L&D QuestionTime – Paul Gapper

In a continuation of the L&D QuestionTime series hear from this years finalists of the Learning Professional of The Year award.

This week we hear from Paul Gapper of Happy Ltd.


In your opinion, what is the biggest anxiety within the world of learning and development at the moment?

The biggest anxiety at any time is staying relevant to changing needs.  For example, how will Brexit affect the public, private and charitable sectors?  Any change brings losses, but it also brings a chance to create something new.  With Brexit, what knowledge will be needed to help take advantage of the new reality?  What are the necessary skills?  What are the new attitudes to be adopted?  In each area, there will be a substantial role for learning and development.  Far from anxiety, this may even be a time for excitement.

Who or what is informing your thinking around L&D?

I have membership of LPI and CIPD, but the main source of inspiration are my colleagues and fellow trainers.  New thinking about challenges and solutions tend to come in after-session conversations or in chance meetings with other workers at conferences.  It has been particularly helpful to co-lead with someone new, or to sit in on a colleague’s session, to see the way that they interact or deal with difficult situations that I struggle with.

I have a particularly enthusiasm for mindfulness, and in this case I look to authors such as Jon Kabatt Zinn and Chade-Meng Tan, as well as my own practice.

What is the most exciting innovation on the horizon for learning?

In Hollywood films, no matter how complicated the technology or epic the scale, it always ends in hand-to-hand combat between hero and villain; or, in the case of romance…well, you get the idea.  As Bill Clinton might have said in his first election campaign, ‘It’s about people, stupid.’

I have worked with senior managers, IT workers and staff at the factory floor and still the main issue is, ‘How do I talk to x?’  ‘How can I communicate successfully?’  One of the reasons that I can happily train the same subject over many years, is that people are endlessly fascinating.  And the chance to offer them options through to a more successful solution is incredibly rewarding.  May it remain so for many years to come.

What ‘game changers’ would you like to see and why?

Hey, I work at Happy!  A real game changer would be the acceptance of the link between happy workplaces and the benefits for both staff and organisation.  A recent study shows that investing in shares from businesses that have adopted the principles of a happy workplace, results in greater returns.  I have witnessed the joy of a manager who had taken the risk to ‘sign off’ a project at the moment it was delegated – seeing her own staff blossom in the trust she had shown.  I have heard from supervisors who have shifted to a coaching style in 1:1s and experienced the benefit.  I have talked to people who have risked a ‘courageous conversation’ with a colleague and created a whole new relationship.  Right now, both the National Audit Office, GCHQ and other organisations are beginning to adopt these and other principles.  As a trainer, it is inspiring to see and my hope is that others will follow their lead.

What do you think the world of L&D will look like in 2020?

A small pineapple.

What advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?

I would tell him two things.  Firstly, training is not about you.  When I first started, I saw training as a form of performance.  If I could do enough then the participants would get what I was trying to put across.  I have found it more useful to see my role as creating an environment in which participants are given the freedom to learn.  From the introduction of a principle, the illustration through an example, an exercise to try it out and the time to reflect at the end, participants are in a constant conversation with an idea – trying it on to see how it fits them.  The best I can do is to get out of their way.

And the second thing?  There is Blu-Tack somewhere in the room, your job is to find it.

About Paul:

Paul Gapper is a Masters-qualified trainer with experience in interpersonal skills, work skills and management training. He has worked in the public, private and voluntary sectors for over twenty years. Paul has a Distinction in the Institute of Personnel Development Training Certificate and the teacher-training certificate for Mindfulness-Based Approaches from the Oxford Mindfulness Centre.  He works as both a freelance trainer and a senior facilitator at Happy Ltd.

Connect with Paul on LinkedIn

The winner of the Learning Professional of The Year will be announced at the 2017 Learning Awards on the 2nd February – for further information simply click here

Next week we hear from fellow finalist John Hincliffe


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