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Spotlight: We shine the light this week on Bob Selden


Photo of Bob SeldenBob Selden says training is the best job in the world. He talks to about his personal challenges and making people look good.

Name: Bob Selden

Age: 65

Job title: Managing director, The National Learning Institute

Brief description of the job that you do:

Design, develop and implement management development processes for organisations. Facilitate on leadership programs at The International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne and The Australian Graduate School of Management in Sydney. I'm also a prolific writer having written over 60 articles on leadership and management and have just published my first book 'What To Do When You Become The Boss'.

1. Why did you become a trainer?

By mistake! I was working in a bank in a specialist field (foreign exchange) and they wanted someone to train others in what I did. I got involved, 'hooked' would probably be a better word, and then at the age 34 went on to graduate with a Psychology degree.

2. What do you love best about your job?

It's the best job in the world. I love to help people develop to their full potential. I had a manager once (who later became my mentor) who explained to me that my aim as a trainer should be to 'make other people look good'. As a high achiever and always wanting to produce or achieve goals for myself, that advice was a real challenge to accept. However, over the years, his advice has now developed into my personal credo that goes something along the lines of: 'Learning is about seeing things from a different perspective. My role is to help people improve their vision'.

3. What do you find most challenging?

Trying to get everything I would like to do done in the time I have available.

4. What's the best advice that you would give to someone new to training?

Two things, the first is to specialise. Particularly when one first starts out. If you are working for yourself, it is very tempting to take on jobs for the money and worry how to do them after winning the work. There's an old saying that 'you are only as good as your last job/project/assignment'. Find something in your area of expertise that you like and then become an expert – research it to death. Become known as a person to whom other people turn when they want to know about your specialist area.

Secondly build your network. There are many books and articles on this, but the advice I would give is to build your network by freely offering your help and advice to others.

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

To think 'what's in it for the other person, not me?' Putting the needs of others first, ensures that you will be great at helping others develop.

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

As organisations realise the enormous cost of staff turnover to their business, the wheel is starting to turn again in favour of providing ongoing development for their people. For management development, this means implementing longitudinal processes rather than training events. Greater emphasis will also be placed on the learning style of participants and diversity of learning experiences rather than a 'one size fits all' solution.

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

A book that I still keep going back to is 'People Skills' by Robert Bolton. Invaluable in learning about working with people.

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

I have to say that the programme I currently work on, Mobilizing People (two-week residential) at the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne is the best that I have experienced. Now I know that was not the point of the question, but as a coach on that program, working intensively with a group of seven or eight people for a fortnight, pushes me to strive to be the best that I can be. Each time I do it, I learn more about myself.

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

Thiagi, or to give him his full name, Sivasailam Thiagarajan. He is the most creative and inspirational trainer/coach/facilitator/learning designer I know of. I was fortunate to attend a half day workshop of his in Sydney a few years ago.

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

Always keep learning. No matter how experienced you become, there is always something new out there. Make a point to undertake at least one personal development experience every 18 months.

Read the last Spotlight, on Clive Shepherd


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