ASTD

American Society of Training and Development

A Situational Approach to Mentoring

Flickr photo by ariwriter

How do you design and build a situational mentoring program? Take the traditional approach of pairing or matching a mentor and mentee and turn it inside out by adding several more mentors and mentees. And yes, you now have a situational mentoring group or team.

In today’s society of social networking and media apps think in terms of pairing the best or most knowledgeable mentor at the right time and in the right situation when the mentee has the most need or desire to learn. As stated in the book Nine Shift, networking is replacing the hierarchy structure in business and society, so too should we restructure the mentoring process so that it draws from the strength of a network.

The foundation to situational mentoring is built upon the management concept of situational leadership, developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard. A successful mentoring program requires that a mentor is able to share, convey, teach and/or impart their knowledge or skills to the mentee. The core of the Blanchard model, Situational Leadership II, highlights four primary leadership delivery styles: directive, coaching, supportive, and delegating. Like any good leader, the mentor is likely to be most effective in one or two delivery styles and less so in the others. A practical strength of situational leadership is that it also takes into consideration the development level of the subordinate, or in this case the mentee. Using a four step sliding scale the mentee is rated on competence and commitment.

The win – win of situational mentoring comes when the mentor using his or hers most effective delivery style is matched to the level of development of the mentee at the time of need. One example would be the mentor best at using a coaching approach when the mentee has a low commitment but some competence on a project. Another correct example would be the mentor most effective using a supporting approach is matched to the mentee who has high competence but variable commitment.

The intent of a well planned mentoring program is to identify key leaders (mentors) that are willing to share their knowledge and time with the next level of potential leaders (mentees). A situational designed mentoring program allows for the mentor who is most effective in a delivery approach to be matched with a mentee as the mentee learns and works through different development levels. It is very important that clear goals and expected learning outcomes are established and communicated from the outset of the mentoring experience by all participants of the group. A successful situational mentoring program can be a win – win –win for everyone, the mentor, the mentee, and the organization that supports the program.

A Situational Approach to Mentoring in an Association

Associations must rely on their members and volunteers if they are to build and maintain any form of a mentoring program. Often an association's approach is to establish a committee and support their efforts by assigning a junior staff as a liaison. A better organized approach that some associations use is to assign a manager or director level staff to actively support the committee or mentor program advisory team. Then they build a traditional approach of pairing mentors and mentees is the typical format.

The foundation to situational mentoring is built upon the management concept of situational leadership, developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard. A successful mentoring program requires that a mentor is able to share, convey, teach and/or impart their knowledge or skills to the mentee. The core of the Blanchard model, Situational Leadership II, highlights four primary leadership delivery styles: directive, coaching, supportive, and delegating. Like any good leader, the mentor is likely to be most effective in one or two delivery styles and less so in the others. A practical strength of situational leadership is that it also takes into consideration the development level of the subordinate, or in this case the mentee. Using a four step sliding scale the mentee is rated on competence and commitment.

To build a situational mentoring program I recommend assigning a manager at the operationally level with a director involved in a supportive and strategic level. Using a social networking format structure think in terms of pairing the best or most knowledgeable mentor at the right time and in the right situation when the mentee has the most need or desire to learn. This is not an easy assignment but it is critical to the program’s success. A manager is likely to have the required technical, conceptual and personal skills that will be necessary to correctly match mentors with mentees at the appropriate times and under the right situations. While it is important to get input, recommendations and involvement from the committee or advisory council, the operations and scheduling process should the managers responsibility and not be left up to the volunteers. Remember, the win – win of situational mentoring comes when the mentor uses his or her most effective delivery style matched correctly to the level of development of the mentee at the time of need.

The director may occasionally be required to support the manager’s scheduling should a situation need a specific infusion or a change of players. Politics is a reality in associations and can become very sensitive when relying on the use of volunteers. The director is generally in a better position to handle those particular situations. The director will generally have more senior level contacts among the volunteers so they should also be involved in the continual recruitment of skilled and positioned mentors.

We welcome those of you who participate in or manage a mentoring program as part of your association to share your experiences. Simply send a your rely message and share your story.

Successful Change Agents

Photo of brainstorming activity board

Three Qualities of Highly Successful Change AgentsThree Qualities of Highly Successful Change Agents was written by Alastair Rylatt for the July 2013 issue of T&D magazine. This short article was a result of Dr. Rylatt’s research study highlighting the capabilities that enable professionals to be effective change agents in their organization. The article begins with Dr. Rylatt asking the question, “why do some leaders and managers succeed against the odds to facilitate and influence change?”

