Dr. Deena Kara Shaffer Helps Us Learn to Learn as Leaders

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In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with author, educator and speaker Dr. Deena Kara Shaffer on how to approach learning and the steps that help to start.

A few reasons why she is awesome — she is an author, educator, learning coach, resiliency consultant, wellness writer and speaker. She’s behind Awakened Learning, a consultancy teaching us HOW to learn, and she’s the president of Learning Specialists Association of Canada. As well, she’s the author of the new book: Feel Good Learning – On How to Prioritize, Focus, Study, and Learn Everything Better.

Connect with, and learn more about Deena on her…



  • Importance of adaptability in leadership.
  • Learning as an ongoing process
  • Learning as a collaborative process
  • Personalizing learning strategies.
  • Leadership’s and organization’s role in facilitating learning.

“Learning strategies… It’s the how. It’s revealing the hidden assumptions underneath an instruction, underneath an ask, and underneath a task.”

Dr. Deena Kara Shaffer


Russel Lolacher: And on the show today, we have Dr. Deena Kara Schaefer. And here is why she is awesome. She’s an author, educator, learning coach, resiliency consultant, wellness writer, and speaker. And I did that all in one breath. She’s behind AwakendLearning, which is a consultancy teaching us how to learn. She’s a president of Learning Specialist Association of Canada.

And she’s the author of a new book. FEEL GOOD LEARNING, all in caps, on how to prioritize, focus, study, and learn everything better. And she’s here. Hello, Deena.

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: Oh, hi! It’s so good to be here. I’m gonna have to, though really shore up the energy that is different between where your time zone is and mine to really match the beautiful flurry, but hi!

Russel Lolacher: If it makes you feel feel better, I peak early, and then I just glide for the rest of way.

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: Great. I’m more of slow burn so I’ll just ramp up.,

Russel Lolacher: We’ll meet in the middle, somewhere around the 20 minute mark. Perfect.

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: That’ll be a really fantastic minute alchemy there.

Russel Lolacher: Yeah, wait for it. Everybody listening, wait for it. See if you See if you notice. So, I don’t know if this is a good segue or a bad segue for you to relive an experience or a memory, but I have to start off with the first question I ask all of my guests, which is, what’s your best or worst employee experience?

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: Yeah, that’s my favorite. Especially because what all the listeners don’t know is that we’ve been for the past two and a half hours working through the tech.

Russel Lolacher: This is a fair We are masking so hard right now.

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: There’s lot of fury, there’s a lot of sorrow, but we’ve made it to the other side.

Russel Lolacher: It’s been very traumatIc.

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: We continue to talk about distress and despair yeah, a prior, prior work, a prior moment with boss type human. And it was so beautiful and connecting with you because you’re like, Don’t say one of each.

You got to choose. So I have one, but I’m gonna leave it to you and your and your audience as to whether or not it’s the best or worst. I don’t mean to be cryptic, here we go.

Russel Lolacher: Mysterious. Go.

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: Right? So, I was in a meeting with a remarkable dean. Lot of positional power, a lot of gorgeous fanciness of thought and leadership. And she had kind of tapped me to talk about student retention. My whole life is about making learning better, especially around where learning, there’s some suffering in that. And so she wants to talk with me and hear my ideas about retention. How do people stay when staying is hard? How do we get learners to stay post secondary? Oh boy, Russel. I, I really, I do what Deena does, which is that I kind of. Go for it.

I research, I poll my peers across Canada. What are you doing? What are you doing? What are you doing over there? What’s going on over there? What’s working? Deep dive into the literature. I set up an agenda, ranked orders, some potential questions on each of those items. I am ready, Russel. I am ready for my Monday 9am.

I email it to her on a Friday in preparation. I think I’m like patting myself on the back. I’ve done a good job. I’ve supported her well. I’ve tended to her question. We set.

