In this episode of Mind the Skills Gap Simon Howson-Baggott (Manager, Customer Success at LinkedIn Learning) shares his insights from a long career in L&D, including 5+ years at LinkedIn Learning.
Will watching 100 hours of LinkedIn Learning courses make you better at your job? What can you learn from bad bosses? And, why be a facilitator not just a performer. In this episode of Mind the Skills Gap Simon Howson-Baggott (Manager, Customer Success at LinkedIn Learning) shares his insights from a long career in L&D, including 5+ years at LinkedIn Learning.
Consuming content and learning are not the same thing. Simon shared his experience of watching 100+ hours of LinkedIn Learning content and highlighted to truly learn you have to do more than just watching the content. Without experimentation, practice and on-going support, that knowledge won’t result in new behaviours on the job. Read more about Simon’s 100-hour LinkedIn Learning experiment.
Shifting from the mindset of a presenter or performer, to being a facilitator makes for much more effective learning. As well as sharing information in a way that people find interesting, a great facilitator creates space for challenge, exploration and helps people see how the content is relevant to them in their context. As a facilitator you’re able to take people on a journey, helping them to apply it in their workplace – not just share knowledge.
Horrible as they may be, even the worst manager can have their uses – by providing a perfect model of what not to do. Through their poor behaviour, these ‘anti-mentors’ can shape our thinking on management. Which is how Simon dealt with a boss who had low emotional intelligence and destructive, controlling behaviour.
Simon believes experiencing this style of management presents you with two choices. “You either mirror that behaviour when you become a manager and cause misery to everybody around you. Or you recognise why that experience was so demoralising and you reflect on it,” he says.
For Simon, reflection is a big part of management and should be done often: “I'm always seeking to learn, shape and change.”
By his own admission, Simon’s career path has been unusual. “I left school, went to college and dropped out; tried university and dropped out. Then I worked as a carer for seven years.”
He was looking after young adults with autism, when one of the boys punched him in the back. “Autism is a communication disorder. The boy lashed out but, to him, that was still communicating. Unfortunately, he caught me in the wrong spot and the injury meant I could no longer cope with the physical demands of the role.”
Simon was moved to a desk job – taking phone calls in a contact centre – but he hated it. So when an opportunity presented itself, he was quick off the mark.
“When the training manager left, I offered to fill in. I did such a good job of onboarding and bringing people up to speed, they hired me. And that’s when I realised learning and training is great fun,” he says.
Simon’s continued enthusiasm for L&D has led him to his current role at LinkedIn, where he manages a team. And like his fellow LinkedIn leaders, Simon’s effectiveness as a manager is closely scrutinised.
The company puts out quarterly Employee Voice Surveys (EVS) to gather a full picture of staff sentiment. In the most recent EVS, Simon’s team gave him a resounding 96 per cent. “I read it as a vindication of my management style,” he says, proudly.
So what is Simon’s management style? “With my team, I did their jobs for five years. I was a Customer Success Manager – a very good one. I was trusted with our largest customers and was the go-to guy. That’s followed me into management, but I’ve had to put that aside. When someone in my team says, ‘I've got a problem with the client’, I know the way I would deal with it, but that’s not the answer, is it?”
Instead, Simon encourages his team to build a method that works for them. “I say to them, ‘What would you do? How would you do it?’”
The idea of gathering advice from other people, while still recognising you have to put it into practice, chimes with our methodology at Stellar Labs. We create the environment for learning which includes relevant, purposeful actions. Because that’s where learning really takes place – back in the workplace when you’re actually doing the job.
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