As an Open University MBA graduate it is a privilege to be amongst professors and academics with my guest blog on leadership. Check it out on Business Perspectives: Leading in a world that is doing more with less.
In my view the whole concept of 70-20-10 for learning and development is fundamentally flawed. What this says about anyone in the development field is that they are in the 10% team and if you are lucky enough to be able to stretch into coaching on the job, you may even make it to a 20 or 30% team, but the mother load of all learning in this set-up falls on supervisors, team leaders and manager for the on the job bit. Now I don’t know where the inventors of this idea have been hiding, but in most organisations doing more with less is the order to the day thanks to the economic conditions, heavy restructuring etc.; which effectively translates as follows managers don’t have time to look up from their day duties for long enough to go and explore and engage in meaningful learning activities for their team, the bottom-line is more important.
Jut in case you haven’t heard of this concept before this model suggest that 70% of our learning is on the job through experience, 20% of our learning is informal and 10% of our learning is formally done either in classroom or on courses. I am not sure where this concept was floated first, but I guess in the need to portray a soft industry into hard figures, someone must have thought this was a brilliant idea and a multitude of providers have jumped on the bandwagon to be your 10% provider of learning services. I agree with the base idea that most of us learn to do our job best by doing it, the whole 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration works for me.
Where this model starts to be a misfit, is when you look at the profiles of leaders. Every single leader I have worked with as a coach or trainer, has been an avid reader, course and learning seeker. Every biography of world and business leaders I have ever read always mentioned who their mentors were, the fact that they had great teachers or were once again readers or experimenters, who learn from their projects. The one thing leaders have in common is their hunger for learning and they actively seek these opportunities.
I don’t believe many days go buy without some form of informal learning for me personally and I would class myself in the learning geek category of exploring new courses all of the time in order to share more knowledge and gain more skills to serve my client base better. So my % of informal learning is probably a lot higher than a mere 20%, my levels of formal learning are also way above 10% at any given time. When I look at my coaching client base, they would be the same and granted maybe like attracts like, I haven’t met many high achievers who don’t beat these odds pretty much all of the time.
When it comes to the 70% of on the job learning, I would agree in the early days of a new job this figure may well be accurate, but if this ratio stays over a longer tenure, then I would start wondering about the ability of the individual. In my working life there isn’t a day that goes by where I haven’t picked up a nugget from a colleague or tested out a new way of working for myself, but most of the time my habits tend to be quite solid and the same. It is through actively seeking new information and skills that I learn best, so for me the model is probably upside down and I would even say 60/40 with 60% actively seeking new knowledge and 40% on the job implementing.
Maybe I work in a learning bubble and have surrounded myself with like minded individuals, but most people I know of my own generation and younger tend to be life long learners of some kind. The way in which we learn has changed and is definitely edging towards fun and experiential sessions but the balance in the 70-20-10 model is definitely questionable and in my view outright unfeasible.
For years networking has been part of my life especially as a business owner. I would even go as far as saying that in a smaller geographical area networking is probably the best way of getting known and getting your message out there, in my view it rates miles higher than advertising in terms of results. I used to say in Cork that if nobody knew you or hadn’t heard of you because of someone mentioning you, then you hadn’t been out networking enough as a business owner. Cork is the 2nd city in Ireland, but by international standards considered relatively small.
Then when you join an organisation as an internal consultant, networking becomes a lot more social and I have to say a lot of employees don’t do it at all outside of their own work environment or even within. When you go to office parties or kick-offs, what generally happens is that the same people sit and talk together. Only when enough drink has flowed will people venture outside of their comfort zone.
Having lived in this relatively protective bubble for 2 years, and even at that I still networked with people from expat meetups and 85broads in Stockholm, so I guess I never really stopped networking only the reason why become fully social as opposed to business related.
