Posted in Change Management, Performance Improvement, Series, tagged Change Management, Coaching, Leadership, Learning Theory, Organizational Change, Performance Improvement, Performance Support on September 11, 2011|
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by Reni Gorman
In the first part of this series, we talked about the role of the individual in learning. It’s hard to make someone learn if they’re not willing. But what if they are willing but are not encouraged or worse are discouraged by the person who judges their performance: their manager? What is the manager’ attitude toward the new knowledge and skills learned?
Challenge 3: My manager does not encourage me to apply what I have learned on the job. This is by far the worst, deadliest challenge. People must know that they will be enabled and empowered to put what they learned into action on the job. If they feel for any reason that they can’t… maybe because their managers don’t know what they learned and can’t or won’t help them apply it. Sound unbelievable? It happens all the time. For example, if the manager doesn’t believe in the new sales model and doesn’t encourage its use, it is not very likely his or her team will adapt it and give it a try. We, training professionals, take folks out of their jobs, put them in training, throw them back into their jobs and expect them to perform. We forget that people will usually listen to the person that manages them. If their manager isn’t committed to applying the new skills learned, it most likely will not happen.
Solution 3: Make sure the manager is aware of and reinforces the learning. I point out raising awareness because I have seen many situations where managers did not even know what their employees learned when they went to training. In this case, it may not be that they don’t actively support it, but rather that they don’t know. One idea is to supply managers with a one pager summary of what their people learned that includes things like tips on how to help their employees pull through the learning into application on the job. It could include questions to ask employees to reflect on and talk about the learning and coaching opportunities. Once the managers are aware how do we get them to be supportive? Setting clear expectations through executive sponsors, following up with measurement that results in recognition, rewards and even consequences are all critical for success. First managers have to be told it is expected that they use the new sales model—if that is the case. This message has to be delivered to them through their own leadership so they take it seriously—it can’t and shouldn’t come from the training department. Once they know what they are supposed to do, like coach to the new sales model, we have to make sure they know how to do that—here is where more training may come in. Then we have to measure whether or not they are doing it with the understanding that their actions, both positive and negative, have consequences.
Last but not least it is important to remember that you can’t stop at the manager, you must look to see what the manager’s manager is doing—is he or she supporting new behavior on the manager’s behalf. In other words, if the consequences above aren’t really going to be enforced by the manager’s manager, if he or she doesn’t really believe in the new selling model either, they you need to go through the same process with them: make them aware that it is important, show senior support, and back it up with consequences both negative and unfortunately, if needed, negative.
At the end of the day we all have to be held accountable for our actions. When we are at work and sent to training, we are paid to learn and to action that learning. Let’s make it easy for people to do so by removing any barriers to learning and reinforcing the “right” behavior.
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by Reni Gorman
What is Problem Solving?
Whenever a living creature has a goal but doesn’t know how to accomplish it, they engage in problem solving. (Holyoak & Morrison, 2005) Problem solving is considered the most complex of all intellectual functions, as a higher-order cognitive process that requires activation and control of more routine or fundamental skills in order to solve the problem at hand. (Goldstein & Levin, 1987) There are a number of methods for problem solving, including:
- Difference reduction, in which we keep reducing the distance between the current state and the goal step by step;
- Means-end analysis, where we work backwards from end goal and set sub goals; and
- Analogy strategy, where we find similar problems we have solved with pervious strategies and try those same strategies on the new problem.
This is just a basic list; there are many other problem-solving methodolgies. So, how can we set up our learners to succeed?
Conditions under which Learners might Demonstrate Good Problem Solving
Gestalt psychologists have outlined a number of features that make problem solving more difficult, they are as follows: (Holyoak & Morrison, 2005) (more…)
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by Sherry Engel
I’ve struggled the last month or so to write a blog entry, trying to find that topic that “hits home”. I want to blog about things that are truly important and meaningful to me. This weekend, through my own personal journey of growth in my faith, I discovered a great correlation between my personal journey for knowledge and the journey of those I help in corporate America..
I’ve been on a mission to learn and grow spiritually. I’ve been completing all of the “normal” learning activities….listening to teachings, reading, etc. However, as I reflect on my journey for knowledge, I find what has provided the most value for me are the discussions and sharing I have with my personal mentor. So why is it that a mentor carries so much value in my spiritual growth and how can we correlate that with learning in Corporate America?
Here’s what I’ve found:
My mentor is someone….
- I trust won’t “think I’m stupid”, when I “ask the stupid question”
- I can bounce my ideas off of
- Who’s further along in their level of knowledge, so helps me to “stretch” to their level
- I can share the joy of my newfound learning with
- Who can encourage me when I feel like “I just can’t do it”
- Who helps me to personalize my learnings to my specific situation
Look at those! Wouldn’t it be great if we had a personal mentor in all aspects of our life?
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by Reni Gorman and Rich Mesch
55 and Older Execs Don’t Like Training
Reni: I read an article on The Economist titled: Executive education and the over-55s: Never too old to learn. The focus was about the trend that older executives are shunning corporate training. The reason? To put it bluntly: They are sick and tired of going and sitting in training. Why? Many assume they will not learn anything earth shattering, while others just don’t have the patience/time away from their job. Training has to be “worth it”. The article goes on to discuss what does work, one being sending executives to prestigious schools. They won’t go to internal training, but they will go to external training at reputable institutions. Why? Probably because they feel like they will really learn. So, it is not really that they don’t like learning, rather they don’t like corporate training.
