Efteling gold fish. Personal collection.

Why learning professionals should strive to be leaders, not just service providers

Reda Sadki #DigitalScholar, Leadership

The learning landscape is changing fast. Even the most jurassic face-to-face trainers I know are now embracing the digital transformation or at least trying to. Ephemeral fads such as the Social Age or gamification are proliferating alongside newer, more sustainable and productive approaches that match the learning contexts of humanitarians and support the development of their capabilities in a volatile world. Everyone in workplace learning – save a few proverbial ostriches going the way of the dodo bird – is trying to learn the new skills needed to operate in new ways to do new things. This is like a dream come true. But rethinking our roles, I believe, is going to be far more important than learning to run a webinar. Are we service providers? Are we a support service (like HR, security, and finance)? Who are really our clients, when those who pay are seldom those who learn? …

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 …

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


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 …

Château de Divonne


Reda Sadki Thinking aloud

Demure, soft-spoken, personable, affable, no-nonsense. All those things, in that peculiarly North American way. Those words don’t do justice to B., the uniquely compelling individual I met for the second time last night in Divonne-les-Bains. To describe him as a living legend in the world of learning and development is accurate, but far from complete. The first time we met, our lunch turned into a nine-hour knee-to-knee exploratory journey of the linkages between corporate learning and the wicked problems of humanitarian education. Reflecting on his insights kept me awake at night. When I finally found sleep, it was only to find myself wrapped in vivid dreams in which the ideas became colors and shapes, many moving parts dancing in complex patterns. B. shared three lessons from a time when he set out on his own, leaving the comfort of an established organization. Lesson #1: Autonomy. Learn that being independent means …