Now rejoining the London networking scene, I noticed a big difference from my previous experiences and actually the first time found it a little intimidating and in your face and also felt I had become a bit rusty and didn’t quite have a clear message. A few meetings later now I am back on track and after testing messages, I believe I finally have one that works somewhat. But what struck me at my first meeting which was a large business networking group, where people pretty much asked you what you did and if you were useful to them they made conversation they hung around and if not you were rejected as if you were an old tape. Much to my shock really, because to me it always was a first introduction to a potential business relationship.
Then this week I attended a meet up called “interesting talks” and they had indeed an interesting speaker Todd Landman, who is a professor in political science as well as a magician and his topic was around rational intuition and it’s uses on an international scale. First of all I was totally fascinated by the topic and he raised some really interesting questions to ponder on and secondly it provided everyone in the room with a common topic, which then lead to great conversations. I enjoyed this experience a lot more than the business to business event.
I wonder though when people go into ‘networking mode’ maybe they purposefully put on their automatic pilot bot-suit or robot impression for want of a better word, which allows them to reject and be rejected without hurt. It puzzles me though, because I wouldn’t do business unless someone had recommended the person to me or I knew them. The premise of ‘know, like , trust and they have something I want to buy’ kind of idea, but in the London networking scene, this seems to be a bit different or maybe I have only been to meetings that didn’t allow for this.
In any case I will be for the time being go to those with a common interesting theme to it, for example tonight it is email marketing. You never know there may be great nuggets of information and also great conversations.
Training from the soul
This blog post I have been debating on for a while whether to share or not, because some of the information is quite personal in nature and means a lot to me and I wondered whether it would have any value to other people beyond me, but decided to go ahead anyway.
This week my role as a corporate trainer took me to Vilnius in Lithuania and if you haven’t been there yet, i would highly recommend it. The city has a really cosy feel to it and yet a lot of beauty in architecture as well as contrast and people that are friendly in a quiet non-intrusive kind of way. The course this week was for managers and developing their leadership skills. One of the topics is learning about giving feedback in a constructive manner and we started discussing that positive feedback was just as essential as the constructive variety.
Actually studies on human relationships have told us that for each negative comment we need to re-balance it with minimum 5 positives comments. The group discussion turned to the fact that in their country it had not been seen to be a good thing if you were praising people, on the contrary in order to prove yourself as a manager you had to be tough, demanding and critical and praise was nearly considered a sign of weakness. I thought about the group exercise i had planned and decided on the spur of the moment to change it to having each manager give positive feedback to each and every individual in the room. Once the exercise got underway i decided to take part as well, which as a trainer I rarely do. I am usually the orchestrator and facilitator of exercises.
The experience of this exercise was amazing, if you ever doubt whether you make any difference at all in a corporate setting then I have to say this exercise is worth doing and participating in. One comment struck a chord to such an extent with me that I was close to tears of gratitude on the spot, namely that the person so enjoyed my training because it came from the soul. She believed and trusted that my advice for them was coming from a caring and heartfelt place.
You know in all the 10 or more years that I deliver training, consulting and coaching for corporate environments, this is the first time ever a participants touched me with a compliment so deeply. The truth is I do my best to always come from a caring place and aim to give them skills and perspectives on how to deal with their challenges. My intention is always to help them reach their next level of potential, whatever that is.
The comment is still resonating soo much with me… it truly is what I always intend for but I personally wasn’t sure I delvered this at all and often the corporate systems and interaction cloud any kind of truthful judgement about your effect on people.
As an internal trainer this meant a lot and it shows to me how in corporate environments we often forget to say the essentials, so people actually realise they are an important cog in the bigger wheel. No matter how small the contribution or change influence you may have, it may just mean the world to that one person. To give has always been easy for me, to receive I am still improving on and i have to say this group brought it home to me to accept the heartfelt praise and store it where it belongs in my heart, because sometimes the trainer needs topping up too. For a long time, I have intended to train, coach and advise from the soul… thank you so much for acknowledging and noticing.
The atmosphere in the room after we closed the exercise was amazing, a gentle and positive energy had entered replacing the neutral business like one from half an hour before. When we discussed what had happened one of the guys compared it to being at a funeral where only nice things are said about a dead person but he also agreed whilst it felt a bit odd, it was all good all the same.
