Four Ways You Can Impact Learning

More and more, job candidates are asking the question, "What will I learn here?"

If they don't like the answer they may keep looking.

For leaders, managers, and heads of projects, helping people learn is a critical contribution to individual and organizational success.

So, here are Four Ways to Impact Learning that will serve you well.

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Impact on Curiosity:
For every action there's a reaction. When we say or do something, people want time to react to it, talk about it, and understand what it means to them.

Practical Application: Allow  time for questions and answers. The give-and-take after you speak is where people actually learn and where they begin to develop an affinity for, and commitment to, the topic. Even if you're an expert, the learning takes place as a result of people wrestling with the information or idea rather than being the recipients of a data dump--no matter how eloquent you may be.

Impact on self confidence: How you deliver and discuss the information impacts how people feel about learning it. People with position power--managers, supervisors, team leaders--all have the ability to build confidence in the learners or create a defensive atmosphere.

Practical Application: Tell the group at the outset that you value their questions and that you hope they'll jump in when they experience an "Aha!" or a "Help me, I don't get it." When someone asks a question, throw it back out to the group to give someone else a chance to form an answer that may be framed in a way different than your own. Thank people whenever they ask a question or offer an answer.

Impact on motivation: Even as youngsters, we knew who the teachers were who made learning exciting, interesting, and engaging. Why not be the "managerial version" of your best teacher. And remember this: Managers Are The Mediators of Motivation.

Practical Application: Take some time to develop questions and break people into groups to address them; if you're talking about a new marketing approach, give people a block of time to do a concept and present it to the group. You know the content. The time you spend designing the right approach will pay off in engaged learners and, ultimately, effective learning.

Impact on Creativity: Unless you're involved in safety procedures, accounting rules, or a regulatory issue, people want to be able to offer their own "variation on a theme." One of the reasons to bring people together is to capitalize on the collective creativity and varying viewpoints in the room.

Practical Application: Give people latitude to take the discussion in directions that you never thought of. Remember, you're in charge--but to try to be in control will shut down the kind of learning that the group--and you--have an opportunity to experience.

Bonus: When the noise level goes up and people start debating, discussing, and delving into the topic, you've been successful. Let it go until the energy begins to die down. Then, capture the points that they were making with their co-workers and discuss next steps. When learners sit passively, you may feel more relaxed because you feel in control not having to respond to questions or manage the group. What it may really mean is that they aren't engaged, aren't learning, and are waiting "until the bell rings" so they can go back to their workspace.

What are your unique methods for impacting learning?

360 Feedback: All About the Conversations That Follow

Feedback_icon Finding out "how we're doing" is an important part of life, on and off the job.

360 degree feedback tools can be especially helpful when you want to know how you are doing in relation to your boss, your direct reports, and peers in the organization. I like 360's because they:

1. Let you see how others believe you are doing in specific areas that are important to on-the-job success

2. Provide a quick look at how each of your constituencies is experiencing you.

For example, your direct reports may be getting everything they need, while your peer group may tell you that they need something other than what they are getting now. So you know where to keep doing what you are doing now, and where to make some changes. That helps you prioritize things.

3. Offer the opportunity for a structured conversation.

When you want to talk about your performance it can be difficult to know just where to begin. The 360 process allows you to get specific feedback in specific categories. When you see the results, you can sit down and ask questions that address meaningful areas of work life. And, you are dealing with information already acknowledged as important by the different groups of respondents. It can be a lot easier discussing things that have already been generated--and therefore owned--by the people who are important to your success. You have a place to start--and isn't that sometimes the toughest part?

360: It's the Conversation That Matters

Raw data are just that. What's important is the "why" behind "what" was said. Without finding out the answers, you really don't have an accurate picture. Why not?

Always remember that feedback is more indicative of the sender than the recipient. Feedback says, "Here's what I think based on my expectations of you in these specific areas. The real payoff can come from discovering where you need to clarify or re-visit what's really expected and honestly discussing what's really possible. And, when people of goodwill have those kinds of discussions, it can lead to a quick boost in trust as well as new energy to move ahead.

Are you or your company using 360 feedback? Then make sure there are conversations that follow. Without them, no one knows the real meaning of the data. With conversations, you stand to get an exponential payoff in understanding, trust, and improved performance.

What has your experience been with 360 feedback? 

Your Next "Aha!" Is the Beginning, Not the End

Exclamation02_2(Re-issued by request)

How many times have you studied, thought, worked, conversed, or meditated in order to reach an "Aha!" moment?

It seems to me that we have a tendency to treat "Ahas!" as if they are a result.  Yet when you look at them carefully, they signal a beginning; a sign that there may be a new path to pursue, something new to learn, or a situation to re-visit in a different way.

