Is Being Overwhelmed Required?

What can we expect of learning professionals?

Clark Quinn provides a comprehensive look at what defines professionalism for L&D practitioners in his blog post,  What is a true L&D professional? Litmos Blog.

Having just completed ATD’s Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) process, this topic is obviously fresh in my mind.

On one level, I completely agree with Clark regarding the

atd competency model
ATD Competency Model 

extensive list of components required of a competent practitioner of L&D.  A revelation that became very real for me as I studied for the two exams required of candidates for the CPLP is the breadth of knowledge that is required in our field just to do our jobs.  The ATD Competency Model spans 10 areas of expertise which extend beyond the 6 foundational competencies.


While it may not fill every component in Clark’s list, it’s close.  and I can attest to how overwhelming it is in its scope.  The Knowledge Exam covers all 10 Areas of Expertise.  The study guide, The CPLP Learning System, is 1000 pages jam-packed with the information expected of a CPLP to know.  The approach to the Skills Application Exam is an attempt to expand upon the working knowledge of candidates as well as to test the understanding of the processes L&D professionals use in their work.



I’ll admit, there is room for improvement in the process for the CPLP, I believe it is in the right direction for credentialing professionals in our field.  It is extensive, comprehensive, overwhelming, and exhausting.

On the other hand, I disagree with Clark on two points.  The first is a factual error.  He states that “L&D may not have continuing education requirements like accounting, law, and medicine”.  At least in the case of the CPLP, I am required to earn 60 recertification points in a 3 year period to maintain my status as a CPLP.  I believe that Training Industry’s CPTM certification also has a continuing education requirement.  Whether these are as rigorous as accounting, law, and medicine may be debatable, the statement that there is no continuing education requirement in L&D is false.

Clark also maintains that L&D professionals must maintain a current knowledge in all of the components of Knowledge and Process just like professionals in accounting, law, and medicine.  I maintain that this is a strawman argument based on a misunderstanding of the actual practice in these other fields.  To become a CPA, pass the Bar, or be certified as an MD, candidates must demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of vasts amount of information across the broad spectrum of their fields.

But, it is my experience, once an accountant earns their CPA, most specialize in a particular area – auditing, taxation, or forensic accounting and often lose track of other areas of specialization.  A tax accountant is more than likely going to make a referral to a forensic accountant if there is a disputed estate to be detailed for a court than they are to take on that client.  That’s ethical and professional.

To maintain that L&D professionals are responsible to know everything about every aspect of our field so that they can “practice” every aspect, seems wrong.  It also reflects a long-held practice of “we have to do everything to prove our worth” that I believe has harmed our field in the eyes of our business partners.

There is no way that any professional can know everything about their field on an ongoing basis.  Just as a doctor who maintains a family medicine practice will provide referrals to specialists for a colonoscopy or oncology care, it would be professional for an instructional designer to seek the assistance of a learning analytics specialist to help design a data strategy to gather the right data needed or to do big data analysis.

Overwhelming a certification candidate in the evaluation process is one thing, but to demand that learning and performance professionals live in a constant state of being overwhelmed in neither professional nor ethical.

What do you think?  How much do learning professionals need to know to be certified?  Do they need to maintain that broad knowledge on an ongoing basis? or is specialization after certification, like accountants, doctors, and lawyers acceptable?  Please comment in the space provided below.

Featured image provided by Mikito Tateisi on Unsplash.


Dave Lee, CPLP

This morning I had an email from ATD.  It took a little bit of courage to click on that message.  Would I find out that I’m now a Certified Professional in Learning in Performance?  Or would I have to start studying again?

Well, obviously from the featured image and title of this blog, I passed.  YAY!  WHEW!

Months and months of studying, the 1000 pages of the ATD Learning System (thankfully in digital form),  120+ Mindmeister mindmaps, 14 weeks in a virtual study group, practice tests and quizzes, and lots and lots of stress provided to be successful.

®What Is CPLP®?
The Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) is a certification for talent development professionals offered by the ATD Certification Institute (ATD CI). The credential is broad based and measures a talent development professionals’ competency in 10 areas of expertise (AOEs) with a focus on global mindset as defined by the latest ATD Competency Model.  – The CPLP Handbook.

A year and a half after deciding on this goal, I’m happy for this achievement and grateful to my huge village that helped me achieve it.

First off, thank you to the Chicagoland Chapter of ATD for the scholarship they awarded me to help pay the costs.  As a whole everyone with ATD Chi was supportive and helpful throughout the process, but Tom WestAnthony Dudek, and Bill Cupuro were standouts.  Thank you, guys!

