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Spotlight: We shine the light this week on Andrew Mayo


Andrew MayoThe training and coaching 'bubble' will eventually burst, says Andrew Mayo, leaving too many trainers chasing work. But there will always be a demand for real expertise and experience he says. He talks to about the thrills of his job and not going with the flow.

Name: Andrew Mayo

Age: 63

Job title: Professor of Human Capital Management, director of Mayo Learning International Ltd, president HR Society

Brief description of the job that you do: I am a part time Professor teaching MA (HRM) students and also run a training and OD consultancy. I speak and write when given the opportunities!

1. Why did you become a partner in a learning consultancy?

After 28 years in international organisations I felt it was time to take up what Charles Handy was then popularising - a 'portfolio career'. It has suited me well. But I realised after a few months I needed to start a company and not be a one man band if I wanted to get really interesting projects.

2. What do you love best about your job?

I love the thrill of an organisation saying 'Yes, we want to work with you'. And even more I love the diversity of cultures I work with, and creating consultancy and training solutions that will make a difference to each client.

3. What do you find most challenging?

Creating good solutions and delivering them is challenging and fun. But the biggest challenge is always getting contracts, where you can put in an enormous amount of work and lose for reasons that are often not made clear. So really getting the best possible understanding of a client's requirements is essential.

4. What's the best advice that you would give to someone going independent in the learning/OD sector?

Establish a niche that you can build up references for – and remember your personal credibility and relationships are your greatest assets. And also that the client is often not right but it is what they want that matters.

5. What's the best advice that's been given to you that has helped you in your career?

Very early in my corporate career somebody told me 'it's a mistake to make a career move for money alone'. This served me well and I learnt to set 10-year objectives and to make moves with those in mind. In my last career phase, my good friend Mike Haffenden (of the Corporate Research Forum) advised me to get administrative support as soon as I could afford it. In the independent sector, time really is money and you want to spend your own time doing value adding work.

6. How do you see the independent sector developing over the next few years?

It's been a great run for the last 10 years. Masses of government spending, a focus on leadership development and (especially) coaching. It's a bubble that will burst a) because some areas have been seriously overdone (with little to show for them) and b) because both government and private spending will decrease. This will create an over supply problem as so many HR/L&D practitioners have gone into the sector as a career choice in this period. But there will always be a demand for real expertise and experience.

7. What's the best career help book that you've ever read?

I wrote one myself for organisations on how to manage careers. But for me personally - I read Dale Carnegie's 'How to Win Friends and Influence People' as a teenager and never forgot its messages!

8. What's the best event within the training community that you've ever attended?

I'm going back a long way here but it was the best. The American Management Association compiled a multimedia facilitation based five-day course covering how to deliver eight sessions on essential supervisory (not leadership!) skills. Each delegate took one module in turn, 'taught' the material and received feedback from the rest of us. This is where I truly learned about being a facilitator of learning.

9. Who do you think is the most inspirational member of the training community and have you ever met them?

Chris Argyris and Ed Schein have been my greatest inspiration, and yes I have been privileged to meet them. But they are even older than me! In the UK Peter Honey (also older than me!) continues to be inspirational, and as trainers some of my own associates inspire me with a training ability far exceeding my own.

10. What else would you like to share with our members?

We live in a world of hype and spin, of fads and fashions. I make a plea for thinking things through from first principles rather than 'going with the flow'. Question things all the time – like 'why should appraisals be done by the boss?' I'd like to encourage members to be a) truly tuned in (no lip service please) to the business priorities of organisations they work with/in, so that they know how to increase capabilities that will turn into real business benefit and b) to be rigorous and honest about evaluating benefits from what they do, whether financial or non financial. The secret to 'b)' is in the objectives we set.

Read the last Spotlight, on David Pardey


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