In fact, I received that "Aha!" in a conversation with no less than the Conversation Agent herself, Valeria Maltoni. Some time ago we were discussing just about everything from marketing to book writing to organization effectiveness when she wove her "Aha!"into the conversation. It was a beginning that led to today's post.

Some Aha! Questions to Ponder

1. When was your last "Aha!"?

2. Did it lead somewhere?

3. If  so, where?

4. If not, why not?

5. Is it time to re-visit it to see what you might have missed?

(Almost) Everything I Know About "Ahas" I Learned From Fourth-Graders

When I got out of the Army, I went back to college to complete the last few requirements for my degree.  I also went back to being a working--and paid--musician.  Life was good. Except for the next "Aha!."

You see, at that time in the history of the universe, there was a strange, quaint phenomenon known as dating.("Dating" was a very common ancient ritual that involved asking a young woman to go out with you alone to a movie, or a restaurant, or an event. The idea was that if you could get to know each other better, you might want to continue and develop an even deeper relationship. If this sounds strange and you want to learn more about it, go to a garage sale, buy a 45 RPM  record (they look like oversized CD's with a big hole in the center), and listen to the lyrics. Hint: you will notice that the lyrics rhyme. Oh, and you'll need to buy a 45 RPM record player,too.)

Sorry.

Back to the related "Aha!" which was known as:

"Come in and meet my father"

Me with mandatory strong handshake: "Hello, Mr. ____, nice to meet you. "

Father: "Hello, young man (fathers do not utter the actual name of the perceived weasel-disguised-as-a person. Now that I am the father of a daughter, I understand the dynamic. But I can't reveal it, otherwise I would betray the other fathers-of-daughters-about-to-be-dated-by-the-weasel).

"Tell me, young man, what do you do for a living?" (This is a man-question to determine the extent of your slackerness).

Me: (proudly): Mr. _____, I'm a professional musician and I play at ______and ________.

Father: (Silence)

Father again: (Continued silence, furrowed brow, followed by look of disdain).

Father, turning to wife while walking out of the room: "Ethel, tell him to have her home by midnight."

Aha!

I learned that:

a. "I am a musician" was not a good thing to say, no matter how much money I made.

b. I would have to do something that appeared to erase my perceived weaselness and make me respectable.

Aha!

I will be a teacher.

So I did a little stint at a Junior High School.

Aha! Working with 13 and 14 year-olds clearly wasn't going to do it for me. I concluded, rather hastily, that every existing 13 and 14 year-old should be universally housed in their own country or state--say, North Dakota--until they are 15.

Obviously, High School would work out better for me.

Aha! I apparently had a very short memory and forgot that, between the ages of 15-18, Homer and Hemingway were completely overshadowed by Heaving Hormones. That leaves:

Elementary School. Yes, but what grade?

Third graders still had "accidents."

Fifth graders were reaching puberty. And if I were to be somehow elected President, they would soon be sent to North Dakota anyway.

Aha! Fourth grade.

. . .and Here Are The 5 Things I Learned About Business from Fourth Graders

The kids--and all of us at work-- show up each day hoping that we'll have an Aha! experience. And that it will lead to something new, engaging, and satisfying. As a teacher, it was my responsibility to attempt to create the conditions for that in the context of what was to be learned. So I had to do five things:

1. Be crystal clear about the learning goal.

If I wasn't clear, the day didn't go well. Minds and bodies gravitated toward something that did seem clear. The world--even the world of fourth graders--abhors a vacuum.

2. Show them the connection between what they would learn and how it works in life.

If they couldn't see how "it" was real, eyes glazed over.

3. Understand each of the kids and how they learn.

Hands-on doers, Readers, Questioners, 10-year-old Cynics. They were all represented.

4. Create an experience that would allow #3 to be satisfied.

I always thought that this was the toughest part. How do you achieve the learning goal in the designated amount of time with so many different kinds of learners?

5. Manage the experience and follow up with each of the kids.

Once I put the activity in motion, I had to touch base with each of the students, check out how they were doing, tell them how they were doing, and then formally evaluate how they did.

Do Any of These Related Management Applications Give You an "Aha!"?

1. Managing starts with clarity. The time a manager spends getting clear about what needs to be done will pay off in focused effort from increased understanding.

2. The Manager is the Mediator of Meaning. Clarity is the first part of  the issue. The other part is taking the time to show exactly how "what" you are proposing to do is directly connected to the success of over-arching goals.

3. Managers Understand How People Learn and Work. Intellectually, we all acknowledge that people learn differently and work differently. Really successful managers take time to pinpoint what those styles are and genuinely acknowledge their inherent value.

