'Speed' Mentoring – My Responses

AITD Mentor Qs.pngI’ve participated in the mentoring program run by the Australian Institute of Training and Development for the past two years – first as a mentee, then a mentor.  Last night was the end of program celebration event in Sydney, which Neil Von Heupt facilitated.  Neil ran a ‘speed’ mentoring activity.  Each mentee had a two minute conversation with each mentor to discuss their response to the three questions on the flipchart below.


The mentors were not forewarned of this activity, so our responses were very ‘top of mind.’  With the possible exception of the first question, my responses would be unsurprising to anyone who had worked with me in the past two years.

Most important aspect of my work

My gut reply to this when asked was ‘conversations.’  It’s not what I expected, and if I’d had more time to think about my response I may have crafted a different response.  However, I think it’s true and is at the heart of much of my professional practice and development.  I find it vital to talk with others to help me reflect, solve problems, ideate, explore, strategise and plan.  As an Learning and Development leader, having a performance consulting conversations with people who ask for a ‘program’ or ‘course’ helps in identifying underlying causes of performance gaps and appropriate solutions (which may not require training).  Conversation is also at the heart of social learning.

I’d like to acknowledge the influence of Harold Jarche in shaping my awareness of the power of conversation in learning  – fittingly, through two very memorable conversations we have had at Edutech conference in 2015 and on a Skype call earlier this year.


In conversation with Simon Terry at Edutech 2015 – photo taken by Harold Jarche

Favourite tool for L&D

As a personal and professional development tool, it’s definitely Twitter for me.  It’s turned my learning on it’s head since I started actively using it three years ago by enabling me to access people to engage with in a mutually beneficial interchange of sharing resources, ideas and experiences.  It’s one place where I have useful conversations.  Need more convincing?  Read what others have to say about Twitter as a development tool.


Hot career tip

Make time for reflection using whatever method suits you.  It’s vital to make sense of your experience, figure out what’s working and what you’d like to improve, and to inform your future actions.  I do a daily reflection in Evernote using a list of prompter questions on this linked list.  I write a dot point answer to those that seem relevant.  At the end of the week I then use the weekly reflection questions in my list to draw out key themes.  When I have the capacity I also blog about my work.

Which leads me to my second hot career tip – Work Out Loud.  In essence this is what I do on my blog.  Make your work and working processes visible to others – both when it’s a work in progress and when it’s complete.  Search on social media platforms or an internet search tool (#WOL #showyourwork and #WOLWeek) for a wide range of examples of how you can make your work visible.  Follow Jane Bozarth who provides practical guidance and examples to help you get started simply and quickly.

To maximise the career benefits of making your work visible, adopt the expanded Working Out Loud practice using the Working Out Loud Circle Guides.  Adopting Working Out Loud has radically altered my professional development, enabled me to build a contribution-based network, and created many opportunities.

Your Turn

How would you respond to these three questions?  Post a reply below or share your response on Twitter with #LNDcareertips

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  1. #1 by Ryan Tracey on November 10, 2016 - 12:49 pm

    Great answers, Michelle.

    As you know, I too was honoured to participate in the AITD’s mentoring program this year as a mentor. Here are my answers to the three questions…

    1. Most important aspect of my work – For me, it’s all about improving performance. I see that as the raison d’être of L&D, and I find it worth remembering to keep the motivation going whenever I strike resistance or other barriers. For the same reason, it’s important to me that I work for an organisation in whose purpose I truly believe in.

    2. Favourite tool for L&D – I agree with your choice of Twitter, as it helps me keep my finger on the pulse of everything that’s going on in our profession. My mentee expressed surprise when I didn’t choose blogging instead, and that sparked an “aha” moment for me… Twitter is about knowledge breadth, while blogging is about knowledge depth.

    3. Hot career tip – I’m a big advocate of getting your hands dirty. Sure, it’s important to read about the latest toys and trends, but it doesn’t mean much if it all stays in your head. We need to give these things a go, even if what we do is really simple or half-baked. For example, while virtual reality might seem like a futuristic concept reserved for IT geeks, the truth is anyone can shoot a 360-degree photo or video. By doing something practical like this, we generate the deeper, nuanced insights we need to inform our next steps.

    • #2 by Michelle Ockers on November 10, 2016 - 2:40 pm

      Hi Ryan,

      It was great to see you at the AITD event last night. Thanks for sharing your answers here too. I like your insight about how Twitter and blogging fit into the spectrum of knowledge breadth and depth for you. I know you do a lot of research for your blog and also report back on the outcomes of ‘getting your hands dirty.’

      Also agree fully with you on the perspective that the importance of the perspective that our work as L&D practitioners is to improve performance. It was tough having to choose 1 aspect as ‘the most’ important.

  2. #3 by Boss in the middle on November 11, 2016 - 5:02 pm

    Michelle – I am quickly becoming a fan. I will give this a shot. Quick background. I am a middle manager in a US corporation. High enough to make decisions and shape culture, not high enough to approve capital and opex expenditures above certain levels. My direct reports are site managers, as I am a Regional Director. The site managers have oversight of Ops Managers and Supervisors, who give direction to the operations team on the ground.

    1. Most important aspect of my work. Talking to my folks, all of them. Much like you, conversations are very important for me. Leadership is about influencing a group toward behaviors that lead to an expected end. I do not work at the site where the “work” happens. I visit my regional area once every 2 – 3 weeks. When I come to town, everyone is on their best behavior. I cannot influence from my level, if I can’t find a way to connect. I came up through the company ranks, so I can relate to experiences on the ground level. When we talk, discussions about work go to family, the weekend, their kids, then back to work. When it gets back around to work, they start letting me in. I hear the rumors and grapevine talk. I hear about the unspoken secrets of the organization. Once they let me in, I know how to shape my response to earn their trust. Once I have their trust, I can shape culture discretely from the inside with “tips”.

    2. Favorite tool for L&D – Lately, it’s been the articles about leadership on wordpress and all of the feedback from folks like you. Before this, it was mainly books and mentors.

    3. Hot career tip – Stay open minded to all opportunities. – It’s the main reason I am where I am today. I always say that I am not built to say no to promotion. That attitude has brought me to some pretty amazing places.

    Thanks for the reflection opportunity!

    • #4 by Michelle Ockers on November 15, 2016 - 5:48 pm

      Thank you for joining in the conversation ‘Boss.’ Looks like we share a mutual appreciation of the value of conversation. Your comments about building trust and the importance of people in the teams you lead being able to speak openly with you reminds me of Cameron Clyne’s views at the Leadership Fishbowl I moderated earlier this year (https://michelleockers.com/2016/09/09/leadership-themes-from-psk-events-fishbowl-discussion/). As CEO of a bank he felt it vital that he knew what was really going on in the organisation, and that the best way to do this was to build relationships with people at all levels.

      Love the hot career tip. It can lead you into some real ‘stretch’ opportunities and makes for an interesting ride. Requires confidence in your ability to adapt, to learn on the go, and to conenct well with others – nothing gets done by an individual operator these days.

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