No response on friday. Okay, cool. Okay, cool. Maybe she’s not in the office? Monday morning rolls around. No prior reply. Alright, alright. It’s 9am. I show up. Immediately. Deena, don’t ever do that again. I was taken aback. I have tears in my eyes a little bit. It’s like a spirit ouch, a sting. She goes, you didn’t have to do any of that. I just wanted to shoot the shit with you and hear some of your ideas. And in that moment, I understood how in any current boss type encounter, we carry the history of all of our boss type encounters.

And I missed the mark so profoundly about what this leader was asking because of the hurts of prior leaders and how they had expected me to show up in spaces. They needed to have me come with a full agenda, with a kind of stratified order of what is most important, what’s next, what’s okay if we don’t talk about…

I had to actually come with some of my own predictive answers or responses. I couldn’t just come with an open and spacious question at times. I brought all of that into the present moment and I didn’t have to. And that wave of spirit ouch really softened into relief of what it is to be asked to just show up with no extra or hours and hours and hours and hours and hours of research, but that my presence was enough for, an informal meeting.

Russel Lolacher: What was your relationship with that boss from that moment forward?

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: So much stronger, so much more trust. So much more of me and of her and every subsequent encounter, because we caught each other in that moment. She had to feel safe enough to say not okay, not necessary, don’t do that. Overwhelming actually. I had to be able to hear it, locate the part of me that was doing that, and be willing to do it differently.

And actually we’ve just wrote, written an article, um, a chapter for an upcoming anthology and we’re thinking about it as like expansive or spacious leadership to be able to do that dance that is full of messiness and mistakes.

Russel Lolacher: The strength of self-awareness and situational awareness in how that sort of came together in that moment for both of you was huge. But you have to have that, you have to be able to have muscle.

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: For sure, and the lucky part for me, that allows me to take that interplay forward into future meetings and future boss type moments, is it’s not that she and I had an underlying friendship, we didn’t have a long history, it wasn’t that, oh, Deena, come on, you don’t have to do that. Oh no, she got serious.

She got real serious. And then I got real stunned, serious. And then we could pause, feel into, and kind of co-work out together what had happened. And now we can really shoot the shit of our retention.

Russel Lolacher: Right. So, I’m going to use a beautiful segue here and go, Well, you learned a lot in that moment.

And we’re going to talk about learning today, Deena.

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: Nice.

Russel Lolacher: Eh? That was good.

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: Nice.

Russel Lolacher: So, learning. It’s not an obvious thing for a lot of people. It is not intentional. It is just something they suddenly have to do as a checkbox when they’re in the workplace. We’re in the work environment. And a lot of the work you do, and a lot of the intention you have is helping leaders have a plan to learn, to learn to learn. Why do they need to?

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: Yeah, I love this question. I think because of how much is inherited and gets kind of spills back over without any intention. We’re just doing the same thing, saying the same things, repeating things that we’ve absorbed in our earlier career journeys. So part of helping leaders understand the learning element is really about bringing more awakeness. It’s about bringing more awareness as to the how of what they’re doing. So if they are bringing folks together in a meeting, are they thinking about the pedagogy, the art of teaching, the art of learning, what’s happening in that moment between leading a meeting and having other people hear and respond?

Are they thinking about actually including and helping all folks find access and waypoints into that? We often think about learning as happening in formal institutions and our early years of getting to wherever we got to, we think about it in terms of upskilling or next leveling, or, you know, career step up.

We think about it in terms of professional development, if we have to actually take certifications or, all right, we’re heading to that conference again and really hoping that one of those, you know, 15 sessions is a little bit of an uplift or offers some, some takeaways that I can actually take away.

That is true. That learning happens in all of those places, but learning happens in the connective tissue of the everyday and workplaces. And I’m so interested in that. I’m interested in what we might bring like radical disruptive and all the way awake energy to, um, that otherwise just gets recreated over and over.

Russel Lolacher: So what damage are we doing following the protocols, the processes, the, Oh, I don’t need to learn a thing until somebody tells me I have to learn a thing. Or, you know, what, what damage is the current learning model doing?

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: Yeah. I wonder if there even is a current learning model. I think there’s an assumption. We learn through osmosis that we pick up a workplace culture and we just carry that on. So the harm, I think, is in pretty profound exclusion despite the language of inclusion. I think it’s a values misalignment.

