Achieving the most from conversations: how can the trainer and trainee get the most from L&D?
The challenge for many learning and development professionals is maximising the opportunities for learning in the workplace in order to drive performance and meet business objectives. This includes utilising the expertise that exists within an organisation to train individuals. However, HR experts need to consider how to ensure both the trainer and trainee get the most from the learning experience.
This was a challenge we tackled at Fujitsu with the launch of the 'Fujitsu Coaching Continuum', a model that was developed by the internal coaches and coach supervisors within the company.
The Continuum represents a continuous journey, in one or a series of conversations, and the possible linkages between two distinct approaches to learning: The directive style and collaborative or coaching style.
The two styles can then be interwoven and used as appropriate. We find that many organisations rely heavily on subject matter experts to pass on knowledge and experience, and the natural approach to getting a task done in this type of environment is to adopt the 'Directing Style' - imparting our knowledge, teaching or telling others how to do it, or sharing our past experience to get the right outcome.
One of the downsides to this is that it doesn't always take into account the context - just because one person achieved a successful outcome via a particular route or activity doesn't mean it's the only way - or the intent - am I telling you things in order to demonstrate my own expertise or to help you develop? Both context and intent will inevitably have an impact on the outcome of the conversation.
The Coaching Continuum does not imply that this is never appropriate, in some cases clearly being directive is essential, but introduces the idea that utilising a subtle change of language makes for a more challenging conversation. Rather than offer, 'This is how I did it', ask, 'How would you do it?' to prompt a considered response and aid the learning process.
There are other obvious benefits of moving towards a coaching conversation, one being that managers have to do less 'hard thinking', and instead challenge the employee to create new solutions to their problem.
Knowing how to recognise where you are on the Continuum, whether it is an effective style and how to move from one style to another are all important skills but ultimately the key to understanding the Coaching Continuum is to recognise that it is a continuous curve, which allows for the coach or manager to move across and bridge between the two styles, dependent upon the context of the learning situation.
Asking the learner "Would it help if I told you how I did it?" in order to progress a conversation enables the coach to move back from the Coaching Style space, into the Directing Style of the Continuum as appropriate.
Simon Dennis (pictured) is coaching ambassador at Fujitsu. He is delivering a seminar on 'Utilising coaching as a management technique to deliver business objectives', along with Tom Hawkes, managing director at Unlimited Potential at the World of Learning Conference & Exhibition, taking place at The NEC Birmingham on 2 & 3 October 2012.
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