Some of the Best Trails Aren’t Technical

I’ve been pretty addicted to Trailhead since Salesforce World Tour in London this year. I love that earning badges is a concrete way to feel accomplished and celebrate learning. I’m all for technical learning and challenges that require you to login to a developer org and do hands-on changes, but there’s also something to be said for the trails that are about soft skills, management, and self-awareness. There’s something very human about these trails. Admins and developers need non-technical skills too!

Here’s some of the trails that I highly recommend:

  1. Reach Your Audience with Rad Content I absolutely loved the Writing Style module. I studied creative writing at my university, so I’m always really aware of writing styles, especially in help documentation. One of the first things I noticed about Trailhead was its unique and conversational writing style. This trail takes you inside the brains of the writers behind Trailhead and shares the Salesforce Docs Team’s voice and tone guidelines.  It’s an absolute joy for a word nerd like me. The second module is on Public Speaking Skills, which was equally helpful. Even the most experienced public speakers could benefit from the detailed tips offered.
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Your tone should be different based on what you’re writing

2. Cultivate Equality at Work I’m really pleased that this Trail exists because it highlights unconscious bias, which Trailhead describes here:

Most of us probably believe we are not prejudiced. We probably believe ourselves to be ethical and unbiased, too. In the workplace, we probably believe we’re good decision makers, capable of objectively deciding about a job candidate or employee’s performance, and reaching a rational and fair conclusion about any particular business problem or situation. Yet it’s clear from more than two decades of research that we have an inflated perception of ourselves with regard to bias.

Why do you suppose that is? Well, let’s explore this a bit to understand why we are making countless decisions without realizing it.

11 million pieces. That’s the amount of information our brains are faced with at any given moment, according to Timothy Wilson, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and author of the book Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious. Rather shocking, isn’t it? You might find it even more surprising that the brain can only process about 40 of those bits of information. So what does our brain do? It creates shortcuts and uses past knowledge to make assumptions. This is what researchers call “unconscious bias.”

Why is it important to promote diversity and inclusion? It’s more than just the right thing to do, it affects the bottom line.

It’s probably no surprise to you that business leaders around the world are recognising that having a more diverse work environment that promotes equality is a means of driving continued growth. Research published by McKinsey and Company in 2015 clearly highlights the dividends of diversity. Companies that are more gender diverse are 15% more likely to outperform others; those which are ethnically diverse are 35% more likely to outperform others.

One of the things that struck me the most about inclusion strategies was the way that people communicate. I’m an American living in the UK and even though I speak English, there’s lots of colloquialisms that I miss. In my own communication I try my best to not use sports metaphors, acronyms, or phrases that might not make sense to people from different cultures and backgrounds. Baseball metaphors are sort of lost in the UK anyway. When explaining Salesforce features to people, I use simple and conversational language and try not to over-complicate technical concepts.

I love this chart that gives suggestions for implementing an action plan for diversity and inclusion:

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3. Manage the Salesforce Way This is one of the longer trails, with 10 modules. The key takeaways for me were how to communicate, give feedback, and  treat your colleagues with respect. These are skills that you can carry to any job, regardless of whether or not you manage people. This trail teaches soft skills that are so important for leaders who want to influence, support, and retain their teams.

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