Last week I shared my first blog about the HDN Mentees Programme. This week I thought I’d share my experience of the classroom sessions we completed. This may be beneficial for those who’ve applied for this year’s programme and anyone who has wondered what’s included in the sessions. I’ll also be adding links to some of the tools we used so that if you’re not on the programme this year, you can see what they look like and maybe even use them yourself.

Classroom Sessions

The classroom sessions are a great opportunity not only to learn but also to network with other professionals in the Housing Sector. It was really good to mix with people with different skills and experience that I wouldn’t normally get to in my day to day work. Sessions also included a speaker from different Housing Organizations ranging from Heads of Service to CEOs.

Also, the sessions were held at other Housing Organizations so we got to check out other boroughs and their buildings (a couple made you think you’d rather be in our building if you can believe it!).

The 4 classroom sessions were broken into:

Getting To Know You

  • Networking with other mentees
  • Finding value in what you bring
  • Growing the skills, qualities and characteristics that will make you successful
  • Introduction to self-insight tools
  • Belbin team roles
  • Taking responsibility

The best part of this session for me were the tools that we used to look at how we react to things going on around us. “Locus of Control” and “Circle of Concern/Influence” made us consider two things:

How much we felt the things that happen to us in life are our fault or that of someone/something else?

Which of the things going on in our life do we have control over and are able to change, or we don’t have control over therefore should spend less time worrying about?

Understanding Your Environment

  • Understanding different people and styles
  • The role and impact of perceptions
  • Managing productive relationships
  • Building work life balance
  • Developing reflection all

This built on the first session as in-between the two sessions the mentees completed a personality evaluation. I’m skeptical of these things at the best of times but I think we were all surprised at how accurate overall these were. Regardless of whether you buy into that sort of thing or not the session built awareness of different personalities and how best to deal with them in the context of work. For example, if you’re a manager, you’d learn how best to improve staff performance, or someone looking to improve their career opportunities would learn how to approach managers at a higher-level dependent on their personality.

A great tool from the session, and one that I’d recommend everyone to do whether on the programme or not, is the “Wheel of Life”. This tool is a self-assessment of different aspects of your life where you score them from 1 to 10. The idea then is that if there is a part of your life that is lacking, e.g. work, money, friendships, etc. that you focus on that until you become a 10 in all areas.

Challenges and Opportunities

  • Major changes, challenges and opportunities facing the sector
  • Impact on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion on you and your customers
  • Manage change positively
  • Influencing opportunity
  • Setting career direction

This was a fairly big session covering a lot of different things. It wasn’t my favourite but there was a very useful tool that came out of it. This tool is the “Change Curve” and would be useful for staff to use/have a look at now given the changes that are going to be happening with the office move and flexible working in the future. It plots the stages of change that we go through and helps us assess how comfortable we are with change and whether we deal with it well or avoid it.

Moving Forward

  • Making a positive impact,
  • Demonstrating strengths and transferable skills
  • Presenting your skills and achievements
  • Reviewing the learning journey and planning next steps to use and develop your skills

This was our final session and was based on taking the next steps in our careers. We had a very inspiring talk from our very own Head of Communications, Mary Cawley, who recommended two great books from Paul Arden on motivation called “Whatever you think, think the opposite” and my favorite “It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be”. If you’re interested they’re relatively cheap from Amazon (I bought my copies for around £5 each). The session ended with good news stories from the mentees both in how much they’ve enjoyed the programme and in what positive changes we’d made over the last 7 months.

One of the mentees had changed career from HR to Law and another had decided that Housing wasn’t necessarily for her and was going to take a year out and go travelling to plot her next career move. I myself have been promoted in that time to a great new role in Corporate Services. It’s completely different to anything I’ve done before but the HDN Mentoring Programme has equipped me with the tools to face the challenge.

Overall assessment

The classroom sessions are what you make of them. There will always be things that you are more interested in than others but the idea is that you take what you want/need from them and use them to make a positive impact on either yourself or others. It’s helped me a lot with relationships, not just in work but outside of work too.

As I’ve said previously, having a mentor was a great experience and I’d really encourage you to seek one out. It doesn’t have to be someone in Housing, it can be someone you know or a friend knows that has something about them that you want to emulate. Go and speak to them! I used to hate talking to people I didn’t know, it was the worst, but the more you do it the more you become comfortable with it. At the end of the programme a conference was held in Birmingham for all the mentors and mentees who took part in the programme nationally. A good measure of how far I’ve come in that time was that I stood up at that conference in front of 150-odd people, all but 10 of which I didn’t know, and delivered a 15 minute speech. I wouldn’t have done that before the programme.

To those that are successful with their HDN mentoring programme applications for this year, good luck to you! Make the most of the opportunity and build your network with as many people as possible. You never know who may be able to help you in the future.

For those of you that are either unsuccessful this year or are thinking about attending next year’s programme – and to those who haven’t considered it at all – I’d really encourage you to take part. I’d also say that waiting until next year to make a change is too late! I don’t want to sound like I’m preaching, but my experience has shown me that you need to start making a difference now, and even making small changes can start transforming your work and your personal life. You could start by reaching out to someone who’s achieved something you want to achieve or is doing the kind of job that you want to do – it may surprise you how some people got into their line of work.

I’ve taken away some really positive experiences and lessons from this programme. It’s given me the motivation to keep reaching for more in my professional and personal life. Having said that, the programme is only part of a bigger change in me. It wouldn’t have worked had I not made a conscious decision to apply myself and take on new challenges. At times I was completely out of my comfort zone not knowing what to do but I stopped myself from wanting to run away. I learnt that there is no secret to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.

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