpener, right? Like, that’s the world I want to live in. But, like, it just really makes the point that we have things in our mind that get in the way of our abilities to learn new things and whether we’re capable or not. Sometimes, it’s not about that. It’s about the emotional stuff that brings up the memories and, you know, to bring it full circle. Nicole, I got my doctorate as a 40 something year old, and, so I totally relate. I had been out of school working full time, getting a degree, and when I tell you it was, I had the best GPA in my entire academic career.

Nicole: Oh, believe it.

Dr. Carrie: I firmly believe the reason is because I was an adult and I had things that I could match what I was learning to. I recognize the value of reflection and why am I being resistant in this statistics class? Well, it’s because I didn’t have positive math experiences as a child. Carrie chose to rework that. Do better. So, I’m with you. I’m with you. It’s the concept in the field of adult learning. It’s fun because it literally is happening all the time, everywhere.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. And, I didn’t call it statistics. I called it sadistics. Not only that, but, do you know what they did to me, Carrie? They said you have to take a math class, and we suggest that you take statistics because they thought it was going to be easier than calculus or something for me. And I said, okay, user friendly again. And, then they told me I had to take this class called business analytics. And, I said, okay, right. It was statistics. And, I was like, oh my gosh, I have to take it twice. And, I even went to them and I said, it is the same book. And, they said, you have to take it. It’s part of the thing. Right, okay.

Dr. Carrie: Yeah, yeah. And. that’s the thing. As adults, we’re agreeable, like we have our own opinions, but we recognize what’s the what is the the value of the final outcome. We wanted degrees. And, so, therefore, well, okay. We’re okay. We’re agreeable. Yeah.

Nicole: We’ll do what it takes. Yeah. It’s fantastic, okay. So, that is what a learning adult learning strategist is, is somebody who comes inside an organization and helps you figure out, how do I get all the adults learning around here? Now, you might be like, what do you mean by learning? Well, Carrie, what I’m thinking is, like, there’s all sorts of learning in corporate America. Like, we’ve got new software everybody has to learn. We’ve got a new policy and procedure we’ve got to implement. Oh wait, I’m in HR and they just changed some labor law. Yeah. Oh, my gosh. The list goes on. Or we’re going to go into a whole new market.  And, so, there’s all this learning. So, you go inside and you help people figure out how to put the training in place. Is that a good word to use?

Dr. Carrie: Yeah. I definitely do that. I start with some analysis. So, let’s look at what you are currently doing. What’s effective? What’s ineffective? Well, now, let’s dig deep into who your audience is, right? Who are the adults in your organization? And, I always help the people that I’m working with, my clients, to shift how they think about the employee and think about them as a learner. What does that mean? How old are they? Not just demographic information about age and background, but let’s dig deeper. What things have gotten in the way of them learning in the past? You know, during the the shutdowns, global shutdowns, you’ve got individuals who are attempting to parent and teach and homeschool their children, care for other loved ones, do their job, take care of themselves, and you now want them to add on learning something new without giving consideration that they have all of these other things going on. So, help them with a deep dive of we really need to take time and understanding people, because then we’re able to build around who the people are and not just the new labor law, an information dump, a new software, just get in it and play around, oh, the new industry, get up to speed on that. We’re actually customizing the training to meet the needs of the individuals in our organization.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. Yeah. So, how does adult learning enrich organizational culture? So, if I was going to get super intentional and dare I say this, listeners, we need to have an intentional way that we are doing training. Yes. It doesn’t need to be like, oh, we have a problem, let’s get some training. We need to be proactive versus reactive, you know, because your people need to know. They need to be up to speed. So, I’ll ask the question again, how does adult learning enrich organizational culture? What have you seen when people are super intentional?

