Crucial Skills®

A Blog by Crucial Learning

Trainer Insights

Karl Bradley and Finding Success Together

As Robert Ingersoll famously said, “We rise by lifting others.” That quote has become a touchstone for Karl Bradley, a leadership and team development specialist at Extension Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports the 112 land-grant institutions in the Cooperative Extension system around the U.S. and its territories.

“We need one another, and so we often forget that in our busy, professional, knowledge-worker lives” Bradley said.

Bradley and his colleagues provide professional, leadership, and team development to more than 32,000 professionals who work in those institutions—individuals who “show up to give every day,” Bradley said.

“They’re very well-educated people, from early-stage career to late-stage career,” Bradley said. “Everything that we do serves all these people so they can have a greater local impact on the communities they serve. Last year, we had a course last year that had people from Guam all the way to Puerto Rico.”

When helping these high-level professionals connect and collaborate across institutions and geographical boundaries, Bradley said they’ve shifted from saying “learning partners” to “success partners”—a distinction that goes beyond semantics to foster a mindset of supporting one another beyond the classroom.

“When you see others as success partners you can see having a relationship with them,” he said. “When we realize we’re part of each other’s success, we take action to support one another,” he said.

As his learners complete their Crucial Learning courses, Bradley encourages a social contract among the group to not only continue communication with their success partners but to also leverage Crucial Learning content and tools with their teams. One way to do that is to complete the exercises in learning guides. People can do these at the beginning or end a meeting—to kick it off it close it on a positive note.

“Whether it’s a new team or people who’ve been together a long time, the exercises are a way to energize meetings,” he said.

At Extension Foundation, they’ve also embedded into meeting agendas a prompt so people decided who will do what by when and how they will follow up.

“Often we have people write down the word ‘answer’ and suggest the answer to everything is in that word: ‘we,’” he said. “Leadership isn’t on one person, it’s on all of us. Clarity is a ‘we’ responsibility.”

Bradley also encourages learners to ask trusted colleagues to take the Style Under Stress assessment with them in mind instead of for themselves to get a broader view of how colleagues see them.

“The feedback they get is often different than the way they see themselves,” he said. “It takes their colleagues just a few minutes and is super valuable to further their self-awareness.”

Bradley said he has his learners subscribe to the after-training emails so they get additional tools for implementing what they learned in the classroom. He supplements these with notes of his own.

Bradley’s intentional about providing learners with clarity beforehand “so they’re ready to hit the ground running throughout the course,” he said.

With the learners’ busy schedules in mind, Bradley said teaching Crucial Conversations for Mastering Dialogue works best virtually one afternoon a week across a five-week period. Each week Bradley will send reminders, sometimes including homework for his learners.

“I’ll ask some questions and have them respond directly to me because that way I’m getting feedback from them as the course goes, and I can adjust based on that feedback,” he said.

As the course suggests, Bradley encourages learners to choose one skill that really stands out to them and invites them to implement it into their lives.

“The hardest thing about leadership development is behavior change,” he said. “The best coach in the world might give them amazing advice, and if someone is not ready, they’re not going to do it. Choosing that one skill to work on helps them connect with their core values, and when they share it with their success partner, change begins to happen.”

Leave a Reply