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Jon Kennard


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Pour encourager les autres: Fast-tracking the under-30s


Nigel Paine has been engaging in some slightly different leadership work of late. He tells the community all about it.
I wonder how many TZ readers are at a very early stage in their career? If you are, then please comment on this article. Tell me if I am anywhere near the mark in my comments. The context is an 11-week online program for emerging learning leaders (ELiL) which I am jointly hosting with Sarah Bloomfield from Google. It is a Masie Center Programme but one that could run inside a large company or in any number of other places. We are nearly through the first iteration and there are a number of key lessons for me.
  1. The impact has been significant, not because it is a wonderful programme, but because in most instances it is the only programme available to this cohort. Sadly, I rarely get posts like: "I feel the need to, once again, state how awesome the 90 minutes I spend with the ELiLs is. Highlight of my week (and I didn't wear my blazer this Thursday)!!" We need more opportunities rather than fewer opportunities aimed at emerging talent.
  2. This group is hugely flexible, willing to share, and willing to put in hours of extra work around the programme. What they learn they apply as quickly as they can. So a simple, cost effective programme is instantly repaid in ideas and higher level performance.
  3. Trust them, don't monitor everything and demand three approval levels for the smallest initiative. We have never demanded that a presentation be run past the leaders before delivery; and we have never been let down. If we ask for something, it will be there without chasing.
  4. Don't bore them with 50-minute lectures and 10 minutes for questions for a one-hour online session. The best times have been open discussion via microphone, chat box and whiteboard. Often all three at the same time. We use Adobe Connect templates extensively and swap the 'room' from whiteboard to multiple pane chat sessions to graphic display to maintain energy levels and change the tasks.
  5. Sharing is second nature. Problems are solved and examples are forwarded offline. Without any face-to-face contact, there is a sense of a team and a team that respects each other.
  6. The range of expertise is astonishing. Even though this group has not been long in the workforce, it learns fast and is often at the leading edge. We never try to tell but to suggest and debate. There has not been a topic yet where no-one has any experience or knowledge.
  7. The major deficit for the team is not the competency to do their jobs but in the core leadership skills for learning, and more generally. In other words, no-one is preparing them for the next step or steps in their career - that is why so many in their position move on. This is not because they have some genetic programming to leave their job every six months based around nonsensical notions of Gen X, Y or Z that some would have had us believe, but because they can give more, do more and perform better than their current job allows, so they move on to find a bigger challenge. If the challenges were in-built they would stay.
  8. After the formal hour we move to a Google Hangout and hang out for a further 30 mins. Not everyone comes (Google Hangout is still limited to 10 video streams) but most have been once or twice. And there is no agenda, it is open to discuss or ask questions about anything. The time always flies by and it is a rich source of added value. That free discussion time is a vital component of the programme now, as well as an opportunity for clarification or to sort out confusion. This is coupled with a mid-programme hour of one-on-one coaching. This is face-to-face where possible or via Skype. This is an additional dimension where the specific issues relating to each individual can be debated. It is their time. Therefore the programme is built into three elements: webinar, hangout, and coaching. They have meshed to be integral parts of the whole. I would not have predicted this at the beginning.
  9. We share resources and lists of resources. We have several Google Docs files and an Evernote shared notebook. These resources are more and more useful as the course progresses and will continue past the end of the course.
  10. All the chat sessions are edited and posted. The richness of the debate is amazing. It is impossible to keep track of everything live but posting chat streams, whiteboards and other information is digestible (in a way that playing back the whole hour simply isn't) and illuminating. A lot of the initial chat sessions had to be edited as there were substantial amounts of chit chat which had no enduring value. As the course has progressed, however, the editing has become minimal. Most of the content is valuable.
This process has made me reevaluate the whole process of development.  In some ways we need to turn it on its head. This group has a huge amount to learn, and will learn enthusiastically; but it has a huge amount to teach as well if only we can be bothered to listen.
You can virtually dispense with PowerPoint for webinars. It prevents conversations. Or perhaps we need some formal content as a foil to engage and challenge. What is clear, however, is that robust discussion, exercises and offline work that can be shared, enriches the learning experience and that will apply to any cohort.
If this group is being held back by the nature of the workplace and the way their companies are organised; imagine the hidden potential out there and the increased efficiencies we could achieve if we trusted people to get on with it, and gave them what they wanted (within reason).
Nigel Paine was given the 2012 Colin Corder award for his contribution to the learning industry. He is a coach, mentor, writer, broadcaster and keynote speaker of international acclaim. He is currently working in the UK, Brazil, the US and Australia on a variety of assignments, that hinge around making work more creative, innovative and aspirational and making workplaces more conversational, team-based and knowledge sharing. You can read his blog at or follow him on Twitter 

Author Profile Picture
Jon Kennard

Freelance writer

Read more from Jon Kennard

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