Friday, 28 November 2008

The Role of the Line Manager – how to motivate your people…?

As part of my recent Making Learning Stick series I had a number of emails and comments on the piece that focused on the role of the line manager.

It is great to see people agree that the line manager has a key role to play in the development of their people. Sadly, not all line managers live up to this expectation and we all have our own experiences I am sure!

Therefore I will be posting some
tips and advice of the coming weeks targeted specifically at helping line managers be both better role models but also to help them develop the skills that they need. As always I will try and keep this practical and pragmatic – my aim is for it to be as useful as possible!

One of the key roles of the line manager is in motivating his employees and in the current climate this is more important than ever. Loads of research has been done on what motivates employees (if you want the theory then check out
Herzberg and McClelland) but for me it boils down to one key factor:

If you feel good about your job then you will be motivated. The better you feel, the more motivated you are.

OK, I here you say – so what is the secret of making people feel good about their job? Actually, that’s also quite straight forward:

I feel good about my job when I can see that what I do makes a difference.

As a line manager some of the motivating factors are in your control and some aren’t. The kind of things that
you can influence are:

Achievement: can your team see how they are achieving things over a period of time? It is really easy to drift from week to week without looking back and reflecting on what you have achieved. Incremental achievements over a period of time can add up to some big things. As the line manager just take a moment to remind people how much they have achieved so that they can realise their contribution.

Recognition – do your people feel that all of those long hours, sweat and stress are being recognised? Recognition doesn’t have to mean an ‘employee of the month’ award. Often a simple conversation can work wonders or perhaps just talking about it at a team meeting. If people don’t feel they are being recognised then they will be thinking ‘why do I bother’…

Interesting work – interesting work means different things to different people. For some it is variety and being exposed to new situations whilst for others it could be fixing things or solving problems. As a line manager take a bit of time to understand what aspects of their jobs your people like and don’t like. Next time a new piece of work needs doing use these insights to allocate the work according to both their interests and also to the areas where they want to develop.

Responsibility – When people are given responsibility to complete something they will feel like they both own the task and have control over what they are doing. Of course people may need some coaching and hand holding but be careful not to micro manage them. A good line manager will allocate responsibility within his team. A great line manager will allocate this according to development needs and will even (carefully) let people fail if it provides a positive learning experience.

Advancement and Personal Development – If people can see themselves progressing in an organisation then this is usually the result of the first three items being put into practice. As a line manager you should make it clear to people what they need to demonstrate and achieve in order to advance in the organisation. Giving them lots of constructive feedback along the way is how a good line manager steers people towards their career goals. When a pilot steers the plane he makes a series of really small adjustments all of the time rather than yanking at the controls – this is how a good line manager looks after his people.

If you are a line manager have a think about your team and how often you are considering these motivating factors. It really doesn’t take much………..
but it does require some effort. The best bit is that when you are able to motivate your own staff then it is one of the most rewarding and motivating aspects of being a line manager – a definite win/win situation!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Make Learning Stick....with a Personal Development Plan

This is my final post in my Making Learning Stick series.

Making Learning Stick is all about getting the most from your learning investment - something that is currently more important than ever for everyone involved in L&D.  From the emails and comments I have received it's clear that this is something on the minds of many people involved in L&D at the moment.

In my final post I want to highlight how  having a personal development plan (PDP) can be a useful tool to help people grow and develop.

Like most people I have had various development plans over the years - some detailed and some scribbled together 'on the back of a fag packet'. However the ones that helped me the most had a couple of things in common:

1) I wrote them - they were not written for me.  I found that the objectives I set myself were usually more challenging that the ones someone else thought up for me. I know where the limits of my comfort zone are more than anyone else.
2) They were written following discussion with someone who I respected and who was interested in my development. I have had some good and bad managers over the years (who hasn't!) but the good ones took the time to talk with me about what I wanted and how I could get there.
3) These first two points are great starting points but for me my most successful PDPs have been the ones that have changed and developed over time.  Finding the motivation to do this is much easier if you can see yourself making progress and also if you have someone giving you a gentle shove now and again.

The simple act of going through the motions of writing a PDP makes you really think about who you are, what you want to do and what the routes are to get there. Making Learning Stick in an organisation means helping people take real ownership for the own personal development. There are many tools that can help you do this, most of which do not require large investment........

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Make Learning Stick: Part 4 - Social networking tools

This is my fourth post in my Making Learning Stick series.

Making Learning Stick is all about getting the most from your learning investment - something that is currently more important than ever for everyone involved in L&D.

In this post I want to focus on how social networking tools can be used to Making Learning Stick in an organisation.

An important aspect of helping people to learn and then embedding that learning into their 'day job' is providing them with ongoing support following a learning intervention. In a previous post I discussed how the role of the line manager can play an important part in this. However as a L&D professional you should consider social networking tools as part of your blended approach to learning.

If you are not familiar with what social networking tools are available then check out this great presentation from Jane Hart. It gives a really good overview of the Top 100 Tools For Learning so it is important to first know what is out there. So how can they be used to Making Learning Stick?