The Generational Lie
Rich: I attended several learning conferences this year, and at each one, I heard some variation on this message: it’s time to get past old school training models, because the generation of 20-somethings entering the work force don’t learn that way. We need social media for the 20-somethings, because that’s how they learn. We need virtual environments for the 20-somethings, because that’s how they learn. And every time, I wanted to scream from the back of the room, “HEY! I’M A 40-SOMETHING, AND I LEARN THAT WAY, TOO!”
Where on earth did we get the notion that because employees of a certain age have greater exposure to “traditional” learning methods that we like it better? Or that we’re somehow resistant or techno-phobic? Every generation has its share of resisters, but most of us like trying new things, and we especially like making good use of our time and being successful.
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By Dawn Francis, Ed.D.
Years ago, I read a novel entitled Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. There was a passage in the book that struck me so poignantly that I copied it down and committed it to memory. It read:
“I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer.”
This quote came to mind for me today as I was reading a different book on the topic of coaching. It made the point that all information resides with the coachee. The coachee is truly the only person who has the answers. A skillful coach recognizes this fact. A skillful coach helps coachees critically probe their habits of mind. A skillful coach leads coachees to their own answers by applying powerful questioning techniques.
Several of these techniques appear in the aforementioned coaching text, which is entitled Coaching Questions: A Coach’s Guide to Powerful Asking Skills by Tony Stoltzfus. If you are a manager with coaching responsibilities, or if you often engage in peer coaching with your colleagues, you may want to increase your ability to ask coaching questions. Here is a brief summary of a few of Stoltzfus’ recommendations:
- Ask open questions (e.g., “What options do you have?”) versus closed ones (e.g., “Do you have other options?”)
- Pose “what” questions instead of “why” questions, which can appear judgmental (e.g., “Why can’t you ask for the sale?” to “Why do you need in order to ask for the sale?”)
- Feel empowered to challenge goals that appear too small (e.g., “What if you set out to accomplish that goal in two years instead of five?”)
- Avoid searching for the perfect question; instead, ask coachees to reflect more deeply on something significant that they have already mentioned (e.g., “What is behind that?”)
Remember to keep Ellison’s quote in mind the next time you engage in a coaching conversation with a direct report or peer. Allow the coachee to discover his/her own answers. Help the coachee discover that these answers lie within, as Ellison says, and that you are there to help unearth them.
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by Dawn Francis, Ed.D.
Coaching is one of my favorite topics to research and discuss. That might surprise you since I’ve written the majority of my blog entries on transformative learning; however, there’s a distinct synergy between the two. Think of coaching as an enabler of the transformative learning process. Coaching can be a catalyst for personal perspective transformation.
Yet, the focus here is firmly on coaching—more specifically, the coach. My manager asked me yesterday to share my opinion on why some individuals don’t make effective coaches. I cited the propensity some people have to “tell” versus “ask.” Some coaches struggle with asking powerful and probing questions. But these were my opinions based upon my study of the topic and experience as a coach; I wanted more time to chew on his question some more and synthesize my thoughts.
In the end, as I look across the literature on coaching and recount my own personal experience, I’d have to say that it appears to boil down to the coach’s approach to the coaching relationship.
Approach 1: If the coach approaches the relationship intent on addressing the coachee’s gaps or weaknesses, then problem-solving becomes the main goal of the coaching interaction. The relationship is built on addressing the coachee’s problems or deficiencies.
Approach 2: If the coach approaches the relationship intent on having the coachee reference past achievements and capitalize on key strengths to achieve a vision for success, then positive change becomes the main goal of the coaching interaction. The relationship is built on positive exploration in service of meaningful change.
What approach is more motivating and inspiring? What approach is more likely to lead to sustained change?
The second—and more positive—approach to coaching appears to be more effective in eliciting individual and organizational change. The evidence is well presented in the text Appreciative Coaching: A Positive Process for Change. Its authors are scholars and experienced consultants in the area of organizational development who have built a coaching model on the core precepts of Appreciative Inquiry. As one of the authors aptly states, “We get more of what we focus on.” Therefore, it would stand to reason: Focus on problems, get more of them. Focus on positives, get more of them.
So, to answer my manager’s question, which is what provoked this blog entry in the first place: Effective coaches are ones that adopt an appreciative approach to change and coach to possibility instead of deficiency.
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by Dawn Francis, Ed.D.
Last night, I attended an ASTD Corporate SIG meeting where a panel of speakers shared their talent management and development best practices. As one of the speakers described his company’s first-level manager program, he said something that struck me as curious. He stated that participants in this program rolled their eyes when they were asked to spend time reflecting on the course content. Self-reflection, he said, was not initially embraced by these new leaders in training.
Why, I wondered? Why would a call for introspection prompt this reaction? Maybe participants didn’t understand the value of self reflection. Maybe they didn’t know that reflection—namely, critical reflection—has the potential to lead to transformative learning.
Taking a step back, I realized that the value proposition for self-reflection isn’t something we talk about a lot. Given that, I thought I’d identify at least two value drivers for reflection and encourage you to add to this list.
Value Driver 1: Reflection challenges limiting assumptions
All of us hold beliefs and assumptions based upon our previous life experiences and our socially-constructed norms. Critical self-reflection empowers us to challenge those assumptions. By asking the following questions…What is it that I assume? What’s the origin of that assumption? Why do I hold that assumption as truth?…we have the potential to identify our constraining beliefs, entertain alternatives, and shift our perspective. This shift in perspective followed by a resulting change in behavior is indicative of transformation. (See writings on critical reflection by Dr. Stephen D. Brookfield.) Think of the potential value in asking leaders to reflect critically on their current leadership practices. By doing so, we can prime them to grow and change.
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