I think if we’re talking about access, are we actually making sure that we’re not speaking in acronyms, that we’re giving many different ways to participate? Are we explaining in multiple metaphors what we’re actually after? Are we explaining and offering insight into the how of what we’re asking our teams and employees to do?

It’s one thing to just say, do this or expect, not even say it or ask it. Expect that something is done. Does anyone know how? Anyone been shown how? Given feedback as to how? I think that’s a critical piece. Peace to productivity, non toxic productivity, to team harmony and cohesion, psychological safety, anything good happening at work.

How’s that how going?

Russel Lolacher: So, what is a learning strategy? One with intention, one that’s planned. I’m a big fan of definitions. As much as I love words being used over and over again, please note sarcasm, I need to understand what they actually mean.

And so, leadership, sure, but from a learning strategy standpoint, how would you define that intention?

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: Yeah, this this is my whole life, Russel, for sure. So some people who are fancier than I might call it metacognition, so learning about learning. Some people get real jazzed about the learning science and cognitive psych. For sure, I’m into it, cool, do that, if that’s your jam. I don’t know, I think about learning strategies, which arguably are potentially the two most boring words together. Although are, any moment, are gonna have their day. And people will understand that it’s actually transformative work despite the big yawn about the phrase learning strategies. It’s the how. It’s revealing the hidden assumptions underneath an instruction, underneath an ask, and underneath a task. So it means things like, how do you

do you prioritize? If you have 15 things that are coming at you, how do you actually know which to do first?

There are many different ways to think about that. Why don’t we talk about that? Why don’t we reveal it? It’s actually not very obvious. Or if we talk about procrastination, if we have a massive to do list, or even a short one, where did those to dos come from?

It’s a brain dump. It’s kind of arbitrary. It’s like how we remembered it, and then somebody interrupted, and then, oh man, I got an email. Okay, I better write that down. It’s coming from all kinds of sources. Well, how am I going to tackle it?

Well, I’m going to do the thing that’s easiest to cross off, because I like things getting crossed off. But that’s arbitrary and leaves all the hardest, most complex, layered tasks left.

And there’ll be items side by side on a to do list that carry much different weight. This might seem so boring, but it is the architecture of each of our days. Whether we talk about it and air it out or not. So it’s the how we go about whatever it is we’re going about doing underneath every field of work.

Russel Lolacher: So I’m listening to this and I’m hearing an individual that’s having to craft a learning strategy. Is it up to the individual or what is the organization’s role in making sure this is part of their culture?

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: Yeah. This is I think one of the favorite things that you could ask me because there’s so much. pressure on a person to do all the things. To rally and shore up in the face of hurdles and setbacks and roadblocks to keep learning to keep honing and revising that is a lot and that is exhausting and actually the flip of it is a system process operations that nourish on scale, right?

Like more than just one person trying their whole heart and guts out. So if we think operationally or organizationally how to enact this… well if we’re willing to all buy into things standard now, like learning outcomes, like equity statements, like mission, vision, values. I mean, there are articulations that we all do and try to live up to. Then why not reveal the how? Why not make transparent the various different ways to go about doing it? There is no singular way to write a particular brief, to research, to go about discerning what’s important, to prepare a presentation.

Why not not actually have opportunities for folks to share what it is that they do, to co create, co curate, to understand, Oh, that’s how you do, that’s how you organize your day?

Whoa, dude, that’s brilliant. And then also offer a variety of different kind of accesses. apps, hacks, interventions micro approaches that might help people out a whole lot at getting through whatever is on their plate in the workplace.

Russel Lolacher: So, I’m trying to think of it from an organization because you bring up vision, mission, values, but that is very much driven by an organization. Individuals may not be do they need to consider those things when they’re planning their own learning strategy? Is it personalized to them. Is it have to be in line with the organization they work for based on those vision, missions, values and so forth?

