Coaching & Mentoring – down in the weeds.

Summary:

This blog post is an excerpt covering my involvement in the Delivery Manager working group and developing out content on a learning platform I’m helping to develop, similar to LinkedIn learning –  to help coach & mentor DM’s (delivery managers, not Dungeon Masters!), & also my work coaching & mentoring individuals. I’ll speak of how I’ve got on, what I’ve learnt & what I’m doing next. Got questions? Contact me via this ol Blog or Twitter @mariodc

Introduction….

I felt it’d be useful to jot a few thoughts down charting my involvement in the coaching & mentoring discussions I’m having in my organisations.

Here’s a story of how companies can get it very wrong…….

I have seen various companies using similar learning platforms –  that used a similar mechanics. They mandated you went through a specific pathway of content (some 100+ hours) & once complete, you would achieve a ‘certificate’ of sorts, confirming completion. The requirement you needed to meet to get said certificate was that each video was watched. That was it! No follow up Q&A, no exam questions, no test your knowledge. Just watch the video. Most of the videos were just taken from the Internet & as a learning opportunity, it was a flaccid empty experience. The organisations management team would use the internal metrics of the platform such as how much time people had spent ‘in’ platform & what videos they had ‘watched’ to determine a set of KPI’s which would be used in your performance review. Also, the ‘Digital Expert’ certificate you gained, whilst meaningless in the real world, was used internally as a ‘badge’. It was suggested if you didn’t ‘have it’, you would get & I quote from the CEO,  ‘left behind’ –  which left me flabbergasted! There was no skill needed to obtain the certificate, & nor did it reflect the persons actual digital competence. Further, this ‘internal currency’ was used to leverage position & status, & turned a learning experience into a rather more political & begrudged affair. Not good for anyone!

What I see good companies doing

So the above horror story is not what I’m involved in today, thankfully, but these centralised learning experiences often pose the risk to be abused. I proved to the company in the example above how meaningless their approach was, by obtaining the certificate by opening each video in a tab & letting it play in the background not watching any of them! I still got the certificate. So what’s the point? When I got involved in the conversation here, I discussed with a colleague how it’s important to not only leverage the ‘hive mind’ & collaborate on our shared & combined experience, but also recognise that learning is a very personal experience & people learn in very different ways. Some like books, last minute cramming & straight into an exam. Some are practical do’ers, & some dont like learning at all. So striking the balance is key. I think sending out a survey to gauge how people learn, their attitude to learning, & what they expect from their employers in terms of learning really helps understand what people want. Some employee’s just need help & assistance with funding & then they go off and learn themselves. Some need chaperoning through learning & some really need encouragement. Often for those that do need encouragement, that training needs to be hyper-relevant & meaningful otherwise people often give up as training is a commitment people often don’t have time for.

Mentoring & Being a Mentee

The other thing I’ve been involved in which I thought was a solid experiment was to consider how pair-coaching can be used in an organisation to help share knowledge & information. I spent time with one other colleague 1:1 to share battle scars, stories & vice versa, I’ve also provided my time to various people to offer support & guidance. However, being a mentor or a mentee is a bit like having sex for the first time – it requires some thought & considerations in terms of how you do it, who you do it with, & how often you plan to do it after!

The whiteboard below was to answer some of the questions I think people often ask when considering being mentored or considering their learning…….

Then I considered how recent changes to work due to COVID-19 may impact not only people, but the very fabric of the organisation & how isolation often impacts people, culture & learning for me is something which is inter-twined.

Coaching individuals

I’ve really enjoyed working with individuals & coaching them in a hyper-personal way to develop personalised learning tracks relevant to them. I’m currently working with a BA to develop their skills & am trying to take them to DM standard in ten weeks, I’m going to be using a new learning platform as the platform & record my own videos covering a range of topics, but taught in a way which I think make not only sense, but resonates with our company values. Training should be relevant, of the moment, & specific. You can’t always get this from a generic YouTube video.

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