Original Post by Lisa Neuberger:
Reading through the introduction to this discussion, I couldn’t help remembering when my kids were little. It was always easier, faster, and cleaner to do a job myself then let them “help,” but I knew that if they were ever to learn to cook their own meals or do their own laundry, they had to join in the work. The same principle applies to adult learners. If we don’t push ourselves to try new things and to stretch our comfort zones, we’ll never grow and become competent in new areas. Some people are driven to push themselves, but others may be more hesitant to try. It’s the leader’s job to identify those people who need a push. That can seem frustrating at first to employees, but the leader can clarify that he or she is coaching the person and not simply throwing them into the deep end. The leader should be sure to provide plenty of feedback as the report is growing into the new role or skill, pointing out what they’re doing right and guiding them back on track when they miss the mark. Our book notes that when leaders are working to develop others’ skills, they need to keep a respectful attitude. Nothing turns people off more than condescension. They need to keep in mind that everyone learns differently and responds differently to challenges. Also, everyone starts at a different level and can grow from there. As we’ve learned all through this class, leaders need to really listen to what their reports are telling them. Finally, leaders reward and recognize when growth has occurred (through promotions, raises, accolades, etc.). (Manning 2014)
When providing challenges to team members, leaders first have to know each person on the team as individuals. What are they good at? What do they like to do? What do they dislike doing? I think it’s important to work with the strengths of the team member and encourage them to grow in that direction. Then, give them a chance to fail and try again. At my old job, we were sent out to deliver safety seminars with little to no training. If you did well on your first assignment, you got the chance to develop your speaking skills and get better with each subsequent seminar. However, if you got stage fright or got flustered and gave the wrong answer at the wrong time, that was your last chance. You never got the chance to get better. I always thought that was a pretty haphazard way to develop employees. It certainly didn’t allow for practicing and honing one’s skills. A better way to train new speakers would be to give them a small role in the presentation and allow them to perfect it. Maybe even provide practice sessions with people asking the presenter questions. Then, as the presenter grew in skills and confidence, allow them more and more time on stage. If the person doesn’t do as well as hoped on the first try, that doesn’t mean they will never do well. If they want to learn and are willing to try, it’s worth giving them at least another shot at it. This style of learning goes along with the book, which recommends providing classroom instruction, assessments and feedback, coaching on performance, providing one-on-one feedback, and opportunities for field activities. (Manning 2014)
Manning, George. 2014. The Art of Leadership. New York: McGraw-Hill
I am a fan of the ideas in this post about strategies to develop team members who might be struggling without simply giving them answers to the problems they might be encountering. It is so crucial to build up the confidence of these team members by creating small tasks that you’re sure they can excel at based upon their strengths. The employees would learn a lot about their own strengths in the process of perfecting that small role in the presentation. Then, I would incorporate the philosophy that involves challenging them, letting them fail and then giving them the opportunity to be resilient, have another chance to perform a larger role and do well at it. The employees need to have a healthy attitude about failure in order to grow. Have you ever had the opportunity to fail, try again, and then ended up growing from it?
Reply by Lisa Neuberger:
Thanks for responding to my post! In my career, I’ve been given plenty of opportunities to try new things and learn from my mistakes. Most of my learning experiences have come more from being thrown into the deep end than from a gradual learning approach. It sounds like you have a healthy understanding of the role that failure has in growing as a person and a professional. I, for one, am more afraid of failing than I should be, and I have allowed it to hold me back at times. I much prefer your approach to learning, which gives people the chance to fail and still be secure in their jobs.