A Consultant Walks Into A Bar

January 1, 2015

It isn’t the start of a joke. It has been my ‘world’ for the last 12 months. I go to a new city. I get settled in my hotel room. I go downstairs for dinner. I lift myself up onto the bar stool and I enter into conversation. My dinner companions have included:

  • An FBI agent
  • A bail bondsman
  • A Canadian university administrator
  • Two hazardous waste management workers
  • Several airplane pilots
  • Liquor salesmen
  • An American history professor
  • A civil servant who works on sustainable energy
  • Chefs and caterers and their foodie friends
  • Agricultural product chemists
  • A defense attorney (who had been at the bar a long time)
  • A social worker for the VA
  • A nurse in town for training
  • Investment bankers
  • Bartenders of all shapes and sizes (philosophically, physically, etc.)

I ask questions. Sometimes we discuss current events or watch the game on TV. I inquire about their work and what challenges them. I learn about their ‘content area’ and what ‘career ready’ skills they need to do their jobs. I learn from their accents, their phrasing. I find out what’s being talked about in their cities – what’s ‘up’ for discussion. If I am feeling provocative, I wade into politics. (Who am I kidding…I always try to wade into politics…) The dialogue teaches me about what is going on outside the world of education. It changes my perspective. It gives me flexibility of thinking. It enlightens me. It is a terrific way to spend an evening. It is part of my professional development. I don’t know if anyone has ever thought of this type of ‘seat time’ as a ‘professional learning,’ but it sure is for me. Sidle up to the bar next to me this coming year. Let’s learn together.

If you have any questions, comments or topic suggestions, please feel free to call me, 650-868-1916 and we can Face Time, Skype me at jenniferabrams, or email me at jennifer@jenniferabrams.com and we can set up a time to talk voice to voice. I look forward to hearing from you!

Cool Resources

Books on the shelf, in the carry-on bag, and in the Amazon shopping cart…

Pico Iyer’s The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere. Given the topic of this newsletter this is an ironic choice – yet a fabulous book.

Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. The upcoming anniversary of my mother’s death, combined with my work in hospitals, made this a truly relatable read this past month.

Sarah Lanier’s Foreign to Familiar: A Guide to Understanding Hot- and Cold-Climate Cultures was suggested to me while working in Malaysia. Amazon says, "Sarah’s love and sensitivity for people of all nations will touch your heart. This book creates within us a greater appreciation for our extended families around the world and an increased desire to better understand them."

About Jennifer Abrams

Jennifer Abrams

Jennifer Abrams considers herself a "voice coach," helping others learn how to best use their voices – be it collaborating on a team, presenting in front of an audience, coaching a colleague and supervising an employee. Jennifer holds a Master's degree in Education from Stanford University and a Bachelor's degree in English from Tufts University. She lives in Palo Alto, California. Jennifer's publications include Having Hard Conversations, The Multigenerational Workplace: Communicating, Collaborating & Creating Community and Hard Conversations Unpacked – the Whos, the Whens and the What Ifs. She has also created a Corwin Press e-course by the same name.

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“Jennifer was one of the most engaging and dynamic speakers our conference has had, according to the attendees themselves. She received so many positive comments and her expertise is so well articulated and relevant, that we have subsequently invited her back to present and will continue to look for other ways to involve her. When other speakers are referencing her talk and content, the positive impression and impact she’s made is clear.”

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