Mentoring can do much if we dare to turn away from the classic top-down approach, and assume that everyone can be a mentor. Together, Heike Hoch and Kathrin Lamm run “Applaus. Das Institut für wertschätzende Kommunikation” (English: Applause. The Institute for Appreciative Communication; hereafter “Applaus”). They work closely together and are simultaneously mentor and mentee for one another. In this interview, they describe how this works organizationally and what positive influence it has on their personal and professional development.
Together, you run “Applaus.” How did this come about?
Kathrin: Through Heike, I came to know and value the principles of appreciative communication. On the one hand, it’s is an attitude that you engage in with yourself and others. On the other hand, there are communication tools that you can use to bring appreciation to the outside world. I have learned to use these tools in my everyday life and in different constellations in both my job and my private life, and I am always thrilled with the effect. Heike came up with the idea that we should get together and train appreciative communication within the institute. I was immediately excited. I am convinced that the tools are very supportive for people in their everyday work and I would like to help more people to master and use them. In addition, I’ve been in coaching with Heike for some time and really appreciate her way of working. Implementing such a project with her gives me opportunity for both fun and learning.
Heike: Both of us had the impression that the topics of communication, presentation, and maintaining customers would be valuable for agencies. That’s how the idea came up to offer this together. With Kathrin’s many years of experience as a project manager in agencies and my many years of experience as a communication trainer, we can provide a very good service.
So, Heike, Kathrin was your customer, and then your mentee. How would you describe your collaboration today?
Kathrin: We naturally got to know each other and how the other worked over the last few years. We complement each other in many ways. For example, I love visualization on flip charts and like to spend a lot of time on cool flips – in joint training, this is my job. My many years of experience in the agency environment comes to bear dealing with the specific, everyday agency issues that participants have. Heike brings many years of experience as a trainer and coach. She is the expert on negotiating with clients or team building.
Heike: Since Kathrin has completed instruction in coaching and training and we’ve already been cooperating for a while, it doesn’t matter anymore that Kathrin was initially my client and mentee. In the field of training, there is still a lot that Kathrin learns from me. In turn, I learn a lot from Kathrin’s expertise as a project manager and from her very good organizational skills. We meet at eye level and work together because cooperation is always more inspiring than working alone. But both of us also have other collaborations.
So, you are both mentor and mentee for each other. How does this work and how do you personally benefit from it?
Kathrin: We are in the preparation, implementation, and follow-up stages of a training program in close coordination. We divide tasks so that everyone can do what suits them and work where their strengths lie. That provides security and creates a lighter mood. Most of all, I learn from the feedback that Heike gives me – this also applies to all phases of training preparation and implementation. As a result, I discover my “blind spots” and immediately get the impetus to improve – or, of course, a confirmation of my skills. In addition, I watch always Heike carefully and thus pick things up “along the way” from such an experienced coach.
Heike: We have regular meetings and telephone appointments because we are in different locations. We discuss the things necessary to advance our projects, but also the hurdles and challenges. That’s the biggest benefit for me in every form of collaboration. It makes a difference whether I can compare notes with someone involved in a joint project, or with colleagues or friends who may be looking at my work externally but are not necessarily invested in my success. So, my success is always Kathrin’s success and vice versa. That’s a lot of fun.
Does close collaboration influence the success of your projects?
Kathrin: I have been working in the agency environment for more than 15 years and thus know the industry very well – along with all its peculiarities. For me, it’s important that the participants can directly implement what they’ve learned from our training in their daily work. This is easier when they hear a concrete example from the industry and when the language of the participants is spoken by the trainer. Especially in the language, I noticed through the collaboration with Heike how special this is in the agencies. When the CD and AD discuss the KV with the PM in the PONR for the pitch….
Heike: To answer the question from my perspective, I can say very clearly that I find the agencies to be a very exciting environment and I like working with them as clients. However, we also receive feedback over and over again that customers find it extremely advantageous that Kathrin knows the specific issues of the agency world and brings a lot of experience. That gives us credibility, and without Kathrin I would not have chosen agencies as a target group. Many problems and challenges in this area were not known to me before. At the same time, our impression from the start was that the issue of “appreciative communication” and everything related to it is definitely expandable in many agencies. The relationship between agencies and customers is not always easy and often not characterized by mutual appreciation. This is the area where we are very happy to help. In addition, internally in many work teams (not just agencies), the communication is bad, with little appreciation. There is a lot of pressure and both of us know from experience how much more fun, efficient, and successful things are when communication works well. We work with tools of “appreciative communication,” which also involves working on your inner attitude. Appreciation is not about creating warm, fuzzy feelings, where you are just telling each other nice things, but about an attitude that is characterized by respect and willingness to cooperate.
How do you define mentoring? And what are you excited about?
Kathrin: In my view, it is the passing on of learning, of knowledge. The things that you cannot read in any textbook are especially valuable. And when you feel driven while working through your own experiences. The latter can only happen if the mentor and mentee work together or at least have a very close exchange. But that’s why it’s so exciting because it’s irreplaceable and priceless! No other method can cover the range of professional and personal competencies that can be developed through mentoring. In the 1-on-1 training sessions that I offer for project managers, I follow this model exactly. In this context, I am a coach, but also a mentor for my clients. I share with you my experiences as a longtime project manager and have many practical examples on how to deal with certain issues and problems in everyday business settings.
Heike: For me, mentoring means, above all, having someone with a lot of experience as a conversation partner whom I can trust. In a collegial environment, I can’t always speak openly about the challenges that are important to me. But I can assume that my mentor is interested in my professional development, so I can openly address problems in my daily work and benefit from the mentor’s extensive experience. In the best-case scenario, you also benefit from your personal relationship to your mentor; that has been true in both our cases.
Thank you for the exciting insights into your work and continued success!
Our Tandemploy software demonstrates that this kind of mentoring is also possible in companies: we do mentoring exactly the same way. Anyone can be a mentor here – and look for exciting “knowledge and experience sharers” within their own organizations on their own initiative. In addition to mentoring, there is also the opportunity to identify colleagues for job sharing, job rotation, or a project – simply get in touch with each other.