Well, with that opening question I was hooked and so I kept reading the article. The questions that Dr. Rylatt raised in the article made me reflect back on past situations and the positions I’ve held in different organizations. For several days I kept thinking back to what I thought were some of my perceived better successes and some situations that were, well … not so successful.

In his article Dr. Ryatt listed just three categories that effect change:
1. Resolving difficult challenges
2. Communicating compelling reasons for change
3. Ensuring accountability over time

The categories were not unusual. The categories Dr. Ryatt supported with two - three questions for each category. The questions were penetrating. Under resolving difficult challenges one of the questions related to acceptance of responsibility and how you deal with it. One of Dr. Rylatt’s questions was about reaction when confronting resistance and a reflection on communication style. As for accountability, Dr. Ryatt challenges the reader’s relationship with senior management. The questions are pointed and thought provoking.

It may only have been a sampling of his research but using those three categories and nine short questions I was able to match in each of my situations, why I might have been successful and why the situation did not work out the way I had planned. Now I am looking closer at some of my current situations and rethinking my approach to several of them.

I’ve read hundreds of similar articles but this one was refreshing and thought provoking. After reading Dr. Rylatt’s article you may just want to rethink your approach to becoming a more effective agent of change in your organization.

A Traditional Approach to Mentoring

Flickr photo by Nantucket Historical Association

A mentoring program, as most professional development specialist would agree is generally built upon a pairing or matching of a mentor and mentee. A mentoring program is generally successful when the mentor is able to share, convey, teach and/or impart their knowledge or skills to the mentee. Historically the mentoring program grew from the concept of the apprenticeship where the master of a trade would impart their knowledge and skill to the apprentice. In many situations this is a very informal, loose understanding between two parties, the mentor and mentee. You are likely to find this scenario within a small office or across a profession with similar issues.

Creating a formal mentoring structure gets more complicate but the rewards can be great if the program is planned, designed and implemented well. Within a firm that structures such a program the firm may title such activities as a mentoring program, an internship, or even an intern development program (IDP). Some associations representing an industry or profession have similar programs. Some of the general benefits may be involvement of senior leadership and growth and development of the emerging professionals. For firms this may lead to better internal communications, improved retention and recruitment of staff, and a better return on financial investments of the human resource budgets.

The intent of a well planned mentoring program is to identify key leaders (mentors) that are willing to share their knowledge and time with the next level of potential leaders (mentees). A well designed program will set a framework and provide guidelines that participants use when participating in such a program. A well designed mentoring program allows for the mentor and mentee establishing goals and expected leaning outcomes from the experience. A successful mentoring program can be a win – win –win for everyone, the mentor, the mentee, and the organization that supports the program.

A Situational Approach to Mentoring in a Firm

There are several advantages for a firm to build, develop and maintain a mentoring program. The advantages are many and some obvious. Among the reasons for a implementing a mentoring program, expanding the skills of your staff, improved recruitment, retention, and return on investment (ROI). So why do so many firm choose not to implement a mentoring program? Size of the firm may be one factor. However, you really can implement a mentoring program with just two staff – at least a traditional mentoring format. Larger firms of 20, 50, 100 or more have the staff but too often they are concerned that the process takes time (translated – money) and it does, but so does the traditional route of staff training. Finally, a firm may not have anyone knowledgeable enough about how to set up, organize, and run a mentoring program. This leaves them three primary options: assignment to the HR staff function; assign to the program to a professional practice committee; or hire a part-time consultant to run the program.

Taking a firm mentoring program to a higher level – beyond that of the traditional pairing approach - does require a knowledgeable HR manager at the operationally level, or a committed professional practice committee, or an experienced consultant. The foundation to situational mentoring is built upon the management concept of situational leadership, developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard. A successful mentoring program requires that a mentor is able to share, convey, teach and/or impart their knowledge or skills to the mentee. The core of the Blanchard model, Situational Leadership II, highlights four primary leadership delivery styles: directive, coaching, supportive, and delegating. Like any good leader, the mentor is likely to be most effective in one or two delivery styles and less so in the others. A practical strength of situational leadership is that it also takes into consideration the development level of the subordinate, or in this case the mentee. Using a four step sliding scale the mentee is rated on competence and commitment.

To build a situational mentoring program think in terms of a social networking format structure, pairing the best or most knowledgeable mentor at the right time and in the right situation when the mentee has the most need or desire to learn. A mentoring program within a firm takes on and becomes part of the firm culture. A mentoring program is not an add-on program and should not be treated as such. Coordinating the program is not an easy assignment but it is critical to the program’s success. Whoever is assigned to manage the program should have the conceptual and personal skills that will be necessary to correctly match mentors with mentees at the appropriate times and under the right situations. Remember, the win – win of situational mentoring comes when the mentor uses his or her most effective delivery style matched correctly to the level of development of the mentee at the time of need.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Situational_leadership_theory

Learning Objectives Simplified: Check out the New Bloom’s Taxonomy Tool

Candle Flame

The tool is simple, easy to understand, and easy to use. If you are the course designer, a trainer, an instructor, or the firm's Learning and Development Coordinator, Manager, Director or the CLO - this tool will make your professional life a little easier. If only this tool had been available during the past 30 years.