Or is there some happy medium? I just, I always find it interesting when we talk about personalization, but an organization is so generic. It is so driven to the dollar or driven to a purpose that is not a straight, easy line necessarily from an individual to an organization. So when we’re thinking about learning, right?

What do we have to keep in mind when we’re making those strategies?

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: Yeah, I I love that. Here is where actually the individual can do whatever that, and you told me I could swear, fuck they want, because yeah.

So, if I’m in a meeting and I have to pay fullest attention so that I walk out of that meeting understanding what my role is, what my steps are. There is no singular way to take notes. That’s, that’s up to me. But the way it gets to be up to me is if we talk about it. How how do you take notes? How do you pay attention when meetings are boring? How do you figure out next steps? That’s the the kind of conversation that I really want leaders to begin to encourage with their staff and team. There are so many good initiatives, but the one thing for me that’s missing is this tacit, assumed, well, you know, people just know how to do the thing I’m asking them to do. And it could come in the form of Alright everybody, we’re gonna read Adam Grant’s work right now. Alright, we’re gonna talk about Atomic Habits everyone! Now we’re gonna automate some shit!

It it can be in the form of book sharing. It can be in the form of beautiful podcast sharing. Look, I’m, I’m amplifying you right now, buddy. My new pal! We made it through like a whole tech trauma together. Look at that. I’m just, um, shouting out to you on your own, on your own thing. It’s about resource sharing.

External resources and also internal ones. It’s about going, hey, I use Todoist. Anybody else? Oh yeah, I use Microsoft OneNote to keep myself organized. I use a handy dandy analog agenda. I tape record as I go home and then I transcribe it. How do people do the volumes of they have to do?

It is a taken for granted aspect of the work world that I want to blow wide open. What’s your process? How many times do we have to talk about something like toxic productivity? Or, I’m overwhelmed. I’m teetering on the edge. I cannot cope with all there is to do. I am so delighted and relieved that there are brilliant and skillful mental health professionals.

I also want highly skilled learning professionals to be included in the mix, to be like, there are such a range of approaches and interventions that will change how you move through the stuff of your day.

Russel Lolacher: I love that you’re not making it about being an island because you have to engage with others. You have to be curious in order to understand what learning is needed or how you can better learn or I just… I hate the idea that it’s just on someone, sometimes even that it’s just on the organization, but I love the idea of that interconnectedness, that network, where if you want to learn, you can bring others with you. It can be a collaborative effort instead of just something that you have figured out yourself.

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. It’s not about me signing up for whatever the, you know, on the learning calendar this month is how to use Excel a little better. The procurement process. Those are are good and those are important and holy crap they’re on my, you know, they’re on my calendar for next month too.

But I don’t think it has to be a loan. I don’t think it has to be a pre recorded video. I think it can be conversations about what’s hard, what are the sticky points, what are the bottlenecks, and what are people doing to get through them in in a way that prioritizes and centers the how.

Russel Lolacher: How do we do this if we’re not extroverts? How do we do this if we’re Neurodivergent, introverted, everybody’s, I mean, diversity is exceptionally important. Inclusivity is exceptionally important, but when we’re learning to learn, we don’t all learn the same way. So is there a way to approach this strategy while bringing others along with you? I’m just trying to get to a point where I’m just trying to understand how we devise a strategy if it’s not the same for everybody else but can still be effective.

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: Yeah, so what you’ve depicted is my whole life. So as a once high school classroom teacher, uh exclusively supporting learners working through addiction with learning disabilities, mental health issues for 12 years on a post secondary campus, creating thriving interventions on kind of a national scale.

Exclusively also for students who were struggling, chronic health, ADHD, injury, that continues, that informs my work every day. And, I’m delighted you asked about extroversion, or like how buoyant and out in the world do I need need to be? I’m trying with my whole heart to be that in this moment, but I’m no extrovert. I, I know what that is. I also come from a generation where, psychoeducational testing wasn’t, wasn’t really the norm. So, I can’t possibly tell you what my learning profile is. But what I know is it is a welcome for all learners and all ways of learning, which is to say, if we for example, in a meeting, in an event, the way that we think of every diet and every practice as being welcome in the so too is every way of learning. And in that we can actually make suggestions like, if anyone in having to pre read this material and come prepared, we want to check out the bionic reading method.