Carrie: Yeah, first and foremost.I have seen a shift in employees’ buy-in and their commitment to the vision. And, I believe that that is happening because you have made them the priority in the training. It’s not about the content. It’s not about the production outcome as the priority. Yes, that’s on the list, but it’s not number one. When we think about training development, the focus should always be on the individuals and seeing them as individuals and not as a collective. So, I would say that that’s how it does it. It places them front and center and, during the facilitation element of the training or learning experience, they feel it because you’re including them in conversation. You’re asking them to share. What I propose is that you ask them to share their own stories and their experiences with change management, with new systems, whatever the case may be. And, so not only do you have their buy-in, you have their attention because they’re like, this is about me, right? And, if you have someone’s attention, they’re more inclined to learn about, understand, use, and apply what it is that you want them to have, the information that you want them to have. I see it as a very seamless, flowing process with opportunities for iteration, but you have to put the person first. You have to love that.

Nicole: So, if you put the person first, you’re going to get their buy-in, then they’re more likely to pay attention. And, during the facilitation of this training, you’re making sure that you’ve got activities and points in your training program where they’re sharing their stories, their experiences, and then they’re going to go to work. 

Dr. Carrie: Yeah, they’re going to make it happen. They’re going to make it happen because you’ve made it real for them. You’ve helped them make not only emotional connections, but past connections to their past understandings. And, that’s when we apply things. I always tell the story, Nicole, about how I love to watch the History Channel, particularly on shows around building bridges for hours on a Saturday. I could just watch how to build suspension bridges. All of it. I am fully engrossed. Fully engrossed. Do you want Carrie Graham, or even Dr. Carrie Graham for that matter, to build a bridge for you? No, you don’t. No, you don’t. Not even out of popsicle sticks. But, and so, there’s that element of it, right? You can have people fully engaged and interested, but if you’re not helping them learn how to apply the skills, you’ve then dropped the ball. You’ve missed the mark. And, you know, they’re really going to struggle to apply the thing that it is that you want them to do. So it’s a full process. It is, in fact, a full process.

Nicole: Yeah, yeah. Application, application, application, which is just like when you buy real estate location, location location.

Dr. Carrie: That’s right, that’s right.

Nicole: Same thing. That’s fantastic. Okay. Yeah. And, so, when you’re working with these leaders to get their learning strategy in place, how do you structure that? You know, one of the things that I’ve helped people do in the past is at least get kind of like the start of a university going, like you might call it, you know, like everybody on this call, don’t tell me you’ve never eaten at McDonald’s because I don’t believe you.  Do what Carrie says and practice honesty, right? Right. And, so, one of the things, you know, the first business I was ever in was the restaurant business. And, I was always so impressed because McDonald’s has this whole university. Yeah. And, when they hired people or got franchises, they would send them to Illinois and they would go through this whole thing. Chick-fil-A is very good at doing this in the restaurant industry, people. And then, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of this place called Pal’s in Tennessee, but they won the Malcolm Baldrige Award and they sell hot dogs.

Dr. Carrie:Really?

Nicole: Everybody go look it up. Pals. P-a-l-s. It’s a hot dog joint in Tennessee. It’s delicious. They make cheeseburgers, too. But, anyway, I digress. Are you hungry, Carrie? I got hungry all of a sudden.

Dr. CarrieI did get hungry. I’m not really a hot dog person. Although, if I have to I prefer beef, but nevertheless, like, yeah, yeah, like, this is why we’re friends, Nicole.

Nicole: I know. So, you know, they put these major structures in place and that’s how you get a consistent egg McMuffin. That’s how you get a consistent Chick-fil-A sandwich. That’s how you get a consistent, you know, hot dog. Yeah. So, how do you put the structures in place? Do you do the university thing. How do you do it?

Dr. Carrie: I view it from a place that it starts with me. And, I say that because when a client or an organization invites me in to support them, I take that with a lot of humility and don’t want to use the word humility. They could have picked anyone, they could have made any choice, but they chose me. And, so, I need to honor that. So that it starts with me. I go into an organization and it is with full inquisitiveness, respectful inquisitiveness. I ask a ton of questions. And what I have found is that even with the questions that I ask people, they sit on the edge of their seat. Carrie, we never thought of that before. We hadn’t considered that before. And it’s just, you know, like just we’re just getting started with asking questions. So, there’s that. Now once I’m in and I’m asking questions to get the lay of the land, I do. We talk about what exists, what’s working, what’s not working, what are your goals. And then I take every one of my clients through the same three step process.

