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Guide me to Success – a lesson from Essex

There’s a show on TV called “Educating Essex”.  Through 65 rigged cameras placed around a secondary school we follow the daily trials & tribulations of both children and staff.  Sounds like another trashy reality show but in fact it shows brilliantly the dynamics present in school.  As TV always does, it probably focuses on the extremes but even 20 years after leaving school I can recognise it’s familiarity instantly.

This post isn’t about the TV show but about a fundamental belief expressed by the schools Deputy Head.  It was in the context of poor behaviour and how we view punishment of children.  My interpretation of his comments are :

Children are meant to make mistakes and it should be expected.  However, we must never punish them as though they were adults otherwise we may as well make them adults at the age of 11.

Most of us can look at children or young teenagers and see their immaturities and lack of experience.  It’s not a deficiency, it’s to be expected.  Many adults & elders see it as their responsibility to help guide and support the development of children and young people.

So what happens in the workplace?

Employment contracts & company policy don’t generally accommodate any lack of maturity or experience.  The focus is often on competency or consequence, not the learning journey there or even beyond.  Any failure has a tendency to be viewed as a deficiency.

Can you imagine your children attending a school that operated in this vein?

For new managers or supervisors there is possibly a first line management course on offer.  It’s a start but we all know the figures on traditional classroom training…  Even then the focus can be on “tick-box” competency.

Where I see development really take off is where a more experienced manager provides the support and guiding hand akin to a great teacher.

They guide the “student” on their journey.   They even see it as their responsibility to help support their development.  Where mistakes are made, it’s recognised in the context of their maturity and experience.  Learning from the experience is the focus rather than punishment for failure.

Call it a mentor, a teacher, a guide or even a critical friend.  The name doesn’t matter.  What matters is that we create awareness in a way that supports development and encourages change.

Perhaps this requires a rethink of both the employment contract and the psychological contracts in place at work…

What do you think?  Would love to hear your views & experiences.

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