That’s where it bolds the first few letters or syllables of every word to be able to retain that information and move through. That’s born out of the wisdom of ADHD research. Or here’s a really ethical way of using ChatGPT to synthesize enormous volumes of material that maybe you don’t have a chance in heck at being able to actually get through and distill in preparation for a board meeting.

There are so many, here’s another one, Magic ToDo. This is brilliant. If you were to grandmother Google -Magic ToDo right now. I make no money off of any of the things I say, just to be really clear. This is all crowdsourced, right? I know half of the stuff comes from other folks being like, Hey Deena, have you seen this? Hey Deena, have you seen that? So if we look up -Magic ToDo, and we go, Oh man, how do I write an outline for a project? How do write a Gantt chart? And then we literally magic wand. It will break it down into chunked subtasks.

That is so much more helpful than saying to somebody, do a work back.

Uh, project, you know project management, don’t you? Not helpful. Not helpful. How do we move away from shaming assumptions? It’s by giving people tools to how. Tools to access.

So how do we implement it organizationally no matter if you have ADHD, if you are introverted, if you have any kind of combination of learning intricacies. You share share tools. As a leader, you share the tools you you turn to in any kind of gathering, what are the tools? What are you using? What are you using to show up and support your day and make it more doable?

I think there would be such a bi directional, reciprocal, or there’s like the mutuality and what is it you’re doing over there to make work life actually manageable? How are are you doing that very big project and not losing your money? How are you ensuring accountability? Oh, I’m using Asana. Oh, I’m using Slack. Oh, I’m using… great! Every day, there are new tools, most of them free, that if we just through conversation, relationship, invitation, popping them up, having them be as standard as learning learning outcome to an event.

It would change workflow. It would change relationship to work. It would change, ultimately productivity and how people feel about what they do with the minutes and hours of their day.

Russel Lolacher: We talk about executives modeling the kind of cultures that they want. How do you see the C-suite normalizing this kind of culture?

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: Oh, man beginning of every meeting… at the end of every meeting, how are you actually going to going to do that? I think the, the like the humility and the unarmoring of revealing the infrastructure to how we go about doing stuff. The, you know, the tools to do task initiation. Dude Russel, right now, when you, when you have a task on your to do list that’s it’s needy or weighty, and don’t actually want to do it. But you feel the pressure of you have to do it, how do you start? And I know we are going to be glib and sarcastic, so if we could shortcut through that. You’re very funny. But what’s the, what’s the heartfelt thing after that of like, how do you start something you don’t really want to do?

Russel Lolacher: In the simplest of forms, I just start. Like it’s just, I just start I, I get to a point at the end of my day, I, I would love to say it’s the first thing I do in the morning, but I’ll do all the other things ahead of it because they’re either more enjoyable, quicker, I get to talk to somebody I like. Like it’s, it’s something in that is that I will put all the roadblocks in the way so that by the time it rolls around, I at least start, I don’t get very far, but I will nibble.

And then as soon as I nibble, I realize it’s not nearly as bad as I think it’s going to be. And then I attack it a little better the next day. That’s generally how it seems to work for me.

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: There are two learning strategies that you have just mentioned right away. So one is the 15 minute rule. Might not be 15 minutes, might be 8, might be 23. But that’s a standard way, a kind of really well known out there. If you, if you start without contemplating, Do I feel like it? Am I in the mood? We have a real hard time with forecasting correctly.

Because I think I’m going to be much more in the mood tomorrow. I will not be. I will never feel like doing this really annoying, hard, like complicated task. I actually will never feel like it. So if my starting is based on feeling like it, I really got to find a different strategy. 15 minute rule, your description of nibbling, if I just start and do some nibbles, this thing will eventually get done.

