Apprenticing is alive and well, in the trades. It just doesn’t appear to be prevalent in business sector. The school of hard knocks tends to be the master teacher. How can business people be more intentional with an apprenticeship model?
I love to bake breads. I am a baker, not a pastry chef. Perhaps I don’t have the patience or artistic eye to be pastry chef. Yes, I can bake some mean cookies, but the beautifully decorated eclairs and tarts are on another level. I leave that to my brother.
I am fascinated with the transformation of flour and water as a baker, though. As the dry powder changes through various stages of pulling the dough together, fermentation, forming, proofing, and baking. Changes occur that cannot be reversed. Flour will never be flour again.
When I began learning to bake, I went to blogs, books, and videos. I learned about the science of baking. I learned about the baker’s ratios. I have to admit, I love the math and science behind baking.
With all of the studying, it still took me over twenty attempts at making pizza dough (a very basic bread dough) before I was satisfied with the outcome. My family started enjoying the pizza at number four or five. It wasn’t that it was bad, but just not good enough.
I wanted to share my new found knowledge. (Read: My schedule forced me to get some help in preparing the dough for our family pizza night). So, I taught my wife what I had learned. I made the dough with her. She was able to learn through doing… touching the dough to know how it should feel. Videos (and eventually virtual reality) will not be able to replace the actual feel of working with dough. She was able to make a great pizza in her first solo attempt!
Mentoring and training are used in business to develop people. These are effective methods, but fall short of maximum potential. The nuance (or hair-splitting semantics) is that some who mentor do extend their efforts into more of an apprenticing model. Believe me, I am more interested in the results than what it is called. It is unfortunate though, that mentoring has lost some of its punch when the term is applied in its broadest sense.
The apprenticing – mentoring dividing line? A suggestion is to offer intentional opportunities for the one being “mentored” to do whatever they are learning to do with their mentor. Perhaps there is not a line… just a continuum of mentoring.
Mentors, keep on mentoring. But please push beyond asking questions and giving advice. Hand over the whiteboard marker more often.
- How can your mentoring be more effective?
- What changes can you make to set up more opportunities for active, experiential learning with those you mentor?
- How can an apprenticing mindset take your mentoring to the next level?