"I know that I can always go straight to Mind Tools and get an answer"
Pamela Aitcheson is a long-time member of the Mind Tools Club. In fact, she's such a veteran that she doesn't remember how she first heard about it or even when she joined. But she does remember why it appealed to her.
"I'm interested in personal development and I'm always keen to improve myself. So I'll get involved in anything that helps me to do that," she says. "What I hoped to gain from the Club was a connection to a wider community. I'm involved in networking organizations in the UK, and I've found that beneficial, and it's equally beneficial being involved in a global network like Mind Tools."
Having joined the club with the hope of developing new skills and tapping into a global network, how has it lived up to her expectations?
"It's certainly met my expectations in that it's available for me to search for information that I need on a specific topic," Pam confirms. "For instance I'm about to go back into people management after quite a long gap and things have changed: thinking has changed, management processes and procedures have changed. So it's very interesting to go in and see what other people are doing and what best practice is out there."
Over the course of her membership, Pam has found the club a consistently reliable source of development resources. So much so, in fact, that she believes her membership has benefited her company as well as her. "I've learnt a lot from the Mind Tools website, from all the different articles. My company's benefited because I haven't had to go on training courses for them or spend a lot of time searching the Internet. I know that I can always go straight to Mind Tools and get an answer," she says.
Among the variety of resources the club offers, from the Bite-Sized Training to the Career Café, Pam finds the regular newsletters the most useful for her – a friendly reminder of what she'll find when she next logs on to the club.
"I really find the newsletter the most useful part because, number one, it's a prompt to go in and look at the site if I've been busy and I haven't been in recently. Number two, it highlights the new articles that are up there. There always seems to be at least one thing on the newsletter that's relevant to me at the time," she affirms. Given her long membership, it's hardly surprising that she recommends the club to colleagues and friends. "When I'm sending on the link to people, I tell them that I have personally got a lot of information from it. I say I use it as a resource and that they might also benefit from using Mind Tools as a resource," Pam says. "I always say to people, 'Just have a look and see if there's anything on there that interests you'."
"My productivity contributes to the company's productivity and I would attribute my productivity, a lot of it, to Mind Tools."
For Samer Sammour, Mind Tools provides a convenient way of developing his skills.
"It's like a one-stop shop," he says. "All the skills that I need to know about and all the information I need is in one place, and in small bits. I don't need to read a gazillion books. I don't need to attend lots of courses. Everything is summarized and put in a very nice way, and that's why I keep coming to it."
Out of the variety of resources available, Samer find two areas most useful: the Book Insight and Expert Interview podcasts and the Career Café.
"There's an assurance that experts, people who care about me, will support me," he says, referring to the Career Café. "I get to ask questions, get coaching from the Mind Tools team, get experiences from other members and equally important, share my own experiences. So I get to express myself and build friendships as well."
Through his use of Mind Tools, Samer has seen his skills improve in lots of different ways.
"It has impacted the language that I speak at work. It has impacted the way I think, as far as business is concerned – the way I analyze ideas, the way I receive challenges, stress management, project management as well. So really, it's holistic development," he says.
And this has resulted in better performance at work.
"My colleagues see me as a calmer person, more resourceful and more able to address challenges and situations at work," he reports. "My productivity contributes to the company's productivity and I would attribute my productivity, a lot of it, to Mind Tools."
"By using Mind Tools I can access a lot of professional development often and whenever it suits me."
Judy Callinan turned to Mind Tools when she was promoted to a new role and was managing staff for the first time.
"I really needed to gain some insight and understanding," she recalls.
In her quest to develop her management skills she found the Mind Tools forum particularly useful.
"Because some of the advice I was seeking was a little sensitive, I didn't want to go to colleagues about it. It was really good to be able to talk to other professionals and still maintain a bit of anonymity, and to hear their insights. They might be around the other side of the world, but they're still experiencing similar issues. It's nice to know you're not alone," she says.
For Judy, the structure and look of the website has been a big draw.
"I just find the whole thing really easy to use," she reflects. "That's what I need, because when you've got so much stuff that you're trying to deal with and juggle, you really just want something simple that's not going to be an extra thing."
In particular, the Personal Learning Plan has helped her plan and keep track of her development.
"If I'm reading an article and there are links in that article, I click on the little plus sign and it adds that to my learning plan. I don't have to track back or write down notes about what I want to go back to," she explains. "I can finish the article and then move on to the next thing I want to look at. I found that really useful. Then I also get a little reminder… saying, ‘Have you looked at your learning plan lately?' It's a really good prompt."
Judy incorporates Mind Tools into her work-based professional development and the Personal Learning Plan helps with this.
