Thoughts on Development Approaches
As a professional trainer, of course training works. It is the magic one size fits all Utopia to sort out problem staff. In reality, training perhaps only instructs. It informs people of things they probably already know. So, what do we need to do about it? This article outlines some of the main themes trainer and coach Alec McPhedran covers when supporting managers in understanding people development.
There are still a number of people who feel that training is development. Of course, it is part of it but the key focus should be on development. What new knowledge or skills do people need and how can this be achieved? If we think about development in this context, it opens the door to a wide range of development opportunities. This could include shadowing, secondments, coaching, mentoring, buddying and of course, training if appropriate.
To explain this, I designed and use the Development Approaches model by way of example. Of course it’s not perfect. It is simply to make a point of considering the most appropriate development approach specific to an individual or teams needs. It does draw from a range of similar concepts such as Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership or Heron’s Coaching Interventions
The model works on two aspects. The first is on how much of the facilitator of the learning tells the individual what to do through to asking them what they think they should do. The second is based on the ability, experience or competence of the individual or team. By thinking about these two aspects, it can contribute to shaping the appropriate development approach.
There are many definitions for instruct but essentially, in the field of learning and development, it is one person telling another through the imparting of their knowledge and experience, hence instruct.
Training is mainly seen as the organised activity or set of activities aimed at imparting information and/or instruction to improve an individual’s performance or to help them attain a required level of knowledge or skill. It involves a mix of tell and ask and is typically used in introducing new information or skills to a person.
Coaching is facilitating the learning of another to help them reach their unique potential. It is guiding the new knowledge and skills through asking questions. This helps the individual explore self-learning under the guidance of another.
Delegation occurs with the assignment of responsibility and authority to a team or team member the power to do a specific activity, project or task with the ultimate responsibility for task completion remaining with the delegator. Within development, this acknowledges their potential or capability and we can explore their approach and thinking through questioning.
Mentoring is a personal developmental relationship in which an experienced person guides, advises and challenges another to discover more about themselves, their capability and their potential. It tends to be more about the person rather than just the knowledge and skills needed for their role.
Feedback is structured information that one person offers to another about the impact of their actions or behaviour. Feedback should ideally be factually based and the person giving the feedback needs to ne clear in what it is they are feeding back on and why. Feedback should be given for positive reasons as well as performance improvement needs. The more able a person, the more they will benefit from honest and factual feedback.
The Development Approaches model is simply a discussion tool to explain firstly what development is and secondly, the range of approaches and options available.
The Development Approaches Model has been developed by Alec McPhedran Chtd Fellow CIPD, Chtd Mngr CMI, MAC, MCMI as a tool for people who coach or train others; to help understand the range of development opportunities available. Alec is the managing director of Skills Channel TV, the training company for busy creative people. He specialises in one to one coaching, facilitated learning, media training and team development. For further information, contact 0121 366 87 99 or visit www.skillschannel.tv.
Copyright © Alec McPhedran 2019
The Coaching Conversation Model is a tool to explain the way a coaching conversation may at times flex into training, teaching or mentoring mode as well as working towards the ideal coaching approach. Here leading creative sector coach Alec McPhedran of Skills Channel TV, explains the model to help new coaches appreciate the skill in flexing coaching conversations.
When I was being trained to become a coach, much of the advice was to mainly use open-ended questions such as who, what, why, where, when and how. Equally to make use of TED, tell me about, explain to me or describe to me, which are of course powerful open-ended questions. The aim therefore was to ensure that I the coach contributed very little by way of advice or influence to the coachee and that the answer sits within them.
This of course is true in one sense. Indeed, that would be the perfect coaching session – I ask profound questions, the you answer them, sort yourself out, you leave happy and I send my invoice. What a life.
As we develop out coaching understanding, we recognise that the perfect approach to coaching conversation doesn’t always happen. Sometimes we need to use and trust our experience and step back a bit into training mode to explain a concept and then return to coaching on how they can use that concept to develop their ideas. We may well also throw in some personal experience by way of example, which in turn means I may well be in mentoring mode.
To me coaching is facilitating the learning of others to help them reach their unique potential. So, if part of coaching is facilitating, then we need to be able to flex and react accordingly for the benefit of the coachee.
When I deliver workshops on coaching to managers, the sessions on managing coaching conversations can come over a bit contradictory or confusing. On that basis, and being a visual type, I developed the Coaching Conversation Model as a discussion tool to explore the range of approaches to coaching conversations. This has evolved over a number of years but what is great about the model is that it helps to initiate valuable discussions on the flexibility needed in coaching conversations.
Directive to Facilitative Coaching
The more we instruct or influence the conversation, the less the coachee contributes to the conversation. That is directive coaching. If for example, I am trying to help a manager work through giving feedback on a colleague’s behaviour, I tend to see how they would approach it and what the likely outcomes would be based on that approach. If we agreed that it might not be the most appropriate approach or the manager was not familiar with feedback theory, I could offer some ideas on feedback theory to help move the situation forward.
