In our work in people development, through coaching or mentoring, we find some coachees who seem to absorb concepts, information and have insights very quickly, and move towards implementing them, whereas some others take a very long time to appreciate and learn anything new.
Many coaches and leaders struggle with this. I was thinking about how to help all my coachees to gain quickly from personal development interventions. I had my ‘Aha!’ moment while performing a puja, a simple prayer ceremony in our home temple.
With a matchstick, I needed to light an incense stick and an oil lamp. While the incense stick caught fire instantly, the oil lamp took a little longer. I realized that people are like that as well, just different in the way they catch the fire of new learning. We need to know whether we are dealing with an incense stick or an oil lamp.
So I have the fire within, but when it comes to an oil lamp, I need to be very aware – is the wick soaked well in oil?
How is this an analogy for people development in organizations? If I am prepared from the start, knowing how ready a particular individual is, I can tailor my coaching and mentoring, and not feel frustrated in the process.
I believe that an individual will catch the fire of learning very quickly when the following already exist:
- Clarity of her or his own purpose
- Hunger to achieve this purpose
- Alignment of self’s goals with organizational goals
One more interesting insight flows from this analogy. In an oil lamp, if the wick is not soaked properly in oil, and you hold a matchstick to it for a long time, the wick will just burn down. This ‘soaked in oil’ can be considered similar to the organizational culture or supporting environment, that facilitates not only the fire burning, but sustaining over time.
As a leader, I need to create this organization culture and environment that will facilitate learning and development, recognize the individual’s attributes, and tailor my coaching accordingly. Then the fire within me can help to create illumination among all the individuals I work with.