Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Archive for April, 2008

Who’s mentoring whom?

I was having a conversation with seasoned professionals about young professionals, and the subject shifted to mentoring. I find it interesting that there’s often an assumption that the seasoned professional would serve as mentor to the young professional.

Although I thoroughly enjoy sharing my expertise with young individuals who are newer to the business environment, I often find that the real value is in what I learn from them. —How to thrive comfortably in a high-tech environment, creating yet more opportunities to apply technology to day-to-day communications and business. —A fresh perspective of the needs and consumer trends of professionals in our current business environment. —A better appreciation for the benefits of the transient employee culture of the new millenium. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Regardless of how experienced or inexperienced we may see ourselves, we have a great deal to offer one another.

T&D: Are we headed back to the classroom?

A little over a decade ago many of us in the professional development arena experienced and/or observed a significant shift in popularity for classroom training and development. We were beginning to understand that our hefty investments in quick-hit training were not reaping the long-term benefits and ROI we had hoped for. The reinforcement and time investment required from management in order to reinforce and solidify classroom learning, and the efforts needed to fine-tune the application of skills and techniques to an individual’s day-to-day reality continued to challenge us and undermine our learning and development efforts.

We began to recognize the value of customizing the learning experience based on individual needs and learning styles.  We experienced the value in coaching and mentoring individuals over time, in the midst of their real-life work and demands. We began to incorporate small group reinforcement, self-study or e-learning programs, and effective follow-up and evaluation strategies into our development plans.  

Now, a decade later, organizations are getting the message. It’s the combination of all of these efforts—and more—that creates a results-oriented learning environment.

The workshop or classroom interaction with peers and co-workers has its irreplaceable benefits, and they’ve been missed. Although not necessarily the best stand-alone opportunity to transfer skills, we find that the classroom setting may provide a springboard or reinforcement for learning—through self-reflection and discovery; tools and ideas exchanged; morale boosted; experiences shared; trust being built among teams—and it whets the individual’s appetite for learning and participating in his or her own continuous development plan.

Preparation for and/or reinforcement of the classroom experience through specialized coaching processes, technology-based programs, and purposeful preparation and follow up strategies, provides a more comprehensive and effective learning opportunity for our employees.

Our educated conclusion: It’s a mix of learning strategies that reaps the most significant benefits for the individual and ultimately for his or her organization.