Project Mentoring


When we think about mentoring, I believe most think of an individual at their company that can help them grow professionally, and learn how to perform tasks and projects.  Ideally having a mentor this close to you would be great, yet it is becoming harder to find these mentors for training now a days.

Within a lot of small to medium companies, training is not a big part of the organization, so it is natural that there are not a lot of training employees on staff, and this means less available mentors too.

Seeking an external mentor is not practical for the long haul as the cost can override the benefits.  So most companies seek out consultants and contractors to get work done when there is no one on staff that has the experience.  Companies get the benefit of quick turn around with the external contractor, but pay more for this experience and speed.

I’m testing a new service I’m calling Project Mentoring.  Yes, you could hire me to develop say a training plan for your organization, and for a fee I will have it completed in a few weeks.  With Project Mentoring, I would work with your designate training manager to develop this plan with my assistance and guidance.  Since my time involvement is limited to a few hours a week, you are only paying for my experience and my ability to coach your employee to complete the plan.  It will take longer, but it will cost less.

The beauty from this process is that from now on this employee should be able to develop the annual training plan themselves.  In other words, instead of feeding them a fish so they can eat for a day (hiring a contractor) we teach them how to fish so they can feed themselves for life (project mentoring).

The company is still only paying the mentor for services rendered, but the purpose and results are more focused.  Look at your project list for training.  Do you need help designing a course, learning how to facilitate, implementing a LMS, creating a succession plan, or building a training department from scratch?  Think about Project Mentoring and teach your employees how to fish!

For more information, email me at Jim@jkhopkinsconsulting.com

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Teaching is Not Training


I was reminded this week that teaching is not the same as training.  When we set out to inform people and fill them with information we are teaching.  But if we have the expectation that these same people need to be able to perform a task with the information obtained, then our focus needs to be on training instead.

Through some volunteer work I have been doing, I recognized that all of the instructors knew their content well, and how to perform their tasks, but had not been exposed to the techniques in training adult learners.  I proposed a workshop to the board of directors to train the trainers so their workshops would be more effective.  The response was immediate that they knew the instructors were struggling, and now they knew why.  “Yes, let’s train the trainers.”

In the corporate environment we often begin using “subject matter experts” as trainers because they know their stuff.  And then we assume that if you know how to do something you can tell someone else how to do it, and the telling part of that is often true.  Yet, what we need are people who both know their stuff and can train others to do the same things.  While training skills come natural to a handful of people, most need to learn how to train a topic.

Recently I have been getting requests from trade organizations to create workshops for HR and Training Managers to learn how to perform their jobs.  And while I am ready, willing and able, I am sadden that so many have not been provided the mentoring I was lucky enough to receive over the years.  We must train our trainers before we train others or we really are just spinning our wheels.

If you are training any skill, and can’t see the difference between teaching and training, ask yourself this clarifying question.  “Do you want your children to take Sex Education or Sex Training?”  You see, there is a time for teaching information, and a time to learn how to perform a task.  What are you responsible for?

Old Dogs and New Tricks


Whoever said that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, sure didn’t spend much time with senior citizens trying to learn something new.  I’ve spent the last few months as a volunteer coach working with seniors learning how to use various computer programs and I can tell you I have witnessed dedicated learners giving it their all to learn.

In the learning world we know that motivation from the learner is half the battle, and especially adult learners when it comes to learning new skills.  SeniorNet is a national organization that uses volunteers and local sponsors to bring computer training to our seniors.  The programs take the learner from the very beginning into advanced concepts.  Some of the learners are quick, and others are struggling, and yet they are all giving it their best effort.

So much time and effort is spent in the corporate environment on training skills that will benefit the employee, and yet the results are mixed at best.  If our corporate programs had learners with the same drive as the seniors I’ve been working with, wow, the success rate would go through the roof!

The lessons are simple.  Adults learn when they see a personal value.  Adults engage when the topic is something they want to learn.  And lastly, we should never stop learning and growing no matter how old we get.

“The Day We Stop Learning is the Day We Stop Living” – Jim Hopkins

Beating The Drum


In helping a company recruit a training manager, I was asked to list the skills vital to performing this job.  After creating the standard list we all know and love, I added “Drum Beater” to the list, and of course it got the attention I was attempting to get.

I’m sure most of us have heard the term “beating the drum” for when someone is out making a statement, or trying to influence people toward a particular path of action.  Much like the drum beaters that would lead armies into battle, the steady drum beat helped focus and direct the footsteps of the soldiers, and the role of a training manager is very similar.

Take a few minutes and read the discussions of training groups in LinkedIn, or other online sources.  It takes only a few minutes to see that we are always beating the drum to support employee development, leadership training, or proactive training solutions.  We beat that drum over and over again, why?  Because nothing is changing!  People in masses avoid employee development, so on we beat the drum hoping things will change.

Actually we at times do change the status quo, it is why we stay connected to this profession, and yet we need to get better at making our case.  Changing up the drum beat once in a while and motivating action quicker.

I wrote in my book The Training Physical, that a training manager should think of themselves as a marketing department for learning.  Marketing is out in front before the product launch, not after it has rolled out.  Actually after is when Sales is the process, but I will save that topic for another blog.  Marketing is developing the need into a desire to act, and a good training manager is well skilled in marketing.

I scared someone the other day when they asked me what kind of training I was selling, and I said, “why do you think you need training?”  As a Performance Consultant I am very aware that training is only one solution to a performance challenge, and at best needed only 50% of the time.  If I didn’t beat the drum differently, then I would sound like every other training vendor out there.  In my case I don’t sell training, I provide solutions.