I would like to thank the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) at the University of Iowa for posting on their website the Model of Learning Objectives. This model was created by: Rex Heer, Iowa State University.

Sharing this tool with my professional peers who are working in the A/E/C design industry, this is probably the best gift I can offer for the New Year. Try it for yourself; I think you will like it.

Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.

If you have trouble accessing the interactive Flash-based model the content is available in a text-only table.

Instructional Method: A Professional Action Plan

Learning contracts do not need to be complex. A number of years ago when I was involved with the AIA/CES Firm Leadership Symposium we needed to a simple method for an after-training-support-by-the-faculty. The process and tool we developed was simple. At the beginning of the workshop we would spend a few minutes explaining that each participant would be expected to identify at least one goal that they would like to accomplish after the workshop was over and they returned to their work environment. The action plan exercise was always planned at the end of the workshop so should that should they choose, the participants could include some of what they learned during the workshop into their action plan.

First we would discuss the purpose of the action plan. We would provide each participant with a Leadership & Learning: Professional Action Plan worksheet. The worksheet was intended as a simple structured outline for developing an individual action plan. Each participant was expected to identify at least one goal or action that they wanted to complete. The Leadership & Learning: Professional Action Plan required that the participants respond to 7 questions:

What is the goal?
What are the strengths related to achieving the goal?
What obstacles are we likely face?
What opportunities would likely be present?
What resources would they need?
What action steps are needed to complete the plan?
What were the related timelines?

First the participants would work to complete their own action plans. Additional time was then set aside to work in pairs - sharing with each other their goal and how they intend to accomplish it. At the end of the exercise participates exchanged POC information and committed to contacting each other after 30 days and again after 60 days.

The group faculty member or facilitator can become as involved after the event as appropriate. For those who did make contact at the 30 day mark, most went on to complete their goals. This process can be accomplished on-site, on-line or as a blended approach. I have since used the action plan approach successfully at the executive, manager and supervisory levels, and in both the private and public sectors. Hope this provides you with enough information. If you would like a free WORD copy of the worksheet just contact me directly at tlowther7@gmail.com.

How to Analyze a Case Study

Photo by Thom Lowther

Most of you who know me well know that I believe passionately in the use of cases studies as a learning tool. Years ago I discovered a excellent tool for analyzing case studies in the "Handbook for Training and Development" published by ASTD. I share below a simplified version of tool. I have used it often - in professional firms, in associations workshops and in college classrooms.

When analyzing a case study, an orderly, step-by-step approach is helpful. It is important to gain an appreciation of the overall situation initially, as well as to learn what information is contained in the case. Therefore, it is suggested that the case study be skimmed first to gain this overall perspective. While or after doing so, jot down the key points and issues that come to mind, as well as your first impression of the problems, issues, and opportunities facing the company. Then read the case in detail, adding to and modifying your initial thoughts. Remember that not everything in the case is vitally important, nor is all the important information necessarily included. The case represents someone's (e.g., management's) description of the company and its situation - it is up to you to probe deeper, sort and shift things out, and acquire additional information. It is your responsibility to analyze and recommend alternatives and approaches to management.

The following guide may be helpful to you in your task:

1. Define the situation. What are the challenges, problems, potential problems, opportunities, and potential opportunities facing the company? Typically, the case will contain various systems you will have to diagnose. To do so, try and isolate the major issues facing the company and their causes. Keep in mind that there are likely to be sub and secondary issues, as well as related and perhaps extraneous issues described in the case. Your task is to assign priorities to the issues, focusing on the critical few.

2. Assemble and analyze the important facts (gleaned from the case) which bear on the situation.

3. Specify important information that is needed but not included in the case. Determine whether or not it is available elsewhere. If available, acquire about it.

4. Make assumptions! For important information that is not available from the case or elsewhere, make logical assumptions as to what it might be. State these assumptions.

5. Draw conclusions Based on your analysis, information, and assumptions.

6. Determine alternatives and their likely outcomes. What are the major alternative actions open to the company, and what is likely to happen if each is adopted? Evaluate each.

7. Make recommendations. Based on your analysis, what do you recommend to management and why? Be prepared to defend your recommendations under critical questioning by the instructor and the class (the types of questions which might be posed by the company's management and other stakeholders).