A typical model I use, because of its simplicity and usefulness, is the AID feedback model. That is A for action or actions I have seen, heard or felt. I is for the impact of those actions and the likely consequences and D for what should they do about it in the future. On that basis, I am in training or teaching mode using my training skills. Once I have put the theory across, we then move back to a coaching approach by getting back to asking them how they could use that model in that particular situation. I am back to facilitating the thinking of the coachee, not contributing ideas but simply coaching. That is facilitative coaching – the main conversation coming from the coachee.
Much of this approach has strong links to Heron’s Six Categories of Intervention (1975, in Hawkins & Smith, 2006) offering approaches from an authoritative set of interventions to facilitative interventions. Heron’s models confirm that as a coach, we need to flex our approach as we work with our coachees.
Development Through Coaching
A frequent misunderstanding I find when coaching managers is their understanding of development. Many people feel that development means training. To me, development is how do we give people new knowledge, skills and behaviours. This widens our options with development opportunities such as coaching, mentoring, teaching, shadowing, secondment and so on. Training may or may not be a part of development.
In developing the Coaching Conversations model, and for the sake of simplicity, I have used training, coaching and mentoring by way of example. You can use whatever is appropriate to your learning group with headings such as educating, teaching, facilitating and so on. For me, the basics of training, coaching and mentoring work well.
As an introduction to discussing coaching conversations, I run an activity in which the group is normally split in to three. Each group is allocated either training, coaching or mentoring. They then write words on a Post-It that reflects clearly their development option. They then select the top three words and create a simple sentence defining training, coaching or mentoring. During feedback and discussion, we then evolve their work in a way that explains each and differentiates the three. Before the session, they are encouraged to bring along a preferred description on coaching and mentoring.
We all have our view on what each development option are but the point of the exercise is to understand those options and develop a way in which to explain them simply and clearly in a coaching session. The value of the exercise is that participants gain a better understanding of each and recognise the differences, especially between mentoring and coaching. I often support this with am anecdote that highlights those differences.
From this we can then move on to discussing coaching conversations, and on my events, I tend to use training, coaching and mentoring. To keep it simple, I use the following explanations for training, coaching and mentoring:
In training mode, we instruct, we tell. Much of the input to the conversation is from the coach. It is explaining ideas, concepts or theories.
When we coach, we facilitate, we ask. This is where the coach concentrates on the objective of the coaching session – be it coachee or jointly identified. This uses questioning, active listening, feedback, problem solving, idea generation and summarising skills to guide the coachee. It’s asking rather than telling. It allows the coachee to develop their thinking capability and self-belief in their capability. The main input on the conversation is ideally from the coachee. Coaching is facilitating the learning of others to help them reach their unique potential.
A mentor is a more experienced or senior person who offers guidance, support, pastoral care, challenge or wisdom to another in developing them as a person. This is where the coach applies their mentoring skills, jointly contributes to the conversation with the coachee. The mentoring approach allows the coach to offer ideas from their experiences, points out ideas in an appropriate direction and guides based on their wisdom.
I’m conscious that my definitions of training, coaching and mentoring will not sit well with others. In fact, when I search on a web browser for ‘definition of coaching’, it tells me if has found 331,000,000 results with thousands of definitions and interpretations of definitions.
We all have our own views, beliefs and versions of each based on our unique experiences. The key thing is you have a description in which you feel is right and it helps to explain what it is to a coachee, yet it is simple and easy to understand. I also feel it must clearly differentiate between the three development approaches.
The Coaching Conversation Model
The purpose of the coaching conversation model is to help a new coach understand that the conversation will flex in to the territory of teaching, training, education or mentoring but with the aim of making sure we focus on and always returning to the coaching approach where appropriate. A pure coaching session is the Utopia but in many cases I have experienced, we do have to flex for the benefit of the coachee and the coaching session or programme goal.
The Coaching Conversation Model has been developed by Alec McPhedran Fellow CIPD, Chtd Mngr CMI, MAC, MCMI as a tool for people who coach; to help understand the conversation management of a coaching session. Alec is the managing director of Skills Channel TV, the training company for busy creative people. He specialises in one to one coaching, facilitated learning, media training and team development. He developed the GENIUS Coaching Model, a guide to managing the flow of a coaching conversation. For further information, contact 0121 366 87 99 or visit www.skillschannel.tv.
Copyright © Alec McPhedran 2016
Proving a return of investment for learning is quite a common challenge for those who manage a learning and development budget. Quite reasonably, the question posed is what do we get back for our investment? Here, Alec McPhedran outlines a useful approach to developing learning while thinking about longer term evaluation.
The evaluation of learning starts right at the beginning of any learning initiative. What needs to change and how will you measure success when you get there? The ROI of Learning model is a tool to help people think about planning the learning and how they can evaluate its progress at various stages.
It’s useful to determine what you are looking to improve, change or introduce as a starting point. Sometimes it is helpful to state what the ideal outcome will be. For example, on a project, to reduce absenteeism levels in an organisation. it might have an outcome to improve the line managers approach to managing and reducing absence levels.’
