Practical ideas for facilitating workshops & people development

Archive for February, 2013

The power of mentoring

2013-01-03 20.35.24We have all had a hero – a role model we have admired and shaped ourselves on.

One of mine was Meredith – Meredith was the chair of the SA Women’s Advisory Council – my first role outside of my local district.  I admired Meredith’s skills as a chair – she was warm, inclusive and kept us on track. Meredith was my informal mentor.

Imagine how powerful the relationship could have been if I had had the courage to ask Meredith to be my mentor – instead of watching and learning from afar I could have discussed with her what she was thinking, how she planned those meetings – and fast tracked my learning.

How many of you have had an informal mentor someone like Meredith you admired from afar?  What about a formal mentor?

What is mentoring?

“The mentor knows how to answer many great questions asked by the mentee and pass on their experience.”  The Forton Group.

The key for me in the definition is “questioning” The mentor is a guide who walks with the mentee – they have some of the  knowledge to answer the great questions however we don’t have to know everything to be a great mentor It’s more about sharing and developing of the skills of our mentee,  sharing our networks and questioning the mentee to assist them to develop their own skills and knowledge.  Creating possibility.

We have formal and informal mentors and it the formalising of the process that makes it powerful. We should encourage people to approach us to formalise the process and approach mentors ourselves. We are never too old to have a mentor, its not about age.

I will share of couple of personal mentoring examples …

1. Last year I was a volunteer mentor for APEN (Australasia-Pacific Extension Network) where I mentored a young woman for 8 months. I enjoyed working with her enormously – the benefits for me were fantastic – the sharing of her achievements and watching her grow in confidence.

“I had what I thought were a lot of professional difficulties but through mentoring my mountains became molehills and  I  learnt a variety of new skills to deal with my work. I gained work life balance which was practically non existent – my mentor taught me skills for life.”

2.   Over a year ago I approached a young woman who had transferred into South Australia in an agricultural role and offered myself as a mentor – the gremlin in my head was busy telling me “what did I have to offer” however I stuck my neck out and offered anyway – the young woman took up my offer and we continue to work together regularly.

In Ag Consulting Co we often work with young people who have chosen agriculture as a career and build mentoring into our training programs. These young people tell me regularly about the need for more people with mentoring skills in the industry

Mentoring is a skill underpinned by coaching and understanding the role of a coach greatly enhances the skills of a mentor. Training in the art of mentoring makes the relationship even more effective – the next blog will be about coaching.

It would be great to hear about some of your mentoring experiences… I look forward to some comments.

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Facilitating with passion

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I love to facilitate – both facilitation in the pure sense helping a group develop a new strategic plan or way to work together, to facilitation of workshops which include delivery of some material and lots of activities which draw on the knowledge and experience of the participants to deepen learning.

It’s been 12 months since I started Workshops with Wow and it has been an exciting year for me, I have travelled to many parts of rural Australia and New Zealand working with wonderful rural people dedicated to agriculture and rural life. It is so inspiring to see the passion of people for their industry, group or organisation and to play a small part in their ongoing development.

My work with the Agri-Women’s Development Trust in NZ has provided me with a unique opportunity to work with NZ rural women. As I have fortunate to be part of them learning to “own their skills and talents” and identify their passions – I have also developed a deeper understanding of myself, my passion for people development and ownership of my skills.

Facilitating with my life and business partner, Bill, on farmer decision making and extension and adoption in the grains industry has been a highlight. We hope to continue this into the future – traveling together instead of in different directions – combining our interests of people and agriculture.

Writing this blog has provided me with the opportunity to share my passion and desire to enhance adult learning and facilitation – particularly in rural and regional areas.

Thankyou for following my blog and sharing in my journey I have really appreciated your comments, emails and personal feedback and look forward to continuing the facilitation discussion. Please feel free to share my blog with your friends and colleagues.

May 2013 be an exciting fulfilling year for you all – Jeanette

A career in agriculture?

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Young people choosing agriculture as a career is a continuing problem. At many of the sessions I facilitate in rural Australia it’s a burning topic – participants focus heavily on the students…

“How can we encourage high school students to consider ag?”

I have been giving the topic a lot of thought as my own children enter the university age – with two parents in the industry both are pursuing different career paths. During our sons primary school years we were in drought and by the age of 15 he said “who would want to be a farmer  – look how stressed you two are.”

Hmmmm…. what is the impact of environment and are we targeted the wrong timing? Let’s take a bigger view of the issue. Who and what are the key influencers of children’s choice of career? A couple of ideas are front of mind for me.

1.Age – targeting high school students is too late. Values and beliefs are laid down by the time they are in high school, I believe the key time to influence thinking is earlier than this…. Start the process in primary school during formative years.

2. Teachers have a large impact on our children’s thinking – many teachers do not have an interest in, or understand agriculture. A friend recently told me about his daughter who had decided to study ag and how she was actively discouraged by not only the teachers but also the career councillor.

3. Parents… I am going to focus here on mothers (my mother had a big influence on my choices). I have worked with 100’s of women on farms over my career and sadly many of them are not very happy. They fall in love with a man, marry him, the farm, the family and the business. Some families embrace the daughter in law, however many do not. Many women live in someone else’s home which they can’t make their own, live on a shoe string budget and work very hard. Poor succession planning often alienates them further. These young mothers are a key influencer of their children during their formative years – what are the subconscious messages that are being passed on?

At a workshop recently one of the women told me she was not encouraging her children to farm.

Yes agriculture is not limited to farming – there are thousands of careers in the industry – is this message really getting out there and to the key influencers?

Lots of issues here … what we need is a new perspective –  look at the impact of key influencers, timing, subconscious messages and some of the social fabric of how the industry operates.

What are your thoughts?

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Learning to ski

2013-01-22 11.12.57Welcome back to Workshops with Wow and my first blog for 2013. I hope you have all enjoyed Christmas,a break and a great start to the year!

During January I was fortunate to travel to Japan, to Niseko, for a Skiing holiday with my husband Bill and son Will. I can’t ski ..so decided lessons would be good idea to get me started.

It was a great reminder for a facilitator and trainer to go through the process of learning a new (and challenging!) skill like skiing. My instructor was a young Englishman who had learnt to ski at the age of 2 1/2 ….he was completely unconsciously competent skier and had little teaching experience. For him I was a challenge – completely unconsciously incompetent !! I had no idea what I didn’t know and needed to be told exactly what to do in order to stay upright on those skis!

I left the lesson somewhat frustrated having learnt a few tips but not enough to get me off the magic carpet with the toddlers and onto the beginner slopes. Bill came to my rescue … a consciously competent skier … who had enough experience to know what he was doing and not enough that it had become a natural skill. After some mentoring by a very patient Bill I progressed to the beginner slopes.

The whole learning experience made me think carefully about the need as a trainer to be consciously aware of our unconscious competence! (That’s a bit of a mouthfull!) How important it is to go back and think through how we learnt the skill in the first place and then how we can teach that skills to a beginner. What were the key elements of the learning for us?

My poor young ski instructor learnt to ski as he was learning to walk …. how many of us could go back and teach someone to walk? Maybe more challenging than we think.

My other reminder was that there is a time to TELL – there are times when we don’t know what we don’t know. And equally importantly, when to move onto a mentoring or coaching role as people develop some confidence and practice the new skill.

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