Interactions, interventions, let’s call the whole thing off…

“Why don’t you think coaching and mentoring fits with your approach of social learning?”

This question left me a bit baffled because it came on the heels of a positive meeting that succeeded in presenting a unified approach from three different vendors. I wasn’t sure where it was coming from.

His look was very concerned and I could see that by this question something I had said struck a chord with him.

Then we proceeded to have the most informational and constructive conversation of my career so far. Both in the way it happened and what it was about (so it seems to me, with it still fresh in my mind as I stand on the sidewalk outside and type this story into my phone).

I was sitting in a room with two very confident and in their own right, powerful men. Both looking at me like I was disqualifying something that was integral to their professional value system. I can tell you this is an uncomfortable position to be in. I recognize that it was so for each of us for different reasons.

I made a series of conscious decisions throughout this conversation, some that challenged me and some that represented my own professional values. The first was to listen. To give him a chance to express himself as fully as he could. Standing over me, using visual aids that he had taken out of his bag, impassioned. Not angry, passionate. The way I sometimes get, almost trembling with what I want to say.

I listened to both of them, and proceeded to give my diplomatic but assertive answer. Once he had sat down I was able to point to my positions on the visual aids he had explained to me, describing the types of behaviours I associated with each. We agreed fundamentally but the language we had been using carried different meaning for each of us. His initial concern came when I said that I didn’t consider a two hour coaching/mentoring meeting per week in addition to content fit into our scaffolded social learning approach. He heard only that coaching/mentoring didn’t fit.

This discussion became an excellent opportunity to describe that, to me, as well as for him, a coach is someone who sometimes challenges, sometimes is curious, drawing out perspectives and ideas.
However, the coach is not limited to meetings for these behaviours. The coach can engage in different ways, now that we have multiple tools at our disposal. (S)he can type a considered response to a personal reflection on a forum, can answer questions and put questions through a chat, can conduct their interactions through a variety of…

“Mediums,” the other chimed in, illustrating an almost palpable shift in perspective in the room. “Yes. That exactly,” I said.

The discussion continued, with each word and idea expressed from each of us showing that we were rapidly coming to a common perspective, well communicated. And thanking each other mutually for participation in the conversation, where each of us learned something new that we can take forward.

For myself, 1. the essential difference between a coach and a mentor, one is a content expert, the other doesn’t need to be. 2. Herons 6 categories of interaction. (It’s actually ‘intervention’, but I like interaction better).

This discussion is, to me, a perfect example of the ‘perfect storm’ of familiarity, feelings of trust that engender feelings of safety, that allow challenge, expression of curiosity and doubt, that lead to deep learning. Deep because the result is that I will not forget what I learned because it is tied to emotion and context, and I will use it moving forward, without a doubt. I had the opportunity to ask questions, explain myself, communicate more and more effectively, honing the language I will use in future to communicate my position on social learning, as well as now having an additional tool to do so.

From Munich

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