There is no doubt the American workforce is suffering from elevated levels of home and office burnout, but there is a solution. Learning and development (L&D) leaders can use the lighthouse effect as a source of hope, guidance and goodness for better business performance at work and enhanced balance at home.

What exactly is a human lighthouse? Human lighthouses are the everyday people in society who connect people as humans. They are the humble, yet unwavering individuals, who have faced adversity, overcome it, and found healing and meaning as a result. In their strength, courage and selflessness, they are able to guide others to greater understanding, illuminating the path for humanity to find hope and connection.

Human lighthouses can inspire and guide in our personal lives, but they also apply to business settings.

The lighthouse effect is a framework for living and learning. In fact, many of the attributes of human lighthouses are wonderfully relevant in the world of L&D.

The Importance of Lighthouses

We can all recall the human lighthouses in our life because of the guidance they offered. But often, we don’t see the place from which their support came. The experiences they shared with us wasn’t always about their successes but was also about the uncertainties they encountered. It can be hard for us to look at successful people and imagine that they questioned their abilities because all we see is the outcome and not the struggle. But they almost certainly did struggle. How they navigated those setbacks and disappointments and how they pivoted toward success are incredibly valuable lessons for training professionals of all levels.

Future Possibilities Over Current Circumstances

In the world of L&D, the goal is empowering employees, through ongoing development and training, to deliver a better employee experience and subsequently enhance business performance. In that context, the nature of L&D is to be a beacon of shared opportunity for employees and organizations.

When you invest in your team members, you already see their future possibilities for advancement and growth … which is the foundation of training and development. In doing so, you rise above the present circumstances and bring future career possibilities into full view. When we have that investment and commitment, we drive discretionary effort and innovation. As a result, endless possibilities emerge.

Turn Doubts Into Destinations

As our career progresses, new opportunities arise, including new titles, roles and/or responsibilities. But often times, doubt emerges. You might ask yourself, “Am I ready? Can I handle it?” The simple answer is, “Yes, you can grow into new roles provided that you are willing to focus on your development.” That’s why L&D is so essential: It allows us to overcome our doubts about our capabilities. For example, say you are uncomfortable with public speaking, but you are seeking a role that requires a great deal of presenting. Investing in public speaking courses will go a long way toward turning those initial doubts into capabilities and, ultimately, a strength.

The Lighthouse Effect in Professional Life

Human lighthouses can be mentors, sponsors or career counselors in your professional life. Lighthouses provide sound advice and help close skill gaps. Lighthouses help you overcome doubts and see the possibilities. Anyone can be a lighthouse, so lighthouses don’t have to look like you, have the same background as you or even work in the same profession as you. A lighthouse creates an accessible and approachable environment, whether for one-on-one mentoring in specific situations or more generally through social media platforms. In mentor-mentee lighthouse relationships, a deep rapport is built, one in which checking in is normal and asking for guidance is easy.

Moments that Matter

In many instances of mentoring and guidance, we look to major interactions and interventions as examples of how to become a human lighthouse. These are certainly important, but it is the smaller moments that often matter most. It’s the moments of kindness, patience, understanding or appreciation that we encounter on any given day on the job. It’s providing recognition, saying “thank you,” and acknowledging others — all simple acts — that give people a sense of value. It’s about really seeing one another and realizing that in their life stories is a chapter of our own. In doing so, we can be a lighthouse for others. It’s not necessarily about being an expert.  It’s a mindset of realizing everyone’s professional journey has ups and downs, and those experiences are the life lessons we can share with others … and that others can share with us. For all the successes we have had, we’ve also had setbacks and yet we still dared to try to create a better outcome.

The Four Phases

There are four phases to being a lighthouse. The first phase is recognizing the lighthouses in your life. The second phase is realizing you have unknowingly been a lighthouse to others. The third phase is knowing there is always a purpose. The final phase is acknowledging the significance of seemingly small interactions.

The lighthouse effect is available to you every single day, so take the extra pause of reflection, acknowledge your lighthouses and be a lighthouse for others as you build your career.

As we better understand the lighthouses that we are, and that we can be for one another, we will discover that human lighthouses are all around us and, because of this, we have endless learning opportunities. In embracing those learning moments, you will gain experience which may be helpful to others in the future so that you, too, can become a human lighthouse.