5 Lessons That Made Me a Better L&D Professional


Sitting on a stool at a corporate event eating my beige lunch, I was approached by a man I didn't know. He confidently walked over with his hand outstretched and asked "are you Martyn?" which I replied "yes, hi!". He introduced himself and explained that he was heading up an IT project and that I might be able to help him out.

I know nothing about IT projects so I immediately connected the wrong dots;

He knows my name + someone told him I'm the L&D Specialist = COACH HIM!


"Tell me what it is you need to achieve" I asked (or something along those lines) as I turned to give him my full attention. He gave me an overview. I followed with more questions, it was going well, and then he stopped talking. He looked me in the eye and said "you're coaching me?" to which I responded "err, yeah I thought that's what you were expecting".

I could almost see my credibility meter drain as the conversation dried up instantly. He was polite and thanked me for my time, we shook hands again and he left. What the hell just happened? I thought coaching was the magic, the best skill, the Jedi mind trick. Why did I fail?

After reflecting I realised that he didn't want coaching, he just wanted to see if I knew anyone who could support his project.


Not everyone needs an L&D person all the time, sometimes you're a helpful contact and a good colleague.


Giving feedback to people is bread and butter for an L&D professional. We offer feedback and gather feedback in order to steer and direct change in people and teams. During a development workshop where I was a delegate we were conducting our practice sessions.

The trainer carefully observed me so as not to interrupt as I gave my feedback to another delegate, which I did fairly well I thought.

The trainer called me over to him once I had finished. As I reached him he leaned in and said "you're not going to hurt anyone". I looked at him half nodding but completely confused. He continued "you're a nice person, be completely honest with your feedback and don't be worried about hurting the other person, it's better if they feel it".

Telling people what you have observed and being unashamedly honest with them is an amazingly powerful way to invite people to change. There are still times when I second guess whether the other person can handle it, but I always choose to offer feedback first (nobody has refused...yet!) and then go straight in with an observed truth nugget.


Think of a time when a story has impacted you in a way that you can still remember it years later.

"Your delivery of this workshop was excellent and what you can do to improve it is use anecdotes" said the other trainer who was observing me. He advised me that practising being better at telling stories helps to bring learning to life, just one or two stories alongside a particular set of learning points.

I use story telling all the time now. It's in my face to face and virtual workshops, any booklets or supporting material I create, in e-learning and webinars I have designed, everywhere!

Here's the importance; think of a time when a story has impacted you in a way that you can still remember it years later. When we share stories we're sparking emotions and connections, building pictures in our minds and relating to the characters. The thing is, I only share stories from my own experience and where the lesson has made me change how I behave. 

If I share another person's story it doesn't spur the feelings behind the experience as much, that's all. Don't get me wrong, well known cautionary tales are useful but I'll always try to share personal lessons which inspire change.


Working in a highly talented L&D team was a thrill, having no budget to invest in new tools was tough. On one hand we pumped out high quality learning programmes to meet the strategic needs of multiple national business units, on the other hand we couldn't meet every single need just in time.

The solution to meeting the needs of wider and more remote business areas was to introduce a digital platform, but we had no budget to spend on it.

How could we get money to buy software to design learning for thousands of people? - this was the wrong question.

How can I design a digital course that the business would absolutely have to fund because it will save time and money? - this was the way.

I selected a cloud based e-learning authoring tool who offered a 30 day trial and built a piece of essential e-learning with it. When it was finished I showed it to the HR Director and gave a break down of the expected savings that this course would give compared to the initial cost. He was blown away and signed off on the purchase order almost straight away.

This taught me that a strong business case must put the organisation in the position of need. We needed this course and many others which followed. 4 years later the software is still being used by many new e-learning authors in that business around the UK, and they're still paying the bill.


My most recent lesson.

"showing a desire to resist authority, control, or convention"

The Oxford dictionary defines 'rebellious' as "showing a desire to resist authority, control, or convention". I mean creatively rebellious, not a 'let's overthrow the Board of Directors' kind of rebellious!

Being rebellious as an L&D professional means being able to question old methods, challenge yourself to learn about a new piece of tech and know that getting the best out of people requires them to be forced out of their comfort zone.

I guess I've always had this creatively rebellious way about me, like the first time I went ice skating as a kid. It was a trip with the scouts and I had never seen an ice rink, but I was fairly used to roller skates. I decided that it would be similar, put my ice skates on and took to the rink like a duck to water.

My Dad summed it up nicely by saying "well, nobody told you you couldn't do it" which I will never forget.

Recently I realised that Rebellious was going to be my business name because anyone can choose to change their behaviours. To be rebellious is a choice and my style of learning delivery seeks to spark that mindset. 

The lesson for me was that being rebellious is good.

Ask yourself how many people innovated by following convention. Not many, if any I would say.

How many people made world changing discoveries by creatively rebelling?

Well, we might be here for a while to answer that one.


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