4. Managing Means Knowing How to Orchestrate the Experience. When to have a meeting or not have a meeting; who needs one-on-one attention? What isn't negotiable and what will work best with a full discussion? Is the objective really achievable--at the level of quality desired--in the originally designated timetable? Managers, go ahead and add your favorites to this list.

5. Managers Lead from Every Proximity. You'll spot a good manager out in front of the group; alongside of a direct report who is struggling; or standing in the back of the room listening to a discussion and only joining in when re-direction or a fact is needed. And everyone knows how they're doing in relation to what's expected.

I hope that something has sparked a thought or idea that will create the beginning of something new for you.

And I hope you'll take a moment to subscribe using the Big Orange Button, email, or one of your favorite feeds. It will be good to see you back again.

Graphic Source: A Perfect World www.aperfectworld.org

 

Managing a Change? Here's A Solid Solution

Is everyone getting what's needed when you make changes?

Earlier this month I was working with a manager who had gotten some feedback from his boss. He was told that he didn't jump in alongside his people to get new projects and improvements off the ground. As a result, things weren't getting done on schedule. So I asked him why he managed from a distance. His response:

"My people are long time employees. They're highly educated and have a lot of experience. If I start managing too closely, they'll lose their motivation."

I'm thinking,"What motivation? Apparently they aren't getting much done!

His approach to the situation isn't at all unusual, is it? We live in a time when managers are getting messages that say they should be consultative and participative. OK. But what happens when the work group doesn't know what to do or how to do it?

When there is a change, people want clear, strong direction. We all want to know what, where, when, why, and then, if the situation warrants it, how. Think about it: when we face the unknown, we start to get a little insecure. What do we look for? Direction. Strong leadership. Clarity. Help.

It has nothing to do with longevity or advanced degrees. It has to do with diagnosing the willingness and ability of the people and then adjusting management style accordingly.

In the case of my manager friend, he used misguided assumptions instead of proven research in his initial approach.

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Meet People Where They Are

I'm a big proponent of Situational Leadership and have been since it was introduced. Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard teamed up to introduce the practical application of the Ohio State Studies (Go Buckeyes)! As Manager of Management Development at Pfizer in 1981, I was involved in bringing Situational Leadership into the developmental track; it's still a critical part of development there today.

So what's it all about?

The principle is: Before you know how close to manage or how consultative to be with your people, you need to know where their willingness and ability is in relation to the task at hand. The less people know, the closer you manage. The more mature and effective they become, the less you have to direct and the more consultative you can be.

If you've ever taught a child to ride a bike, then think of that as the model. When they start, you have to demonstrate, help them on the bicycle, hold onto them, and not leave their side. As they get a little confidence and are able to go a short distance on their own, maybe you jog alongside if you have to catch them. When you see them smiling and riding a block or so on their own, you shout encouragement. And when they disappear from view; well, yell "I'm going to the house for a cup of coffee." That way they'll know where you are if they need you.

Managing people is a constant series of diagnoses and appropriate responses. It's never all of one thing. And it's never 100% direction or 100% behaving as a consultant to your team members. It's always based upon what people need from you in order to move forward along the performance curve.

And just to emphasize the point once more: Change=More Managerial Direction. Any manager who is introducing something new has to be prepared to communicate more,  provide more direction, and continually diagnose where individuals are throughout the journey.

What's your experience? Are you giving or getting the right thing at the right time? If not, a little diagnosis and and the appropriate leadership response will take you where you --and your folks--where you want to go.

Photo Source: www.situational.com

"Who Do You Want to Become?" vs. "What Do You Want To Be?"

Which question are you asking yourself?

Your choice will help determine the depth of your life as well as the comfort-level of your career.  Treegrowingtall0

I've been watching a new CEO client begin his tenure at a global company. He is very comfortable listening, talking, giving direction, and saying "I don't know. That sounds good to me. Go ahead and do it." (Whatever the "it" is).

What I'm really seeing is a man who has, over a lifetime, decided to "become" the kind of person he wanted to be. I know for a fact that he didn't set out to be a CEO. In fact, he was invited into the role. The reason he received the invitation, I believe, rests in great part on who he is to the people around him.

Yet "who he is" was shaped by not ambitiously jumping into a position that was too far ahead of "who he was" at the moment. His career path shows a progression that was slow and steady, building solid relationships and new knowledge along the way.  And each step on the ladder reflected genuine accomplishment.

Now he has become a CEO; he doesn't have to play the role of CEO.

And that's the distinction between where the two questions above will lead you.

Who do you want to become?

Or do you want to play a role?

Think about the how the difference will affect your life.

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Steve Roesler, Principal & Founder
The Steve Roesler Group
Office: 609.654.7376
Mobile: 856.275.4002

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