Nicole: Oh, let’s hear about that.

Dr. Carrie: Yeah, yeah. And, so, the first is engagement. Okay. Well, we’re going to now just jump into creating engaging fun activities. No, we’re going to look at your, as I mentioned before, the adults and how to engage them. Who are they? So, that’s why I say, we talk about who they are as learners. What are some things that they want? What do they need? What have been some barriers in the past that we can address on the front end? I’m a firm believer in being proactive. We focus on the engagement piece. We spend time looking and assessing the content. But our focus is on the engagement. Then we move to comprehension and retention. And that’s the nuts and bolts instructional design, learning and development where we are really focusing on how we structure this information in a way that makes sense, because we’ve all sat through some type of training that was all over the place. We’ve all done it. So, you know, we structure it so that it makes sense to the needs of the people, the learner. Right. So, that’s why we do that heavy work up front. We use theory to build, to include activities that truly engage and support learning and retention because we do the things we remember. Right? And that and then the last one is “A” for application. So, how are we helping them bridge the gap between comprehension and retention to actually doing it on the job? So, there are some key things that we can do in the application phase to support a 100% immediate improvement. And then long term, right. We’ve all done this. We do it right the first time. We don’t do it again for a couple of days and we forget. Right. So, that’s where, let’s include some things that support their application right now and long term. So, it’s like, I think we are in a new era of training and development. We need to do things differently. So, it’s engagement right? Comprehension and retention and application. Yeah.

Nicole: And I imagine when you say application we put some things in place. Those things would be like what I would call a job aid. 

Dr. Carrie: Yes. 

Nicole: Things like that. Yeah.

Dr. Carrie: So, again I tie it back to who are the learners? Because it might be a job aid. It might be, you know what? We need to develop a formalized mentoring program so that there’s that long term knowledge sharing and correction feedback and correction. Perhaps this isn’t a one and done training, but we need those follow up sessions. And, so, the application piece – it’s directly linked to the people and the projected outcome 

Nicole: Okay. Wonderful. So, how do you personally engage adult learning? Is that what you meant when you said you go in and you do the questioning portion of it?

Dr. Carrie: Yeah, it is. I am a humanist at heart. And, so, it’s helping people., 

Nicole: Good, she’s a sweetheart. She’s a lover, not a fighter. 

Dr. Carrie: I’ll use the academic term even though you are correct. Right.

Nicole: Are you married? I don’t know if you are?.

Dr. Carrie: I’m recently married. Two years. Two years in. Oh, my gosh.

Nicole: Do you know what today is? Today is my 33rd wedding anniversary. And I looked at my husband like, what are we doing? He’s like, whatever you want.

Dr. Carrie: You know, I’m married somebody from that same cloth, right? Like, what do you want to do? I don’t know, whatever you want to do. Yeah. Love it, I love it.

Voice Over:  Are you ready to build your vibrant culture? Bring Nicole Greer to speak to your leadership team, conference, or organization to help them with their strategies, systems, and smarts to increase clarity, accountability, energy, and results. Your organization will get lit from within. Email her at and be sure to check out Nicole’s TEDx talk at

Dr. Carrie: But, you know, I’m actually, I’ll share this. I’m glad that you asked because when I step into organizations, I take a very personal and relationship driven approach. And, because my focus is on the end user and not only not just the end user, but who are they impacting, right? They are impacting their children, their loved ones, their friends. So, if they’re frustrated at work, they’re going to leave your office doors and have an impact on the world. So, I’m always thinking, my heart is always thinking about those individuals and developing them as much as possible. But, on a very personal note, my level of engagement within adult learning has helped me. So, I got married later in life, right? 48 and I’m like, I don’t know how to communicate. Like this is on a different level, right? Like, what does this mean? And, knowing what I know about adult learning, it has really helped me in communicating with my husband in recognizing it’s not about you, Carrie, right? Like, it’s just not about you. How can you say something or explain something in a way that is palatable for this individual that you live with and that you know that I incredibly adore and care for? So, I engage in it every day. Every day. One of the examples I love to share is when I got married, I instantly became a grandmother.

