Under the Bridge (Kim Hill/flickr.com)

Mind the gap

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

How do we establish a mentoring relationship? What do we do when we identify a knowledge or performance gap in a colleague? This is a sensitive issue. Pointing to a gap is more likely to lead to a productive process when mutual trust is a pre-existing condition. When we mentor a colleague, we rely on our relationships as peers and our shared values. We deploy a range of context-specific approaches. We use sophisticated strategies to provide support while respecting silo boundaries, personal pride, and limitations circumscribed by institutional culture. When we establish a mentoring relationship, we take a careful, considered approach, respectful of the other person’s experience and context. Developing mentoring is easier in smaller teams. Because the concept of “mentoring” implies different levels of experience, we emphasize mutual support between peers. One recurring gap is the lack of knowledge or experience in the organization or industry. Those of us who …

Chinese Garden of Friendship in Sydney Australia (Ajith/flickr.com)

Being mentored

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

Mentor was the name of the adviser of the young Telemachus in Homer’s Odyssey. A mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor. In the workplace, mentoring usually involves providing counsel to colleagues. Mentoring relationships may be purely informal one-offs or imply a deeper investment for both mentor and mentee. For mentoring relationships to deepen and become sustainable requires mutual identification and recognition. The organization does not currently formally prescribe or support mentoring. And, for some of us, at times we have had to find our own way because there was no one to turn to for guidance or support. Yet, most of us can recall how support, counsel and advice received from more experienced colleagues both helped collaboration and furthered our individual development. By exploring when and how we received mentoring, we can better envision how the organization might be able to recognize and support it. Line managers may be …

Boarding Royal Carribean's Vision of the Seas in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (Light Nomad/flickr.com)

Onboarding

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

How do we get newcomers onboard? Onboarding refers to the mechanism through which new staff acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors to become effective “insiders” of the organization. The organization’s onboarding process, for most us, was very informal and lacked structure, except for various administrative tasks. We know that there are no shortcuts, given the amount and complexity of tacit knowledge that is difficult to transfer. When we started working in the team, we may have found gaps in our knowledge, skills, or experience – including ones that no one could foresee or expect. Efforts to formalize onboarding inevitably run into the same difficulties as formal training. When a person arrives in a role, there are likely to be urgencies to attend to. In the process of dealing with these, newcomers have to establish themselves, begin building relationships with others, and make sense of the complexities of the workplace, often …

Benjamin West, Calypso's Reception of Telemachus and Mentor (Daniel Reinberg/flickr.com)

Mentoring

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

Fostering relationships that enable and sustain collaboration and inquiry requires building trust about both technical competencies and each person’s interest in dialogue. Therefore, two contexts require special attention. First, when newcomers come onboard to the team, they may or may not be familiar with the general organizational context or the specific working conditions. This requires thinking through how they are brought on board (“onboarding”). Second, when a performance gap is identified, in-service coaching and mentoring may be considered, especially if stopping work is not a possibility or the gap covers tacit knowledge that is not taught formally. Although coaching and mentoring require specialized skills, most of us recognize that the mentoring and support we receive helps develop our capabilities. Having received support, we are also willing to provide it, with or without institutional support. When we identify a gap in knowledge, skills or experience in a new colleague, how do we provide …

Synchronicity of Color (DWPittard/flickr.com)

Encourage collaboration and team learning

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

Our areas of work are siloed due to limited resources and time, the huge scope of our global mandate, the high level of specialization required, and internal politics. Collaboration and learning as a team (beyond the unit level) requires leadership and concerted effort. It is hard to sustain over time. Yet, to collaborate we build, sustain and renew many individual relationships based on trust and need. These are much less subject to fluctuations in our environment. We may get to know each other and become friends first, perhaps because we are work next to each other in the office, share lunch or coffee breaks, or engage in the same activities outside of work. Being in the field together is a powerful accelerator. We also share the commitment to the mission, despite our frustrations with the here and now. This is how, on one level, we come to establish trust, by …