The other thing you’ve mentioned is the Zeigarnik effect, which is when we leave something incomplete, it’s much easier to pick it up. We reactivate our memory. We can get back in the flow. We don’t have to do it all. We don’t have to complete it all. There are hundreds of strategies like this. Chunking. We take a big thing.

We make it into smaller tasks. It goes on and on and on. If only we talked about it outside of classroom spaces or, you know, metacognition conferences.

Russel Lolacher: How do we keep this consistent, Deena? Because I can tell you people will listen to this and are like, Oh, great. I’ll start my meeting like X now, or we’re going to have a meeting tomorrow where we’re going to talk about this. And then it dies on a vine or dare I say it, we get too busy. So how do we get consistent when it comes to learning to learn?

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: Yeah I was thinking about this, because wouldn’t it be so nice if I had an acronym for everybody? Wouldn’t that be, like if I gave everyone a mnemonic. Boom! There’s a learning strategy. Mic drop there. mmm, Anyone get it? It’s a bit of yeah… Mneumonic? Memory?

Russel Lolacher: Sorry, I had something glib to say, but I’m going to myself.

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: Bit of a learning nerd. Sorry. So I, I tried come up with some maybe helpful alliterations. The first response I’ll say to to you is this, um, um there is nothing prescriptive that any listener has to do at all, okay? And there’s nothing that the bunch of your listeners have to do in the same way. There is no set way to do this. It’s simply a principle, an awakening to revealing the how. To be willing to go, I’m not going to assume you know what I’m talking about. And I don’t want you to assume that I understand how to how to do this.

So I don’t know, a helpful acronym? How can I make this clearer, right? Clearer. Like that pedagogy of meetings. Am I using acronyms that are leaving people out? Am I assuming access points that people don’t have? Am I referring to institutional history, that no one has a hope in heck who’s a, who’s, you know, a hire from the last two years? Is there any knowledge about? What am I assuming that if I catch myself, oh, let me explain that actually. Okay. Let me give you the full information. So can you make it clearer? How to make it kinder? What’s the tone I’m using that’s full of assumption or not? And what’s the time I’m expecting? Am I trying to get it all in? Can I offer a little bit more spaciousness for us to co wrestle through?

Are you really, uh, are you understanding in a solid way? When you leave this meeting, when you leave this session, when you leave leave whatever it is, this encounter, do you know what your next or your first step is? And then last is congruous. So how am I helping people do their work in ways that are congruous with the policies, the languaging I’m using, is it in sync with the mission vision values? Am I sharing how to do that instead of just getting really pissed off when there’s misalignment?

What do you think? Clearer, kinder, congruous. Kinda?

Russel Lolacher: Doesn’t really roll off the tongue, but, you know, makes a lot of sense.

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: I don’t know. I have some poetic sensibility. I was trying. I was trying. I was trying. I just want to say the word how. Maybe I got it. Maybe. All right. So maybe book number three is going to be something to do with H-O-W. Do you know number two is gonna be Raising Well Learners And Teaching Learning Strategies To Parents.

Russel Lolacher: Oh, I love that.

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: Yeah, that’s coming out next September.

Russel Lolacher: Oh, fantastic. Way to workshop on my show.

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: Thanks, everyone. What does everyone think? Alright, how? I, right. We’re gonna scrap clearer, kinder, and congruous. We’re bringing in something meaningful with the letters H-O-W.

Russel Lolacher: You heard it here. All right. So how have you seen this work? How have you seen a culture embracing learning to learn and it benefiting from it?

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: Ooh. I mean, that’s where when you see Chief Learning Officers. P. S. If anyone is recruiting out there, ha ha! Um, I see it when I’m asked to come and give talks on literally prioritization. I see it when organizations welcome open conversations around wrestling with time management. I see it happening when there is honesty around how hard it is to do the work shit of the day.

That’s where I see it happening. I think some institutions get it a little bit more than others. You can imagine anything to do with formal education. It’s pretty well practiced. I see offshoots, non profits. I see some spaces that borrow. I see places that are actually trying to do the work of decolonization, equity diversity and inclusion, justice, because they’re language of unlearning, of of deep radical, rebellious undoing. That takes a sharing of, wait, how, do you do what you’re doing?

