The One Tool That Can Change Behavior, Empower Employees, And Build Authentic Relationships – Forbes

Posted: October 22, 2020 at 9:57 pm


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Fellowships are a powerful way of supporting professional and personal development, in a resource-efficient way. Particularly in the face of todays challenges and changes to how we work and live, the fellowship model is ideally suited to meet the shifting needs of employees and the companies they serve. These lessons learned from over a decade of Fellowships in varied forms, with participants from a wide range of ages, functions, from all over the world, offer insight into why and how this approach to learning is so timely.

Yes, Fellowships can be run virtually, with all these same benefits.

What must professional development deliver in the 2020s?

2020 has been marked by great change and disruption, but the workplace was shifting long before the outbreak of Covid-19. The pandemic has accelerated a lot of those trends, making them impossible to ignore any longer. HR and talent professionals have been the front line workers of the workplace, trying to learn and adapt quickly enough to keep up with employees physical, emotional, intellectual, and mental needs.

There are three major functions required of professional development in the 2020s:

These functions of professional development are important to consider as you plan for your team, whatever the size, level, or industry with which youre working. Fellowships are ideally suited to address all three.

But first, what is a Fellowship?

Before diving into the learnings about how Fellowships deliver on those modern requirements for professional development, lets review briefly what a Fellowship is. A fellowship is a learning program, from eight weeks to a year or even two in duration, that includes these three elements:

The topic of the Fellowship can range widely, as can the participants identities. The power of the tool is this blend of interaction on the Me, We, and World levels. By guiding participants independent learning and reflection, facilitating peer conversations, and infusing world-class wisdom and inspiration, the Fellowship approach effectively changes behavior, builds internal motivation, and fosters authentic connection.

What weve learned

Work with hundreds of Fellows, across geographies, ages, sectors, functions, and backgrounds has demonstrated the power of this approach in very concrete ways.

Impact measures one year and longer after the Fellowship confirm that Fellows have adopted and sustained new behaviors. For example, one Fellow reported having maintained the mindfulness practice she started during the Fellowship for more than a year. And recognizing how much that practice improved her creativity and collaborative approach to her work, as well as making her a more empathetic family member.

Another powerful result of the Fellowship is that participants are more likely to stay in a role they were considering leaving. They are guided to connect the dots between the work theyre doing on a daily basis and their larger sense of purpose, which builds motivation and engagement in that role, at that firm. One participant realized the power she had to increase the impact of her firm within the branding role she held, by extending her remit to include internal branding and employee engagement. She also increased her leadership in an informal role organizing volunteer events as a way to connect more deeply to purpose in her current role rather than leaving.

Similarly, another Fellow decided to take on the challenge and workload of managing a Veterans employee resource group, despite having an already full plate. This work supporting other veterans refreshed his enthusiasm about the work and the company, extending his likely tenure there by years. The self-reflection, peer discussion, and expert insights give employees the perspective they need to recognize how and why their role matters, which is the primary driver of what humans want out of work.

Fellowships give employees the confidence, insights, and motivation to expand or extend their work, whether in formal or informal ways. This is incredibly important in todays fast-changing environment, which requires professionals to be constantly adapting and re-skilling to stay relevant and productive.

We see Fellows take on side projects and/or reimagine their roles to better fit their own interests and skills, as well as the evolving needs of their team or company. They often adapt the nature of their work to create more value for their organizations current reality. For example, one Fellow recognized that the data infrastructure she was asked to build wouldnt be relevant to the organization for another five years, with lots of conditionality in the interim about whether it would ever be useful. With the help of peer group insight and expert mentoring, she developed a staged approach to data analysis, beginning with what the organization could manage immediately, followed by six- to twelve-month stages toward the ultimate goal that the team could work toward. This stepwise approach is more resilient, recognizing the mutability of the organizations context, and ensuring that they could make progress even if the ultimate goal shifted or became more distant.

In the process of growing, both professional and personally, during the Fellowship, participants develop authentic relationships that go beyond their work together. These relationships are relevant, and fulfilling, outside of the narrow constraints of role-related cooperation. They enable creative collaboration and career support far beyond the time or framework of the Fellowship. For example, one group of Fellows created a Conscious Consumption resource for all colleagues, when they discovered a shared interest in researching responsible brands to buy from.

The relationships extend beyond the immediate Fellowship group to include participants from other cohorts of the same program. Three alumni of the Fellowship recently connected to sponsor one of the women into a new role after stepped out of the workforce in service of family obligations. These connections based on the shared experience and growth undergone in the Fellowship are powerful within and beyond organizations, throughout the Fellows careers.

By growing together over the course of the Fellowship, authentic, lasting relationships form.

So What?

The results are in particularly during the 2020s, we need the motivation, empowerment for self-learning, and authentic connections fostered by Fellowships. We need these things for ourselves, to navigate our own careers in turbulent times, but as leaders, we also need to provide them to our teams to reach sustainable success. So build yourself or your team a Fellowship!

There is a great deal of expertise among the organizations that have developed and run Fellowships for decades, and you can enroll in those existing programs or customize them for your company. However, if you dont have the resources at this point to lean on external help, you can approximate the benefits of a Fellowship yourself. Whether at work or at home, decide on the topic and objective of the learning you want to do, and find friends or colleagues who want to grow in the same area. Then curate related individual learning and reflection activities, questions for a book-club style discussion, and expert insights to inform the groups learning.

Remember, perfect is the enemy of the good, and in todays context, we need motivation and empowerment to create change, supported by authentic interpersonal connection, as soon as possible.

Click hereto receivea Peer Group facilitation guide, or a Purposeful Growth worksheet that serves as a great first individual reflection activity, and youll be equipped to launch your own DIY Fellowship.

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The One Tool That Can Change Behavior, Empower Employees, And Build Authentic Relationships - Forbes

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October 22nd, 2020 at 9:57 pm