Senior Executives in large corporations understand the development of others is a part of their responsibility. Unfortunately they execute that responsibility by delegating it to HR because they are time poor. This leads to a suboptimal outcome. It is not that HR is incompetent, far from it. The issue is that who the teacher is matters. It matters a lot.
We are efficient creatures and that efficiency means we filter out most stimuli. Further, HR and L&D lean towards packaged solutions which are efficient to deliver but not necessarily relevant right now. For most the learning opportunity is missed like film on the editor’s cutting room floor.
One executive approached this challenge of being time poor and being responsible to contribute the development of others in quite a novel way. In most situations people see mentoring as a one to one experience. This executive flipped to a one to many model and it worked.
His rationale was this:
- Success is a team sport so the mentoring experience should be a team activity.
- Broadening and deepening our network should form part of that team development so the participants come from varied backgrounds and parts of the organisation.
- Part of the network effect is that the team should be self-selecting. In other words the group choose to work together. In forming the group the individuals had to use their network and network of networks in order to find each other.
- Experience the process of establishing effective trust in a business context. It is not blind trust but trust built on strong and mutual obligation.
- The executive contributed his face time (one hour a month per group of ten mentorees) so the members did all the other things necessary to succeed. The beneficiaries do the prep work.
- Each member needs to be ready to table a problem, challenge or opportunity they are facing right now to the group for debate, feedback and contribution. This means the group directs the learning. I need it now is a powerful incentive to learn!
- Each member becomes more conscious about their competence and it raises their confidence to act.
The impact was obvious and immediate. The participants were deeply engaged in the sessions, the network of each participant grew markedly, the problem articulation and solving skills matured, implementation follow through was strong and promotions followed quickly (not influenced by the executive). The ROI is extraordinary!
The small executive investment of 4 hours per month covering 4 groups of 10 was the equivalent of 6 minutes per person. Which executive does not have 6 minutes to donate to the long term development of the organisation?