Nicole: Oh my gosh, how fun. I’m jealous.

Dr. Carrie: Yeah, to two little boys. And, I didn’t grow up with boys. I have a younger sister. All my cousins that are male did not live near me. I don’t. I didn’t get it. And my husband was like, Carrie, they’re going to come over, right? Like we’re going to take them for the weekend. And I’m like, okay, well, so I’m sitting quietly like, what am I supposed to do with two boys? I was at a loss, right? So, this is my adult learning. I have no idea. But, I want to be viewed as an involved and a fun grandmother. And, so, what did I do? Like most of us do, I got on the Googler and I typed in t-ball, like, what is it? How does it work? How do you make it fun? And, I read some things. I was able to pick some videos and I’m like, that’s trash. I’m not going to look at that one, but I’ll look at this one over here. So, I was able to manage my own learning. And, then, because I was involved and engaged and I had a stake in the outcome, like I was focused, you would have thought I was getting another degree. Right. And, then, the day came and I’m proud to say, like, the three of us had a good time. But that’s an example of how adults engage in learning constantly, constantly. There doesn’t always have to be an outcome that’s attached to working or hobbies. The outcome could be about building relationships. And, if we’re open to that, we can do it.

Nicole: Yeah. And, you know, what’s making me think of this is building those relationships. And, you said, well, it may be there’s a university, there’s a training program, whatever. But, it also could be that we put a mentoring program in place. And, I just imagined you being an awesome mentor to these two little guys who will be young men before we turn around.

Dr. Carrie: Yes, yes, yes. Already in two years, we took them back to school shopping and I was like, oh my God, how, how fast do kids grow? Like, it’s crazy right there.

Nicole: As tall as you now. I totally get it. Yeah.

Dr. Carrie I Swear. I Swear.

Nicole: Yeah. So, you know, leaders, dare I say this – leaders that are listening. A lot of leaders delegate training to like another person. You’re like the senior leaders are like, I’ll get HR to take care of this or let the learning and development. But it was sure to be great if the CEO, the COO, the CFO, all the C’s and the O’s and the F’s and of all the letters, you know, reviewed and understood and fed into that training program. So, what are the important skills that a leader with a successful training program, what are they doing? What are the skills they’re demonstrating, or the behaviors or strategies that you see great leaders who’ve got great training in place, great education.

Dr. Carrie: That’s an incredible question, Nicole. And, I am convinced that those individuals, as you said, are involved in the training, but more importantly, they are able to connect the training to the vision.

Nicole: Okay. Talk about it a lot.

Dr. Carrie: Yeah, yeah. So you know, when you’re at the top, when you’ve got all the letters, your main, you know, typically your focus is on the vision. Right. The bottom line is whatever.

Nicole: Your three years out projection.

Dr. Carrie: Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. And, then, as we move in the organization to where the work gets done, that eye on the vision, it gets blurred, the vision gets blurred, and then it becomes it’s not seen. And, so, you have oftentimes training and developing individuals who are the developers, they do not have access in some cases even to the vision. Right. Which I think is dysfunctional. But that happens.

Nicole: Totally agree. Yeah.

Dr. Carrie: And to simply post the vision, you know, in the doors when you walk in. I think it is performative, but nevertheless, I really believe that when leaders review, they may not know the technology used to facilitate, they may not know the best practices, but when they look at it through the lens of what is our vision? Does this training support? Does it directly connect to the vision? I think that’s where it happens. I’ve consulted for one company and at the beginning of the training session that I was facilitating, the president stepped in the room.

Nicole: And that would happen every time I trained. If you could just come.

Dr. Carrie: Just come on.

Nicole: Be like the gal on the end of the bench and just say.

Dr. Carrie: Just I’m here, right, right.

Nicole: Right. You can learn today, right?