"We have had budget cuts and inevitably that sort of thing, paid professional development, gets taken off the budget at some point," she says. "So this has been a really useful way to keep updated with my skills and with my learning, and I have a way to track that through my personal learning plan…I can access a lot of professional development often and whenever it suits me."
"It's one of the best ways you can spend your money on yourself."
When Riz Tabley signed up for the Mind Tools Club, he was hoping to develop his career skills. What he didn't expect was the positive effect his membership has had on his life outside work.
"I wasn't really considering that when I joined Mind Tools," he admits. "But some of the articles and training items I found there were also applicable to my personal life and developing my relationships with my friends and family."
So thanks to the skills he's developed with Mind Tools, he can see improvements at home and at work.
"I would credit Mind Tools with getting me to where I am now," he says. "It has provided me with tools to develop my soft skills. In particular, I found the Life Plan Workbook really helpful. It helped me to work out my strengths and weaknesses, and work out what my goals are, not just at work but in all aspects of my life. For example, previously I had problems being assertive and saying no. Mind Tools helped me to plan out how to develop my skills in that area."
He now feels more confident leading a team, and believes his company has a better skilled employee.
"What it has done is reduce the need for the company to pay for additional training," he points out.
Before he joined the club, Riz wasn't sure what level of support he could expect from the Mind Tools team. He was pleasantly surprised.
"I was very impressed with it," he reports, "both around admin support, when I had a few questions or needed clarification about my account, but also in terms of support of Mind Tools trainers and mentors online. If I had questions I needed to bounce off people, I found the forum very, very useful. The Mind Tools team was very good in helping develop my thinking or problem-solve issues that I posted there."
So would he recommend joining the club? He's clear about that.
"I think it's one of the best ways that you can spend your money on yourself," he states. "It's one of the best ways to develop yourself professionally and personally as well. My experience with Mind Tools has been great."
"You start in one place, build a skill in another place, and suddenly you're more effective overall."
The flexibility of the Mind Tools Club is one reason why Gail Rogers keeps coming back. For her, the site's structure enables learning that is as wide and as deep as she wants at any given time, and the resources are easy to explore.
"Everything is connected," she reflects. "You may start on project management and end up on strategy, and to me that just reinforces the connectedness of all the topics – that management development is not a linear process. Having the ability to navigate between the different topics is what I find tremendously valuable."
If you're looking for a broad brush overview of something, you can find it. Then there's additional information on hand if you want to know more.
"It's nice to be able to go deep or just skim the surface on a topic when needed," Gail says.
As an HR professional, Gail is often called upon to coach other people and sometimes she suggests they join Mind Tools too.
"I feel very confident referring them to Mind Tools because it's a good co-pilot, to supplement what we're trying to do in the organisation or provide information and knowledge that that person wouldn't necessarily get because of their rank or their role in the organisation," she explains.
Gail has noticed that small improvements in lots of areas add up to greater effectiveness overall, "sort of like cross training," she says.
"Mind Tools is the epitome of that concept. You start in one place, build a skill in another place, and suddenly you're more effective overall. You're more effective because you have more knowledge in a particular area and you're able to leverage that knowledge in a different area. Most important, you feel more confident, and if you don't feel confident you have a place you can go to get more information," she says. "To me that's the biggest selling point."
"It gives you great advice on how to handle pretty much every situation."
When Kristen Mahoney got a new job after a period away from the workplace she was looking to refresh her skills. That's when she came across Mind Tools.
"I really liked the toolkit," she says, recalling that initial web search that brought her to the site. "It had a lot of good information that I could use for basically every aspect of my job, including refreshers on project management, team management and problem solving. Mind Tools was a great resource for all that information, to help me learn again."
As well as refreshing her existing skills, the site has helped Kristen with some new challenges.
"One of the new dynamics that I had to undertake as part of my new position was being more of an innovator," she says. "My previous job with process improvement was more just a strict Six Sigma black-belt type role. My new role in process improvement also involves innovation and coming up with new solutions and problem solving.
"So it's great that Mind Tools has a section in the toolkit on problem solving. When my company comes to me and says, ‘Hey we have this idea. Can you put a solution together for it or what do you think?' I can go to MT and see what kind of problem solving and strategy tools they have that can help me best make the presentation for my company."
The result for Kristen is greater confidence at work.
"Being without work for a couple of years means you often don't feel as secure as you should be in your position," she reflects. "Just being able to go to Mind Tools helps your self confidence, because you can find what you need to do to lead your team or make a presentation to management or whatever aspect of your job it may be. You just feel more prepared. So for me, Mind Tools is definitely worth the membership. It gives you great advice on how to handle pretty much every situation."