What are are the principles underneath your workflow, your approach to time, your relationship with time?

Russel Lolacher: So you’ve touched on it a bit throughout our conversation, but I want to just clear it up, get to a point here where we can be very succinct. If someone’s listening to this and they’re like, I need to learn how to learn, I need to take that first step forward, what would you recommend they do when they go back to the office tomorrow and they’re thinking about changing the way they approach learning?

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: Yeah, I would begin to demystify that a little bit. You could even bring a learning strategy to unpacking that. You could put, for example, on a piece of paper, if you’re, if you like actually having a pen in your hand and and drawing something out and put the word learning strategy in a bubble and then have offshoots from there about what that really means.

Is it something to do with reading copious amounts of notes, articles, research? Is that what’s getting in your way? And it’s very, very difficult to find time and clarity and make meaning of lots and lots of words on lots and lots of pages. Is it something around timing? Are you feeling either late on deadlines or it’s hard for you to meet milestones?

Or you Get the work done on time, but it comes at a huge cost. A lot of stress, panic even.

Is it something around editing and clarity of communication? Is it around presentations and being able to speak in front of people? Is it about distilling what’s important from when someone else is talking? Whether it’s at a meeting, um, a large gathering.

We try to what it is about learning that is messy or thorny or tricky or muddy for some. What is holding someone back getting in the way? And then from there, we can begin to strategize. So if it’s about reading, is it about volume? Well, we might take the total number of pages that we need to read in preparation,

we divide that by the number of days. So I got 100 pages. I got to read. I got five days to do it. I’m not going to try to sit down a hundred pages all at once. I won’t retain anything for like past page 25. So to bring alertness and bring understanding, I’m going to read, you know, 20 pages a day for five days.

And if 20 pages in one sitting is a lot, I’m going to break that down into 10 pages at the start of the workday and 10 pages at the end. That’s a very different way of moving through work, right? If it has to do with editing, what’s the feedback I’ve been given before? Am I aware of some of the basics? Do I read it aloud to myself? Do I print it off, double space, whatever the document I’m working on is? Do I pair swap with somebody else and we can actually co edit each other’s work? You know, is it around procrastination and to your. Really beautiful insider on that 15 minute rule or leaving something partially done so I can pick it up the next day. The strategies are actually endless. It’s beginning to identify what aspect is it around the reading type thing, the speaking type thing, that making sense of something, that polished? Each of these will come with both digital and, you know, by hand strategies that you then compare and tailor, experiment with, make your own.

Russel Lolacher: I think that’s a beautiful way to move into the last question of our conversation, which is, Deena, what’s one simple action people can do right now to improve their relationships at work?

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: To improve the relationship. Beautiful. Is when I have a request. as a colleague, as a supervisor, as a decision maker, as either a thought leader or a leader with positional power, if I am asking or directing somebody to do something, may I also reveal the how? Without any assumption hovering there that will lead to confusion, that will lead to less productivity, less clarity. If I’m gonna ask you, I’m also gonna share either what I have in mind, or space for you to ask, what are some ways you can suggest that I might start or move through it?

Russel Lolacher: That is Dr. Deena Kara Schaffer. She is an author, educator, learning coach, amazing technologist, as we’ve learned, and speaker. Thank you so much for being here, Deena.

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: You’re welcome. And also, that was so hard.

And the learning for me today was the deep patience and self compassion with things. wildly outside my control. It might be my province to your, to your to your point, Russel. It might be the, you know, really half a millimeter of rain that has disrupted the whole interweb.

It’s hard to say, um, but I’ve had to learn in this moment that deep, sticktoitniveness, that deep perseverance of the thing that is at the heart of this, which is the joy of conversation, the joy of talking about how to make work better, especially when it’s hard.

Russel Lolacher: And I appreciate having the conversation with you. Thanks so much for this, Deena. That was awesome.

Dr Deena Kara Shaffer: Thank you, Russel, so much.



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