8. Prepare an implementation plan. How should your recommendation be implemented, by whom? and in what sequence (short-term versus long-term actions). Where will the resources come from?

9. Prepare contingency plans. What do you recommend if your suggestions do not work as anticipated, or if certain external or internal conditions change?

An Emphasis Shift from Teaching to Learning

Emphasis on the learner

The situation, instruction and facilitation are becoming more difficult and challenging. Today the emphasis is on the learner, not the instructor. In January I wrote that learning objectives where a key to selecting the best delivery approach by the instructor in a classroom. Today’s learning objects are the contract between what the course designer and faculty are supposed to deliver and what the learner or student should expect to learn. For continuing professional development (CPD). in today’s firms the learning emphasis should be focused on the learner, not the instructor or facilitator.

Traditionally the transfer of knowledge occurred when the subject matter expert or instructor imparted their knowledge to the student. I still support this approach, but conditionally. In several of my earlier blogs I stressed the use of situational instruction, how the instructor could determine effective approaches to teaching the subject matter. Once you determine the development and motivation level of your students the learning objects should indicate when it is appropriate to be directive, when to use a coaching technique, when to be supportive and facilitate a group activity or when to delegate a learning approach. For the instructor the critical key to successful instruction or facilitation in the situational classroom is matching the right delivery style to the development level of the student, at the correct time of need.

While the situational instruction approach is still valid in traditional education, for employees with experience, graduate level courses, and professionals concerned with their CPD the focus has shifted to the learner and away from instruction. The learner is no longer exclusively dependent upon the instructor. Regardless of the expertise, experience, or knowledge level of today’s instructor, if the instructor cannot gage the development level of the learner correctly and deliver the material accordingly the learner will simply tune out and seek alternate sources of learning. By searching the internet, an iPod, or a personal tablet, sharing with the learner’s peers, any number of delivery methods are now available to the learner for finding on-demand and open source education material. Various sources of information can provide the content outlined in the learning objects of a course in a format and pace where the learner will successfully learn – without or without the instructor.

The emphasis of learning today is literally in the hands of the learner. The classroom style of instruction is not obsolete, however instructors beware! Once the course learning objectives are agreed to between the deliverer and the learner, the instructor needs to be flexible and adaptable to the changing needs of the learner. If not, someday all instruction may be limited to mechanical or experiential.

For individuals who wish to refresh their knowledge or who want to learn more about situational leadership, the basics upon which this learning approach is based, visit Wikipedia or read the book, The One Minute Manager Builds High Performing Teams authored by Dr. Ken Blanchard, Donald Carew, Eunice Parisi-Carew.

Appropriate Education Provider: Line dance or tango?

Dancing Partners or Selecting an Education Partner

Organizations can develop simple certificate programs or complex certification programs. However, before your organization progresses too far into the development of the standards and requirements take a pause and think strategically. During your development process, think about those education providers who will be developing and offering the education courses that support your program. Consider those certificate holders who be required to take classes from the education providers and how in the long term that relates to your overall program. Think strategically about your education providers. Do you set up a system that shapes and influences the education or do you rely on randomness, good luck and the good intentions of the education providers? Let me give you three simple examples of what it could look like and then suggest four indicators that will help you determine if the education provider(s) is the right dance partner for your organization.

If you have ever been to a western style or honky-tonk bar you may have witnessed the country line dance. You know the one - where two or three of the patrons get up on the dance floor in a line and start a two –step motion. After awhile other patrons join in with various levels of skills. This can be entertaining and fun to watch as you never know how the dance will conclude.

Have you seen the Broadway production or the movie of the Chorus Line? It starts out with professional performers who are generally better dancers than your average two-step line dancers. After a lot of practice and rehearsals on the part of these dancers they provide a well choreographed dance routine that even an untrained eye can appreciate.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit Argentina and my host took me to a cabaret show where the performers did the tango. It was a totally new level of dance to which I had not been previously exposed. The performers showed a grace, elegance and harmony where the partners performed as one motion.

Now, think about the education providers that your organization relies on to provide the education to your certificate or certification holders. What are your education outcome expectations? There at least four basic indicators that will help you determine the type of dance partner that you are dependent upon.

Do you and your education providers share the value of credibility? Is the big motivator for your organization or that of your education providers to generate revenue as a result of your certification program requirements? Is participation growth the primary concern of your program and that of your education providers? Do you and your providers emphasis quality as the most important issue?

In several of my other blogs I point out seven keys to developing a quality education program. The first key is a strategic approach that stresses the integration of the organization’s short and long term goals. This would include how the education providers would support your certificate or certification program. The second, develop a systematic approach to engage the education providers in a way that benefits and supports your certification program. Do you want the relationship to look like a line dance or a tango?

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