Dr. Carrie: Like, I’m here. And, so, I had no idea what was going to happen. And he stepped in and he stood in the back and was quiet. And, you know, the people who were introducing took a moment to acknowledge him, which was fine. And he made a comment about his experience in training. You know, it was like a two day long training. And he goes, he acknowledged that they had work happening outside of the room, but encouraged them. We’ve created this time and space for you.

Nicole: Oh my gosh, Hallelujah.

Dr. Carrie: Like, that is a true illustration of connecting the vision. He didn’t state the vision and how it connects, but he demonstrated it. And, because involvement and teamwork and focusing on people is part of their vision, he demonstrated it, he demonstrated it. So it shifted things a little bit. Yeah, it did. And, you know, a year later I’ve received emails like, Carrie, they are still talking about you in that training. And it wasn’t me. They got engaged.

Nicole: That’s right. It’s almost like, you know, they got permission. Yeah. And I do tons of training just like you, Carrie. And, the thing is, I will go places and I’ll say, you know, I’ll say, well, what are you hoping to get out of this training? I don’t know, they told me it was mandatory.

Dr. Carrie: Yes, yes.

Nicole:  And, I’m just like, I just want to cry.

Dr. Carrie: Yeah, yeah.

Nicole: Because we’re not. It’s like, well, it is. You do have to be here. But like. And the thing is, this benefits the company. It benefits you. You know, one thing, let me just say this to all you listeners out there. I never went to training ever. Because, first of all, I’m a lifelong learner and I’m a nerd like Carrie, Dr. Carrie Graham, and I am always looking for a tip, I want a technique, I want a strategy. I’m a little something I will put in my pocket.

Dr. Carrie: Yeah.

Nicole: I’m going take this thing out of here. I’m going to put it to work. It’s going to make me money. It’s going to make me something. It’s going to make something better in my life. Yeah. And, so, training is a gift. But, you’ve got to have that, that mental model. I mean, the reason I’ve been able to do a lot of things I’ve done is because somebody told me how to do it better, right?

Dr. Carrie: Right, right, right.

Nicole: Or, or was messing up. And, they’re like, don’t do it like that.

Dr. Carrie: Don’t do it like this. And, this is why, and this is why, right?

Nicole:  This will happen. It’ll be bad.

Dr. Carrie: Right. And you know, Nicole, to your point, like it is deflating when you hear them say as they’re looking directly at you. Yeah. I have to be here. So, if you’ve never had that experience, you haven’t lived. You just haven’t lived. 

Nicole: Right? And, it’s almost rude. I’m just gonna say that. Yeah. It’s just like, well, that’s disrespecting the whole fact that I’m here to help you anyway. And, I am here. I am here to help you. Like. Right. Go ahead.

Dr. Carrie: Right. Um, but for those who are listening in your community and in your network, Nicole, that have been in that position, I want to encourage you that that is information and that’s the moment when you can switch it. So, yes, it’s like the first couple times I ever heard that, it threw me off. And, then, I realized I’ve learned, no, this is they’re giving me good information and they don’t even they don’t even realize how much information they’re giving me right now. And, so, I just listen with an open heart and an open mind. And I acknowledge, Carrie, this isn’t about you. It’s not about you. This is the experience that they have. Living through right now. What can you do to support them at that moment? And that’s how I always take that one statement and flip it on its head, so that it then benefits the individual and encourages them and engages them.

Nicole: Yeah, yeah. The funniest thing in the world is to turn that guy around, you know. Yeah, yeah, yeah, totally agree. But, it would surely help if the organization had a way that they talked about adult learning and training in a way that it’s like the CEO you’re talking about standing in the back of the room giving permission to like you don’t have to check your email.

Dr. Carrie: Right? Right.

Nicole: Please don’t distract yourself. It’s very important that we have Dr. Carrie here. You know, listen up people. Yeah, that’s what I want them to say. 

Dr. Carrie: Yeah, it’s really, I don’t know if you’re open to recognizing that as adults we are constantly learning even when we don’t want to be. There’s so much opportunity when you use that lens. There’s so much opportunity. You can take a moment in the elevator to support learning or, you know, support application of something. You can be in the conference room, you can be at the end of the bench, or you can be at the head of the business. It doesn’t matter. There are so many opportunities.

