Key Learning Relationships

April 29th, 2020

Many people learn best when their relationships with their teachers are strong. This is true not just in school, but at work too. How can we make sure strong relationships are in place at an organizational level? We address this question and others in The Agile Learning Organization Program in the Josh Bersin Academy. The Program is designed to help us prepare our organizations for massive, smart growth by ensuring our employees develop and master the skills that make this kind of growth possible. Here’s a piece from the Program:

In order for us to successfully learn from each other at work, we need a lot of people with expertise—no matter what their age or role in the organization—who are willing and able to share it with less experienced colleagues. There are several types of relationships that facilitate this kind of shared learning. These are the four key ones:

  • Mentors are critical partners in learning. They provide us with advice and guidance, a shoulder to lean on. As the ones receiving mentoring, we play the more active role in the relationship. We are doing the hard work of reflecting and asking questions; the mentor’s role is to respond openly, with good advice that helps us grow. We can be more vulnerable with mentors than we can with a boss or manager—including admitting mistakes and asking for help—because the stakes are lower. The key question at the base of the mentor relationship is: Where do you want to go?

  • Coaches are more tactical, less personal partners in learning. Their role is to help us develop skills that will allow us to perform our current roles better and to inspire us to do more. Coaches are more directive in their interactions with us than mentors; they have a clear sense of what we need to learn and how to get us to be better. They ask us leading questions to help clarify our thinking and discover answers that we might already know. The key question underlying the coaching relationship is: How can you improve your performance?

  • Sponsors are like a modern version of the master-apprentice model. They help put us in positions of power and have a stake in our careers; they put themselves on the line because if we succeed, they will too. In this way, they’re the most prescriptive and involved in how we grow. The key question underlying the sponsor relationship is: How can we accomplish things together that will advance both of our careers?

  • Peers offer incredibly fruitful learning experiences. We learn from the people around us who are doing the same or similar job but have different experiences, perspectives, or ideas. Peers can play roles similar to mentors, coaches, or sponsors, but without the power dynamic. The key question underlying the peer relationship is: How can we help each other get better?

Want to go deeper into content like this? Our next session of The Agile Learning Organization starts on May 4. Join the Josh Bersin Academy today.