There was a special group of 14 friends who helped me out just as I was contemplating taking on this process.  Their kindness changed the game for me and was an inspiration when the hours and days of studying were grinding on me.

I participated in the Spring/Summer 2017 Virtual Study Group sponsored by the ATD Rocky Mountain chapter (along with several other chapters).  The format was very helpful not only in learning the content, but it kept me on schedule during the intense Knowledge Exam preparation.  After the Knowledge Exam, this group was a source of support and inspiration.  A special call out to Roberto Montanez who became my study buddy all the way through the process.  Congrats Roberto!

Trish Uhl was there with good advice when I was contemplating certifications, as I prepared for the Knowledge exam, guidance about the SAE, and at the very end, a reassuring voice to a very nervous candidate.  Her Owl’s Ledge materials were instrumental in my success.  In the process she’s become a friend and mentor.

There were dozens and dozens of friends and colleagues who supported me with encouragement, coffee, meals, and willing ears for a topic they generally new little about.

Was it all worth it?  I think so.  The statistics show that it should help in my career and earning potential.  But for me those four letters I can put behind my name in professional venues attest to a career’s worth of knowledge and actions that has real value to my profession.

Dave Lee, CPLP.

I like the feel of that.

Learning that 110% isn’t Good

My last post was almost two months ago.  What happened?  To be honest, in the spirit of Working Out Loud, I have to work on not working so hard and setting limits.

For most of the past two months, I have been working on a tremendously exciting project with Julian Stodd’s Sea Salt Learning group.  Serving as Online Community Manager for a senior leadership program applying Julian’s work on social learning, storytelling for business and social leadership has been a tremendous opportunity.  I dove in – and let it consume my life.

I let it override my other projects – preparing to launch my own consulting practice, completing the website for said practice, keeping up with my blog, twitter and other social networking efforts, preparing for the Skill Application Exam for the CPLP certification, etc.


Passion – I LOVE what I do.  I totally get into understanding how learning works, why it doesn’t, and how to help people learn what they need to learn.  There’s nothing wrong with passion for my work.  Too many people got to work every day just because its’ how they pay their bills.  They just go through the motions.  I value my passion for what I do, but I also let it carry me away.  I’ll spend hours reading articles and related research because I come across a link and then another.  All relevant, all interesting.  But all taking up time I should be spending on other things.

Disdain for Regimentation – At times when I’ve caught glimpses of colleagues calendars and they have every waking minute scheduled for the next two months, I literally have shuddered.  My Mom has such a structured life (which she adores) that I know exactly where she will be nearly every day of every week.  Both extremes, but I default to the other end of the spectrum.  It may come from years of learning to cope with ambiguity and living a life not fearful of failing.  I love change, ambiguity is my friend, resilience is probably one of my best qualities.  But living in these states prevents me from the at least minimal structure I need to get to the gym or to blog regularly.  Things I WANT to do.

Perfectionism – This one has provided a career for a couple therapists over the years.  No matter what I’m doing, I can always imagine doing it better than what I currently am.  Sometimes it freezes me into inaction and other times it leads me to look for another research paper or revise a document one more time when it already is good enough for the job at hand.  At it’s worst, I delay and delay and then hurriedly complete a project that could have been better if only I hadn’t worried about it being perfect.

Focus and Effort – Yet again another double-edged sword.   I can easily get tunnel visioned on projects and give them 110% effort.  In theory, this is a great characteristic.  In theory, I would have all the time in the world available for every project.  In practice, to have time to complete everything I need and want to do, I need to divide my focus.  Working late into the night might feel good because I’m getting a lot done, but regular sleep and exercise are necessary for long-term success.

Clearly, I have a pretty good line of sight on at least some of my flaws.  So why don’t I just change them?  I see the benefit in the change.  But these same characteristics have driven my success over the years.  They are habits I’m comfortable with and habits are hard to change.

But I owe my clients better.  I owe my partners better.  I owe myself better.

One of my favorite quotes from Julian Stodd’s work is:

the things that got us this far will not get us the rest of the way.

So time for some self-reflection.  Time to get serious about working-out-loud.  Time to set my priorities and plan for all of the components needed to make my great life even better.

Feature Image provided by

What do you think?  Do you struggle with any of these characteristics?  Any advice?  Please feel free to comment below.

Eight Days to Go: Review and Rest

Since March, I’ve been studying away for the CPLP Knowledge Exam, which is the second of three criteria that must be met to earn the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) designation from the ATD Institute.

Now I’m only eight days from the big day.  I’m confident, but nervous.  Probably the right way to feel right about now.

