Relationship Management

Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.

John F. Kennedy
35th president of US 1961-1963 (1917 - 1963)

Those who influence us also educate us.  Education is to receive an enlightening experience and it does not necessarily have to happen in an institution.  Initial values are through the education we receive from parents – their influence and education are inseparable.  I remember when I was the CEO of an Industry Training Organisation; one of my Board members challenged me as to what was my distinction between education and training.  From a theoretical perspective they are two distinct concepts, but for me in reality they can and should strongly overlap.  This reality was shaped by parental influence. Training should be a form of education and vice versa.


How many people make a conscious effort to try and develop others in their daily interactions.  It is this concept of developing others differentiates between good and bad parents, good and bad managers/leaders.   There are many different styles of parenting, but one of the constant themes with good parents, no matter what their socio-economic back ground, is good parents want to develop their children to find their potential.  The same concept applies to good leaders.


Large corporations are often good at personal development training – one of the problems with the training is the lack of education within it.  The training is often a good networking exercise, but a year down the track what has changed in the behaviours and cognition that warranted the expense. 


We get hooked into training that works for us, but might not necessarily work for our neighbour.  To train a person in sales techniques requires a different form of training to that of say an accountant.  Sales people like training that pumps their blood and yet for many finance people that style is an absolute turn off.


R.Saxe., & N. Kanwisher, People thinking about people: the role of temporo-parietal junction in the “theory of mind” Rapid Communication/Neurolmage 19, (2003) 1835-1842 argue that we predict and interpret the behaviour of people based on an understanding of their minds.  This relies on the person who is organising the training understanding all the various styles of thinking and learning that operate within their company/organisation. 


Collins et al Cognitive apprenticeship: making thinking visible American Educator Winter 1991 discusses the difference between traditional apprenticeship learning and what currently happens within the education system. In apprenticeship, learners can see the process at work.  However, in a traditional classroom that style does not work.  “For example, students are unable to make use of potential models of good writing acquired through reading because they have no understanding of how the authors produced such text.   I know there are some gifted teachers out there who have the ability to understand the production of text, but they are not necessarily the majority and to be able to teach to a variety of learning styles is a skill within itself.


In a traditional apprenticeship model, the “master” shows the apprentice how to do a task, watches, advises and supervises.  As the apprentice gets a higher level of competence they are moved to more challenging tasks.  The knowledge level is controlled by the “master” and this is the weakness of the apprenticeship system.  The apprentice needs external help to progress their cognitive thought to higher levels and hence raise the standard within their trade.  The same principle applies in the workplace.


Check out this link to see one excellent model operating:


Walter Lippmann did an interesting experiment in the US.  He went to schools (our primary level equivalent) and instead of just reading stories to the pupils, he asked questions.  For example, after reading Little Red Riding Hood, he would ask questions along the lines of “why was her hood red?”, “why did the path wander?” and other such questions.  Over a long period of time the children started to ask questions of each other leading to a much higher cognitive level than average.  What Lippmann was teaching was the basics of good philosophy, the ability to ask critical questions.  An interesting dynamic with his school experiment was the pupils did not take long to become excellent critical questioners. 


The relevance of this to the workplace is simple.  A learning organisation as written about by Senge (Fifth Discipline) is a motivated, highly productive workplace.  What would be the impact if the organisation went beyond a learning one and into a “thinking organisation with heart”?  The same concept applies to the home.  Parents who read to their children are helping in their education, but what if the parents went a step further and did as Lippmann and ask critical questions so the child not only heard the story, but also thought about the story.  I am not talking about asking soft questions, but ones that made the child really think. The questions the parent asks can also teach them respect for themselves and others. Success comes in not correcting the child’s answer but in asking a further question that opens their mind, rather than the child feeling like a loser for not knowing the right answer. 


A good master tradesman asks the apprentice lots of questions – unfortunately they are often too busy to have time to think up the questions.  The same concept applies in many work settings; those in positions of responsibility don’t have time to ask the questions.  I don’t know how many meetings over the years I have sat through and poor quality reports have drifted through the system because no one asked the hard questions.  I must confess I have heard the odd bad tempered CEO (yes they do exist) yell about poor quality, but then offer no guidance as to what their expectation was.  I always suspect they haven’t within their own head decided what they are looking for; they just know what they have been offered does not measure up.


My wife and I have been going to night classes for two years now, learning Te Reo Maori.  Even though growing up in Aotearoa/New Zealand and having been surrounded by Maori language via place names etc it has been hard work learning Te Reo.  Our Kaiako (teachers) have been extremely good at having patience with us bungling pakeha and especially my struggle to get the vowel sounds right (I’m still not there).  I was initially going because it was important to Su, my wife, to learn and I figured it would do me the world of good to understand the language better.  Then one semester we had a different Kaiako.  She talked about the language being beautiful and opening our hearts to the language as opposed to our brains.  She helped us feel the language and encouraged us to ask questions all the time.  She wanted us to experiment with the language.  The desire to understand the language changed to one of wanting to become fluent.  This is an illustration of the “Master Tradesman” opening the apprentice to new realms of possibility and the desire to go further.  The Kaiako demonstrated how to open our greatest abilities. JFK, if he was still alive, would have applauded her.


This leads me back to the difference between education and training.  Education is about enlightenment and training is about developing repetitive skills.  Education is about the brain, training the hands, but where is the heart in this model. Quality education and training should be life changing, taking us to a point where we and those around us reach our potential.  Edu-training that opens hearts, minds, souls and hands must surely create the best workplace/home.


How do you separate education from thinking?  I don’t believe quality education does separate thinking – I think it embraces thinking, as it is through our thinking skills development that we grow as people. 


I conclude with the quote on my signature: “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” “Kaua, e whakawa ia ra, mai I nga hua, engari whakawahia mai I nga kakano I whakato koe.”


The next blog will explore the concept of teamwork.


   Points to consider:

  • When did you last ask critical challenging questions of those around you? At work? At home?
  • What is the impact on you when you start to ask critical questions?
  • What are the risks of asking critical questions?  Are you up to it?
  • What is the risk of letting your heart feel and be part of your guiding map in life?
  • Start to keep a daily/weekly log of occasions when you believe you have planted a seed – monitor the patterns.  Are you always planting the same type of seed?