Some time ago I was delivering a mentoring workshop for some senior managers in a very large financial services business. The training manager was taking part and at the first coffee break he came up to me and said “They say it’s going well, but it’s a bit slow!”. “Thank you for the feedback” I said and when we restarted the workshop, I mentioned “I have had some welcome feedback from your training manager. He tells me that it is going well, but it’s a bit slow!” “Yes, yes” said the managers. “Ok” I replied, “That’s good, but I don’t think it’s slow enough!”
There was silence in the room and then I explained, “You live your working lives in the fast lane, rushing from one meeting to the next, making decisions, lunch on the run, starting early and finishing late. Mentoring is about slowing down, about reflection, thinking space, so, I’m going to slow you down some more!” Fortunately, they went with it — the workshop provided space and time to explore ideas in depth, develop view points and consider how they may enact the mentoring process. At the end, several came up to me and said “thank you for slowing me down!”.
If you look at any adult learning theory, the word ‘reflection’ appears in practically all of them! Reflection is an essential element of learning. It enables people to critically assess, develop their understanding, see alternative perspectives and come to conclusions. Very recent research (Nadeem and Garvey, 2019), among middle leaders in a university, found that to reflect well, space, time and calmness is needed.
Lumel time. Slowdown and luxuriate!
In the Netherlands, there is an expression which sums up the concept of slowing down — it’s ‘lumel time’. Lumel time directly translates as ‘luxury’ time so it is more than slowing down, it is also about relaxing and playfulness; luxuriate yourself! Playfulness or luxuriating oneself is not something we may associate with work, but it is part of learning, of creativity and ultimately, innovation.
In Praise of Slowness
Mentoring can provide the time and space for people to slowdown, reflect and think new thoughts. It is not just a ‘nice to have’ or indeed, a luxury. It is an essential element of learning and if we don’t learn at work, how can we progress and develop what we do? Mentoring offers a learning opportunity plus an opportunity to slowdown!
Here’s to slowing down!
Nadeem, I, and Garvey, B. (2019) Learning Leadership for Academic Deans: Implications for Leadership Coaching, (In review with International Journal of Evidence-based Coaching and Mentoring)
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