This week I’ve been reflecting upon how we learn. Though there are learning styles, which are important to know, I’ve been reflecting more upon the process of learning. How we take in new information, process it, reflect upon it, adapt it, and formalize it into the other processes and systems we currently use.
Why might this be important to consider, understand, and become familiar with?
Good question. It is important to consider and understand, because this understanding can help leaders create bridges for people. The familiarity of which can create a bridge for your team and move you from concept into execution. Let’s take a look how.
It’s important for everyone to have access to developmental opportunities. To learn and to grow. Important. Knowing this, how do you suppose you create these opportunities? While larger organizations typically have a model for training staff, it does not always follow that everyone in the organization has the same access to developmental opportunities. Hm.
What to do, then, when your business or organization does not offer training, or those training programs are limited in some way, or designated for only mid-level and executive employees?
Create them from within
As a leader, you can create opportunities for your team to develop and grow. How? Find out what each person’s strengths and weaknesses are, always starting with yourself first, and then find ways to engage them with new concepts and tools to stretch them, and help them grow.
For instance, we created an opportunity in our second year as a team to develop strategic thinking skills, which included several training days. The culmination of which was deploying a system for organizing our daily work and balancing strategy. The need was there, and we moved it forward, and so can you.
Here are some considerations on how to get started.
- Define the need – here are some questions to assist your thinking.
- Where is the gap?
- What training is needed to fill the gap?
- Who will facilitate the training?
- When will you implement the training?
- How will you evaluate the training’s effectiveness?
- What is the return on investment of the training?
- Create a training plan with internal or external training professionals – here are some questions to consider.
- What is the training goal?
- How will you know when you’ve met your goal?
- What does post-training traction look like?
- What metrics will you use to measure traction?
- Implement – communicate about the training, create buy-in with staff, and implement.
- Evaluate – make sure you have traction.
- Repeat – we created a system of training once a quarter. Worked well.
With any learning process, there is a period of time that people need to adjust to their new workflow reality. How can you assist staff in making these necessary adjustments?
Here are a few ideas.
- Create a post-training system to ensure that you have traction – the system should at the very least include:
- Post-training follow up – what did you and the team learn, and how will you move the new concepts and tools forward.
- Periodic staff check-in’s – I’ve always used one-with-ones to ensure that staff have the support they need, and are adjusting well to their new workflow reality.
- Measure your movement – create a way to measure your post-training progress. This might be quantitative metrics, such as increases in revenue, or it may be qualitative, such as increased workflow effectiveness.
- Continue to follow-up – to really gain traction, the new concepts and tools must be incorporated into everyone’s daily work, including yours. There really is no other way. If this does not happen, the new concepts and tools you are implementing will lack traction.
- Create consistency – once you have movement, start talking with the leadership team about the next training. Be consistent, and offer training opportunities at a regular drumbeat, so staff can count on, and expect them.
- Monitor progress – continue to check in with staff on their progress. Monitor traction. You may find that after three months, the team needs a refresher on a topic you’ve already covered. That’s okay. What really matters is that you’ve created access for your team to develop and grow; and that you will remain committed to doing so, refreshers and all.
Once the team has adjusted to their new reality, which includes new concepts and tools, you will need to devise individual development plans. These plans will ensure that each staff integrates the new concepts and tools into their current workflow in a way that suits their learning style, which will increase retention, mastery, and traction.
Where to start?
As was aforementioned, I’ve used one-with-one’s often in my professional career. I find that they work well to create plans tailored to the individual. These plans can also be used to track progress and as a coaching tool.
The most important thing about integration, is that all staff actively integrate the new concepts and tools into their daily workflow. You are building healthy habits in this regard. Really. People like habits, and once you have created that habituation within yourself, a must, you can deploy that to the team.
Here are a few examples.
- Whiteboards – some people are very visual, and literally need to see the work drawn or sketched out. I’m like that. If you have staff that are visual, do whiteboard work with them, so they can see the new concepts and tools inside of their current workflow. Important.
- Post-its – funny. I always say it matters less how you organize yourself, than it does that you develop a system that works for you. And, if post-its work for you, like they do me, use them. Again, what matters is that the staff member can feel a level of comfort with the new concepts and tools, inside of a system they’ve already developed.
- Calendars – a good way to organize by setting reminders for new tasks. For instance, after we completed a strategic thinking training day last year, I had every staff member add one hour per week of strategic thinking to their calendars.
- Project Management Systems – we’ve been using a project management system for over a year now. Works for some on the team, and not as much for others. Yet, having a systematized way to move larger projects forward is important. I’ve found this addition helpful, and a contributor to the team’s overall traction.
We all need time to process new information, time to reflect. I advocate for giving your staff the same consideration you give yourself, especially when incorporating new concepts and tools into their daily work. You need it as a leader, and so do they. We all do.
How do you incorporate reflection time into the day?
If you use reflection often as a daily strategy this will be simpler. If you do not, there may be a stretch here for you, however, I believe it is a worthwhile endeavor. We are all inundated with constant stimuli, and the need to take a break from that stimuli to really get clear on our work is necessary and needed.
Here are a few strategies you can try.
- Build that time in for yourself first – the only way to create traction with anything, is to create it for yourself first. Once you have a system down, you can coach and guide people into it. If you are not familiar with reflection time, add 30-minute reflection times into your daily calendar. Try it a couple times a week, with a goal to have it worked into your calendar daily.
- Coach the team on taking the same time – once you’ve practiced taking reflection time for yourself, you can advise the team on doing the same thing. Have them build it in similarly. A day or two a week to start, with the goal of having daily reflection time.
- Create reflection time after meetings and one-with-one’s – another strategy that we employ is taking time to reflect upon decisions. As you practice this strategy, you will come to see, as we have, that many decisions do not need to be made quickly. You have time. Take it, and use it wisely to reflect and engage with yourself and your team on the best course of action.
Once you have strategies in place to incorporate new learning, integration, adjustment, and reflection time into everyone’s workflow, you can start to make plans to formalize these new processes and systems. Simply meaning that to build these healthy work habits, and to have them stick, they must be practiced daily; and they need to be documented.
As we’ve discussed, people all learn differently, so create a few different ways to engage with the team, which will ensure you maintain traction on the aforementioned learning strategies. The main way we move projects of this size forward is to input them into our project management software, which has worked pretty well.
Again, what you use to formalize and document a new system or process, of which learning and development are two, matters less than you taking the time to create a learning and development plan for yourself, each team member, and the overall team.
I think you will find that the payoff in terms of work efficiency, overall team moral, and team cohesion will increase as you continue to create opportunities for people to learn new things, and to develop themselves at work. And, once that is accomplished, you and your team will be ready to move from concept to execution, and into the traction zone.
Be well, and lead well.