Describe your current role at your company.
I lead the learning and development efforts for ThompsonGas. We are focused on developing our talent, investing in the next generation of leaders and developing curriculum that is easily accessible from any device, anywhere. We’re creating safe places for our people in all positions within the company to be able to connect with each other and the company vision while learning new skills and honing the skills they already have.
It’s about cultivating a community where we have opportunities for every employee to invest in their growth, learn from each other, build relationships across the organization and across departments, and move the needle forward as we are chasing the vision of who we are and who we want to be for our customers.
What do you think would surprise someone about the job you do?
As much as I foster environments for others to learn, I learn so much every day. Serving our team creates a hunger in me to be better, and so I learn just as much as — if not more than — the people in the training.
Every time I facilitate or create curriculum, it’s an opportunity for me to invest in myself as well as other people.
What’s the most important lesson you have learned from a mentor?
Relationships are the most important currency. In every situation, you can influence people positively or negatively, and you must be aware of your currency. You have to be aware of how you come to the table so that you’re positioning yourself to build people up, build on their strengths, encourage and edify them, and challenge them.
Everything else comes second to the relationships you build with people in the industry, internal relationships, external relationships and even the relationship with yourself.
Describe some of the biggest personal challenges you’ve experienced over your career.
I’ve had to learn that while I extend grace to other people, I often don’t extend grace to myself. And that’s wasted energy, because we all make missteps; it’s how we course correct that’s most important.
What we learn through that process is so valuable.
Another challenge is knowing when to get in the weeds and when to stay out of the weeds, because time is so finite. To effectively influence others, you must find the right balance between getting into the trenches and setting your focus on the vision, learning not to stay in the moment all the time and remembering to look toward the future, too.
Why do you think it’s important for the industry to seek out new ideas?
Because the business climate is changing. Because employees want a new contract. They want to be developed, feel valued, have a voice and adopt new technologies. They don’t want to do things the way we’ve always done them. And if we’re going to serve the propane industry effectively, we have to serve the propane industry employees really well.
We must create opportunities for them to create new talents, share ideas, bring new technology to the table, find more effective ways of doing things and welcome new ways of thinking, because the business and the employees are demanding it.
What do you do to empower and support ThompsonGas employees?
First, you have to know your people. If you don’t know your people, how can you really empower and support them? You must know what people need to be successful, who they are and how they want to be trained. Once you know your people, empowerment starts with creating a safe place, building trust, teaching them everything we know and connecting them across departments to remove roadblocks. That includes having an environment where healthy challenge exists, open questions are asked and ideas are polished through collaboration.
Describe the training techniques you feel are most effective.
We use a hybrid approach to training with consistent e-learning on certain subjects, plus in-person groups and one-on-one sessions for others. What I find to be most effective is learning from others as they generate and collaborate on ideas and using open-ended questions to spur creative thinking. The greatest buy-in to change is coming up with the solution yourself!