Naturally, Discovery Performance are firm believers in the benefits of training for recipients, but what about those less discussed: the benefits for the trainers and coaches themselves? Our very own OPEN Programme Manager, Gemma Ford, was kind enough to answer this question, giving us her take on this quote:

“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.” – Ben Sweetland

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What is your role within Discovery Performance?

I manage the OPEN Programme, which involves supporting and coaching delegates through the programme, holding regular update meetings with line manages and stakeholders, supporting the facilitation of the experiential learning sessions. I am also active in the behind-the-scenes organising, such as booking venues and co-ordinating assignment submission and feedback.

I also get involved with the running of various other Discovery programmes – Sales Winners, tailored programmes written for our clients, assessment centres, and development centres.

How long have you been at Discovery?

9 years! I started in the Resource Team, working on graduate recruitment, before becoming PA to our CEO, Jonathan. From that point, I started supporting the MD of Discovery Graduates, Sarah, with the OPEN Programme. I became more and more involved in the graduate development side of the business, and have now been the OPEN Programme Manager for several years.

How did you get into people development?

I went on the OPEN Programme myself four or five years ago and loved it. I saw huge value in the programme, got involved with helping to administrate it, and have grown my role ever since. I am now the key point of contact for delegates, stakeholders and all suppliers, tying the programme together and maintaining consistency. Another key element of my role is encouraging motivation around the experiential elements, which are often seen as the most significant and important parts of the programme.

Supporting people with their development is hands-down the most rewarding part of my role. It is something I think I’ve grown into, and getting more and more involved with the face-to-face, people-focused side of our business rather than the functional, administrative side has been (and still is!) a huge journey for me.

It is a privilege to have the opportunity to spend time with programme delegates and their managers, to really understand the challenges they are facing, and to help them find solutions and ways to overcome them. These one-to-one conversations are often the moment where the deep learning and change can be initiated. It is an opportunity for people to talk about their own situation at work and seek support from someone outside of their business.

Support can come in many different ways. Sometimes challenging coaching questions can help graduates to find their answers, or a metaphorical arm around a shoulder can give them the strength and encouragement they need in order to do what they know is the right thing. My own experience of being a graduate (albeit nearly 10 years ago now!) and going through the OPEN Programme makes me especially well-positioned to offer advice as a mentor.

What do you think are the most important components of a positive trainer-trainee relationship?

  • Communication
  • Honesty
  • Trust
  • Commitment

However, all of these behaviours and attitudes must be mutual – an open and effective relationship between trainer and trainee can only truly work when it goes both ways.

What mutual benefits do you think come from this relationship?

Huge learning on both sides! I am sometimes able to offer the benefit of my experience but likewise, sometimes the fact I’m less familiar with a particular business means that I ask a lot of questions that can be helpful. I learn something during every support visit about the various challenges faced by graduates in the different businesses we work with. Hearing about the challenges of others often inspires me to consider my own, and think about how I might approach them differently.

Spending time with motivated individuals is also very inspiring, and it is always hugely rewarding when delegates reflect on the journeys they go on and recognise how far they’ve come.

What are the most valuable things you have gained from training people?

It sounds very simple, but seeing things from lots of different perspectives has really helped all of us involved to develop the programme while we develop our own individual styles. Every individual is different, and finding ways to encourage each one has been invaluable. There is further learning to be done, no doubt; there always is! However, the continued insight and feedback I’m given during one-to-one sessions has really helped me and the programme to grow.

Tell us about your most memorable moment in your role

I love every final module of the OPEN Programme. There is always a sense of accomplishment, enlightenment and huge positivity when delegates reflect on the changes they have made and the “distance” they have travelled since the induction day they attended at the beginning of the programme.

More than that, though, I get an opportunity to really explore the progress people have made during the follow-up meetings I have. Listening to people who understand the developmental journeys they have embarked on is really motivating for me. They can reflect on the behavioural changes they have made, and can really see that all of our mutual hard work has been worth it.

Written by Florence Sturt-Hammond