Nicole: Well, what’s a quick takeaway that we can do to enrich our organizational culture?

Dr. Carrie: Yeah, I would say focus first and foremost, be inquisitive, actually be inquisitive.

Nicole: Which was her first step. Ask the questions.

Dr. Carrie: Yeah, just ask. And, not from a place of judgment, but simply from a place of curiosity like, oh, well, what does that mean to you? Let’s make sure we’re speaking the same language. So, that’s the first thing. Ask questions. And, then, I would say, when you’re asking questions, you truly are focusing on the other person. Period. Just give it time. Give it space. Give it silence. We don’t always need to be talking. Ask the question and just let it linger in the air. Ask why and let that linger in the air. Now you’re engaging people. So, I would say that first. And, then, it’s to my era model of engagement, retention, and application. But, it all starts with just asking some questions.

Nicole: Fantastic. Well, we’re at the top of the hour, and I know that all my listeners are like, wait, wait, don’t let Dr. Carrie Graham go! Ask her one more question! So, here’s my final question for you. If you were mentoring a single special listener right now, what one piece of leadership advice or learning advice would you give them? A little piece of advice. Here’s what you need to do.

Dr. Carrie: So, I’m going to speak to the people in your audience who are listening. But, they’re the quiet ones. They’re the ones that would prefer they find comfort and security and sit in the back flying under the radar. They’re good at their job, but they don’t want anyone to notice them. So, those you are the people that I’m speaking to right now because I have been and sometimes am still that person. I would say first and foremost, recognize what your gift is. Don’t ignore it. Don’t stop hiding your gift. Acknowledge it. Acknowledge it to yourself, acknowledge it to others. And, once you start acknowledging your gift, I encourage you to start shining a light on your gift. Whatever it may be. Shine a light. You shine your own light on your own gift because no one else will do it for you. So when you do, yeah. So, once you do that and the light is on, you speak up because people will stop what they are doing and they will listen. And not only will they listen, they will take action based on what you’re saying.

Nicole: Fantastic. And, then, you will be what Nicole Greer likes to call vibrant. All right. So, what you’re bringing home is a way to bring it home. All right. So, today, we’ve been talking about what it means to be going into your organizations and getting adult learning at a whole new level, enriching your organizational culture with a whole bunch of people who love to learn and who get that learning done so they can achieve the vision. Yes, yes. All right. So, the three step process, right. You know, so, we go in and ask lots of questions. We focus on who is in there. We engage with them around the content and the comprehension. But, then, we apply, apply, apply. All right. So, that’s what we talked about. Review, rewind. It’s a thing, you know,  just take the button and drag it back. Listen again. Yeah. If you’ll do me a favor, go down to the bottom. I know you enjoyed this episode. If you would click the like button. And, if you would leave us a nice little comment, that’d be fantastic. And, Carrie, if people want to get a hold of you, what do they do?

Dr. Carrie: Two ways. One, if they want to engage with me in discussion around social media post, I’m on LinkedIn – Dr. Carrie Graham. I love it. I love it. Just come on, let’s have a good conversation, open conversation. But, if people are ready to step in and invite me in, and even if they just want to explore adult learning for their organization on my website, Dr. Carrie Graham, at the very top, you can click the schedule for a consultation, and we’ll have very calming chats about what you need. Again, it’s just me asking questions and listening intently.

Nicole: All right. Fantastic. Thanks everybody for being here to listen to another beautiful episode of Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. My name is Nicole Greer, and I’ve been so grateful to have Dr. Carrie Graham. Thanks so much, everybody. Thank you.

Voice Over: Thank you for joining us on this episode of the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. If you found value in today’s episode, please take a moment to leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform. Your feedback helps us improve and reach more like minded listeners. Remember, the journey to building a vibrant culture never stops. Stay inspired. Keep nurturing your vibrant culture and we can’t wait to reconnect with you on the next exciting episode of Build a Vibrant Culture podcast.

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