All of us including me realised that we obviously hadn’t been praised in this kind of way in a long time, so why not set ourselves the challenge of 1 positive praise for someone every day for the remainder of the month of April. Then one of the participants asked but what do we do then in May, to which I replied well if it feels good just keep doing it….
Thank you to all the participants in Vilnius because that experience was special and for all of you reading this I have to encourage you to join us in our challenge… 1 person per day with heartfelt positive feedback…
Are you in?
Lead and stand out for what you believe in
It’s amazing when you are questioning and in pursuit of better all the time, what nuggets come your way at the right time. When I left Ireland I questioned leadership especially the political leadership of a country, which had been thriving albeit not always on real economic levers, but artificially hyped ones. In some ways it was the very lack of leadership and vision that made me lose interest and faith to remain in a country where the economy and policies only seemed to go in natural free-fall. I had been asked on more than one occassion to enter the political arena and even with the minor glitch of my actual nationality, I questioned my own leadership ability and vision in this setting.
It is amazing though that some of these questions still follow you around, no matter where you go and what is equally fascinating is that the answers usually pop up in the least expected moments. A few weeks back I was randomly tv-channel hopping and stopped at a movie, where the main moral of the story was something along the lines of ‘You were born to stand out’. It was one of those interesting bolts that to me meant ‘I am born to stand out, so stop trying to fit in’. Truly I never felt I fitted in anywhere, but I have been afraid to stand out and played a smaller game, which I always regretted after.
Then a short time after another gem of knowledge came my way in a typical ‘when the student is ready, the teacher will appear’ kind of fashion. The lesson here being, that leaders stand for what they believe in. That I have often found hard to do, although I have always had very strong and equally outspoken ideas, hence I wouldn’t have a blog or wouldn’t have occassionally put my foot in a thorny issue by expressing what everyone thought but nobody was courageous enough to speak out loud.
Well here is my stance, I believe in the pursuit of excellence and making a mark in this lifetime. We only have one, so why waste an opportunity. In my work I have always and continue to strive to be the best at what I do and along the way I make mistakes that will utlimately make me better and more informed for the future, but it may temporarily slow me down, but it will not stop me. It also means that under no circumstances will I settle for mediocre and that goes from mediocre politicians, to mediocre living, etc. Hence I have always had a full schedule with things I enjoyed from sports, to writing and to charity or volunteering. Now I am just a little more selective and living in a new city still finding out the routes to this fullness. But I guess the search for my apartment was definitely a clear sign mediocre wasn’t going to be acceptable and 600 applications later I live somewhere beautiful.
So the question to you is, what do you believe in and are willing to take a public stand for?
In a way all I am suggesting is that you do what the big leaders in our lifetimes have done, such as Martin Luther who had his dream.., or business leaders like Branson, Jobs, Gates or Buffett who all have something they clearly stand for and publicly vouch for. In this economy more than any other time do we so need leaders to step it up a notch.
In my leadership quest I will continue to strive for excellence and demand it from people all around me and when they don’t feel this is appropriate then the choice is pretty easy step out of the way or get with the programme. Either you have a track record of achievement and excellence or you savour the realms of mediocrity and to be honest I think that is exactly what has been wrong with recent economic policy makers too much fear of change and not enough forward thinking to keep challenging the status quo especially when that meant making unpopular decisions or challenging the majority when their choice was blatantly wrong.
I am glad that we always have the opportunity to start again and revise our stance, when our first option may have been wrong or an approach failed. The worst would be to ignore the signs and keep going regardless. Whatever you do, if you like me have a leadership bug that keeps wanting to show up, stop trying to fit in and stand out….stand out for what you believe in…
Looking forward to hearing from your leadership stances…
In the mean time I will get back in pursuit of excellence and lead with my belief that I aim to make a difference in everything I do. How about you, you know you want to…I dare you!