70/20/10 & 70/20/10

Over the last few years, I’ve been sharing a 70/20/10 mentality around professional learning. The idea is well-known throughout the training & development industry and hypothesizes that 70% of employee learning occurs through on-the-job experience, 20% comes from direct conversations with co-workers, and only 10% comes from formal learning workshops.

Just recently I had the opportunity to hear an additional take on the 70/20/10 concept that looks at who should hold decision-making control of professional learning. Who knows best where our areas of need lie and who should be deciding how we spend the precious moments we dedicate toward our journey as life-long learners?

At an organization I had the privilege to visit recently, individual employees are expected to drive 70% of their own learning, their leaders determine 20%, and the remaining 10% is the mundane compliance-type training we all get to sit through. The organization provides a vast array of professional learning experiences for its staff, however, 70% of the responsibility for self-awareness and decision making is owned by the individual, not her leader. Goals and expectations of performance are set together, but the individual charts the path and seeks help where they feel it’s needed.

I’m incorporating more of both 70/20/10 frameworks into my decision making as a leader of leaders in my large suburban public school district.

Adopting this mindset requires resetting expectations for both the learner and the teacher, the team member and the team leader. Clarity in where agency lies will be key in navigating from an environment which creates passive learners who are waiting to be told what to do, to an environment where learners are trusted to be self-aware and trusted to take action.

And it’s more than moving more trust toward the learner. It’s recognizing that her decisions are better. Even if I don’t agree with the path, if she and I agree on the outcome then I should not be charting the path. 

“But what about the new or struggling team member who does not yet have the experience to know what they don’t know?” you might ask. Don’t we as leaders need to prescribe a list of technical skills for the novice to learn or a catalog of workshops to attend over the next year?

Just remember that if we are honest with ourselves as leaders about how adults really learn at work, then as the leader we have roughly 20% decision making power regarding time and direction and roughly 15% power regarding the overall impact on someone else’s learning. Think about how you learn. Sure, you may give someone else credit for molding your thoughts and helping your grow – I certainly do. But, it was your decision to listen to that person and embrace their philosophy. Growth is not driven by compliance.

If we are dictating 70% of their time, then I’ll argue our teams may be learning surface-level technical content, but are not engaging in the level of learning necessary to make lasting adaptive improvement. Give even your newest team members the respect to own their learning.

So, how do we allocate our 20% as leaders to help our staff members make the best decision with their 70%? My plan is to make sure the readings, workshops, and learning experiences I require of my team focus on self-awareness, understanding one another, and how their work contributes to the success of our students. 

I’m working through this idea as I write so I’m sure my thinking on this will continue to evolve. What are your thoughts? I would love to start a dialogue around this idea. Share your thoughts in the comments. 

Modern Mentoring = Modern Learning

I’m always grateful my chosen profession requires me to be a reader. Working in public education we are always met with new research, blogs, books, Tweets, “innovative ideas”, and Ed Tech sales people. It’s a never-ending series of inputs that dominate our email inboxes and have required me to create a separate number to better weed through the cold calls from those who find my title on our organization’s web site and want “just a few moments” of my time to share something that is sure to change the face of public education. I love it all, but it get’s to be a lot.

The onslaught of information is all worth it though when you stumble upon something that feels like it was created just for you. I stumbled upon Modern Mentoring recently at the Round Rock Public library. A focus on organizational learning drives my work. While my job title has changed a few times over the last few years, that central focus must be the core value of any leader.

Randy Emelo connects modern mentoring with organizational learning as a whole. The word “mentoring” is so loaded and we make such a big deal out of it that it becomes intimidating. It reminds me of Drew Dudley’s TED talk about lollipop moments and how we have made leadership such a big and daunting proposition that many shy away from it. The same happens with mentoring. As Emelo points out, when we make mentoring into some “expert creates protege” relationship there is too much pressure on each participant. Look what happened with Obi-Won and Annakin.

Modern mentoring is about social learning and an egalitarian approach to communication. This thought resonated so much with my own that I unleashed my own mild Tweet storm on a Saturday morning.

As a firm believer of the 70/20/10 philosophy of professional learning, the importance of flattening communication barriers, a limiting reliance on workshop-based learning, and increasing agency for the individual in driving her or his own learning has never been more important. Some point to the learner who has changed – blame it on the millennials – but I disagree. It’s our work that drives this need for change. Our work requires flexibility where it used to require repetition. Our learning requires choice where it used to require compliance.

Emelo reminds of all of this through the lens of mentoring. All learning that lasts, learning that changes our behavior for the better, is mentoring. Pick up a copy of his book and think about your own learning – especially professionally. Where does it really happen? Do you learn from traditional hierarchical compliance-based systems – or in spite of them? Or do you learn through peer-to-peer networks, informal relationships, and by reflecting on your practice with trusted colleagues?

Are you from Round Rock ISD? Stay tuned for Moden Mentoring to be included in our upcoming organization-wide book clubs.