Once you know what it is you are trying to do you can then set a clear learning aim or objective for the intervention. SMART based goals are a useful approach. In continuing with the absence challenge, a programme of learning aimed initially at line managers might have an aim to provide managers with the knowledge and skills necessary for managing and reducing absence levels within their team to support the company improvement target of reducing absence level averages per employee from 5.5 days to 3 days for 2020.
In developing a learning programme, it is incredibly valuable to consider developing performance objectives. Performance objectives describe the behaviours you would like to see, hear or feel happening following the learning. For example, a performance objective could be to consistently carry out a detailed and supportive WARM (Welcome back, Absence, Responsibility and Move on) return to work interview thoroughly following every absence with their team members. Essentially the performance objective is what they will do following the learning.
In putting together the learning, what knowledge will they need to carry out the activity? This helps to think about the learning objectives. For any learning intervention we need to consider what they need to know (new knowledge) and what they need to be able to do (new skills). Continuing with our absence programme one learning objective might be to understand the stages and application of the WARM return to work interview model.
Once we know out aim, performance objectives and learning objectives we can then consider the most appropriate development options. This could include online learning, YouTube clips, classroom based learning, reading, coaching and so on. When we start selecting and organising our development options, we can now consider how we will start measuring learning during and after the programme. An example of a modular learning programme on absence management for line managers could be pre-work through self-reflection, two online video clips, an article to read and a highlighted section of the ACAS website to read through before attending a one day workshop.
There are many ways to evaluate learning but a useful model as part of this is the Kirkpatrick Phillips Model of Evaluation. As a tool to prompt learning design thinking relating to measuring impact and success, it is one method that creates useful reminders of areas to evaluate in learning.
If we continue our absence management programme, the following ideas could be considered using the Kirkpatrick Phillips model:
Level One – Reaction
We need to identify how we can check how well the learning is being received with activities that check the reaction to the learning content. Ideas include:
Level Two – Learning
When identifying candidates for a learning programme, sometimes it is useful to ask delegates before attending to identify their learning needs and behaviour needs. This helps the individual, sometimes with their line manager, identify what they need to learn and how this can both be supported and reviewed following the programme. In some cases, this could be linked to their personal development objectives or CPD plans. Reviewing learning could include many of the activities similar to Level One Reaction along with discussions with the line manager or post programme tests or short reports.
Level Three – Behaviour
Evaluating behaviour can take quite a while after a learning event. Essentially it could mean behaviour change and this is not instant. There are a number of theories around how long it takes to change one behaviour ranging from 21 days to 55 days and in some cases, up to 255 days. So, evaluating behaviour needs planning that will take place soma time after the learning event. An example might be a one to one with the line manager some three or four months later. For example, how are your WARM interviews going? What have you changed and what has happened since? Sometimes, with behaviour questions, it is down to observations, feedback from others or discussions looking for competence-based responses.
Level Four – Results
When looking at the one to one discussions or recording of behaviour improvement for Level Three, this presents a great opportunity to identify areas that have improved within the individuals actions with their performance. This contributes to Level Four Results evaluation. Linking this to absence management, a manager might acknowledge that since the training, in the past six months, average days absence in their team of 15 has fallen from 6.2 days last year to 3.1 days so far this year following the return to work interviews approach was introduced. This is a great result likely linked to the learning intervention. Of course, one of the challenges in evaluating the ROI from learning is how can you definitely claim this as a direct success of the learning? However, the more examples from individuals that can be collated, the stronger the claim can be that the event has made a difference for the better. The results on behaviour improvement can then be checked back to the initial programme aim or objective.
Level Five – Return on Investment
If we collate as much of the qualitative and quantitative data from a selection of candidates from the learning event, we can build up quite a good case for demonstrating both business improvement and a return on investment from the initial budget for the learning event. With some solid thinking, we can often turn those improvements into financial figures. From the previous example we can identify that over six months, with a team of 15 people, we have an average of saving 3.1 days salary x 15 people. That is quite a good return on investment, especially if we revisit it over a twelve month period. If we collect a sample range of between 20% to 30% or more from course delegates some three to six months later, we can gain a total guide on potential return on investment. Looking for figures such as increased sales, reduced wastage, quicker response or down time, etc it can nearly always be monetised. The total can then be used to reflect on achieving the initial need for the event based on the outcome identified. The value of the ROI figure is that this helps justify value in investing in learning If a training programme for 40 managers, at a cost of £32,000 in total, can be seen to save the business up to £197,000 in twelve months through reduced absenteeism, then why would we not want to invest in more development.
Of course, the above is simplifying it but none the less, the role of the person responsible for learning events is to demonstrate the value and positive business impact of their services. Identifying the return on investment from learning should be a regular part of the role.
Alec McPhedran is a creative sector trainer and coach and managing director of Skills Channel TV. You can see more at www.skillschannel.tv or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2019 Alec McPhedran.