On being and hiring an apprentice

When it comes to being an apprentice: autonomy trumps skill.

We are often an apprentice. Whether that’s joining a new team with a new business domain. Or joining a new job that requires new skills. This means that we’re at the mercy of needing someone else to guide us. Leaving us in the dark, trying to make sense of everything.
As I move between clients often I find myself in the apprentice space a lot. And then wondering what approach is best. Ask lots of questions or hardly any? What amount of interaction makes sense?

Then recently I was on the other side of the spectrum. Looking at bringing in an apprentice for one of my projects. The thought of which summoned anxiety. We needed to bring someone in to ease the pain of a large workload. But not if that was at the expense of more energy. Asking questions would be a must. But so was the ability to navigate unclear circumstances. To be able to make decisions on their own.
The time came to sit down with someone for the position. And after chatting for a while I realised my anxieties were gone. Through knowing or not, they had tackled my greatest fear. A fear that I didn’t disclose. The fear that I’d have to put in more work to manage the apprentice. And the pain that we felt would increase. It wasn’t the fact they are highly skilled that eased the anxiety. But it was the confidence they instilled that made all the difference. I knew that faced with complex decisions and uncertainty progress would be made. Skills weren’t really important. Yet, being autonomous in the role was. 
Autonomy is at the heart of being a good apprentice. And it’s not something that can be taught. It’s not about knowing everything. But instilling confidence in the capacity to make decision and drive progress.

What interactions have you had with outstanding apprentices? What were the key factors that made them outstanding?

Lou Bichard