The cause of the nervousness is obvious.  I realized a few weeks ago that not only is this the first high-stakes test I’ve taken in a very long time, but it is a key component of the re-crafting of my career path that I’ve been working on for a year now.  This is important to me, so of course I’m a bit nervous about it. The corpus of knowledge covered by 150 questions is huge.  Concern that gaps in my studies might be the target of those 150 questions have crept into my dreams and is fueling my last week effort (see my study plan below) to find and fill those gaps.

But I’m also confident.  My scores on practice exams and quizzes have been steadily trending up through my study period.  I feel my study strategy has been sound.  ATD supplied materials and content, advice from current CPLP’s on study and test strategies, the ATD Rocky Mountain Chapter Virtual Study group, the LinkedIn CPLP groups, and Owls Ledge’s site have provided the resources and support I’ve needed.

It doesn’t hurt that the first member of the virtual study group to take the Knowledge Exam passed earlier this week!

In the spirit of working out loud, here is my study plan leading up to the test next week:

Knowledge exam last 10 days study plan

my grandfather’s advice

update: dave ferguson just added this post to the work/learning blog carnival for March.  check out the other contributors’ thoughts on the need for passion in our work and learning.

clark quinn hits on a key concept that i’ve lived and worked by all my life.  when i was seventeen, my grandfather pulled me aside and give me a sage piece of advice.

my grandfather – ed lee

he said:

son.  you need to find something you love to do for you work, because you are going to be doing it for most of the waking hours of your life.

coming from a man who was a master carpenter who spend all of his spare time when he wasn’t working on a construction site in his home workshop, this made sense to me.  fortunately, three years into my professional life, i stumbled upon the field of educational publishing and fell in love with the field of learning.

like most learning professionals i know, i love helping people learn by personally helping them either by facilitating a learning experience or mentoring them one-on-one.  i also love constructing learning materials and experiences that will reach numerous people.

what it comes down to is that when my heart sings,  when i feel that all my knowledge and experience can be used to advance a greater good, when i feel i’m making a difference in other peoples and my, lives then there’s very little labor in my work.

as clark also points out, as a manager and as a learning professional i’ve found that if i can fire the intrinsic motivation in those i’m working with, they end up often esceeding even their own expectations.  research study after research study on employee and learner motivation show that intrinsic motivators (do i make a difference?  is my work contributing to the company’s goals?  will this prepare me for the future?) are much more powerful drivers than extrinsic motivators (salary, performance reviews, an A versus a B).

this is why i’ve always seen myself (see my post training vs. learning from five years ago) as a learning professional who tries to draw learners to learning versus a teacher who “makes” people learn.

so grandpa.  thanks for the advice you gave me 30 years ago.  i love what i do for work and work at what i love.

Karyn Romeis on 3/16/09

Nice post! Your Granddad was a wise man! My own Granddad thought that one should do a proper job like being a civil servant which he, his father and his grandfather did for all their working lives. It wasn’t about enjoying your job, it was about doing something respectable.

Did you know that Clark’s post was part of a blog carnival hosted by Dave Ferguson? See my contribution. You should send Dave a link.

Dave Ferguson: Dave’s Whiteboard » Blog Archive » Working/Learning carnival: the latest session on 3/6/09

[…] as is the renewal of the tradition in today’s world.  Dave Lee joins the carnival with My Grandfather’s Advice, where he looks at how his own career has developed in no small part because of that […]

Brian on 2/28/09

Great post.. and I think his advice might seem like common sense to a lot of people, but it’s actually something people should really think about. Because of the economy, a lot of people are a lot more worried about how much money they will make, and may even go into careers they don’t necessarily enjoy just because they are seen as stable jobs financially. For example, it seems like a lot of people go into healthcare for jobs such as nursing because it’s something that’s always in demand.. but they may not consider what goes into it. Healthcare jobs are very demanding, and the amount of work and time they require may turn some people off. My dad works in that field and even when he’s not working, he’s usually on call and most of the time he gets called and has to go in. I think I am lucky because I am going into a field that I am actually very interested in and like doing so far (Instructional Technology) and one that seems to be doing well even in the current economic situation. I also have to say I like the fact you consider yourself someone who “tries to draw learners to learning versus a teacher who ‘makes’ people learn”. That’s something I think I would like to consider myself, especially since the work I’m doing as a student now involves developing interactive learning modules, and I think since we have to consider the design and appeal of them, learners should hopefully feel ‘drawn’ to learning the material and more interested than they would be just reading the material in a textbook for example.