I believe a key way that they can be used is as both before and after any learning intervention:

Before the learning intervention:

Wouldn't it be good if you could start to engage with delegates before they actually attended the course?Perhaps start to embed some key messages with them, interact with them, start to gauge what is on their mind....? Social networking is a great way to do this and here are 2 examples:

  • Use Twitter to drip feed messages about 'what is coming' and encourage people to tweet back and also with each other. People can tweet via SMS through their mobile phone so it is very easy to both access and use. See this article for more information about how Twitter can be used.
  • Set up a blog that provides both more information about the course they will be attending including some links to other interesting items. Also encourage people to start sharing their experiences and to communicate with each other. You need to provide some sort of carrot to attract them - be creative.
Following the learning intervention

Once people have been on a course then the learning process has only started. It is the period following the course when people need the most support to help embed the learning into their roles. Again social networking tools can play a role in this:
  • Creating a community of like minded people can be a very powerful support network for people. The use of blogs and also tools such as facebook can be a great way to do this. Make sure that you let people know about this during the course (let them try it out) and keep the tool updated with interesting stuff.
  • Consider using tools such as a Wiki to provide supporting information for people. You could initially populate it with relevant information and then let people edit and update themselves. For a great example of how a Wiki was implemented then watch this video that Jay Cross shot about how Intel use it (Intelpedia). Another tool that is great for aggregating information is Delicious.  You can tag web based articles, stories or news items that are relevant to your audience and then share them very easily to create a wealth of supporting information. 
As an L&D professional you should be familiar with these tools. If you aren't then I recommend getting to know them - try them out and play with them. They can be a great way to Making Learning Stick in your organisation.......and they are free!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Make Learning Stick....Part 3....the start is not the end......

This is my third post in my Making Learning Stick series.

Making Learning Stick is all about getting the most from your learning investment - something that currently more important than ever for everyone involved in L&D.

In my last post we looked at the role of the line manager and what a big influence this can have on the employee when they return back to their day job following a learning intervention. In this post we look at other ways to help support the employee back in their work environment.

How often have you seen people attending a training course where they are totally fired up and commited to changing their approach or behaviour?

As the L&D professional you return home feeling on top of the world thinking that your efforts have made a real difference. As the employee attending the course you genuinely want to change and are looking forward to applying your new skills and knowledge. However when Monday comes around and you get totally consumed back into your day job, how often have you seen people revert back to their original position? Some people who are more resolute may manage to resist for a few weeks but even then things start to tail off.........why?

The reason for this is because the learning only STARTED during the training intervention. You only learn about something on a training course. It is when you go back to the work environment that you really learn how to do something. If you think about the learning intervention in this way then there are a host of other things that need to form part of it.

In my previous post we talked about how the line manager needs to be part of this. Assuming that the line manager knows what to do or even what the training involves is probably not a good thing!

So what should I do to implement an integrated approach to learning?

1) Ensure that the line manager for each of your delegates has been informed about the training being attended. Remind them to have a conversation with the delegate before the training to discuss what outcomes they are looking for and then to have another conversation after the training intervention to see what happened and what needs to happen next. Personally I make sure all of the line managers are emailed but this depends on the scale of your audience. In addition you can make the initial conversation a pre-requisite for the course. Ask delegates to bring along the agreed outcomes and ask them to be prepared to discuss this.

2) Plan specific events or activities following the training that will reinforce the messages. These can take many different forms so here are a few ideas:
  • Help the delegate understand what other development activity is now useful to them. Give this to them to take away and discuss with their manager. It could be further training or specific roles and activities in their workplace. I call it the 'what happens next' list. On a more formal scale this is a development plan - but we will discuss this further in another post.
  • If it is appropriate for  your workplace and you are looking to change behaviours and elements of  your culture then you can reinforce messages by using marketing material. For example if you are trying to make your people more client focused then put up some posters around the place that reinforce this message perhaps in a humerous form. Put them in places where people will discuss them (break out areas, near the water cooler etc). Try and be provactive - the aim is to get people talking about it.
  • Think about how you  might use some of the newer social networking tools to reinforce the messages. Again I will look at this further in another post.
  • Think about how you can build a community of like minded people. This can be a very powerful for people to support each other. Again, look out for another post on this.
  • Action learning can have a huge role to play in embedding the learning and developing people. I recently published a separate series on this so take a look at that.
  • Keep in contact with the delegates. I make a point of talking to delegates when I see them in the office? How are things going? Can I connect you to other people who could help? What have they noticed about themselves? What barriers have they experienced? If you can't do this individually then send them all an email, arrange a follow up conference call - keep it in the forefront of their mind.
Sending people on a training course can be an important part of people development. However it is definitely only the start of the learning process for people. Taking a much more integrated approach to learning is another vital ingredient to making learning stick in your organisation.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Lewis Hamilton: Leadership and Talent Management In Action

Well done to Lewis Hamilton for winning the F1 World Championship. It is a great achievement for anyone but particularly for Lewis who is only 23.

For me the Lewis Hamilton story is one that has many interesting links and examples to the world of learning and development. In particular there are two areas to highlight:

Talent Management

  • Lewis’ talent was identified by McLaren at a very young age as they saw some specific qualities that they knew could be nurtured. You could say that Lewis was identified as a high potential’ very early on in his career.
  • McLaren carefully developed Lewis over a period of time. They gave him increasingly challenging roles and assignments as he progressed through the various racing formats. These were meticulously planned with the goal of helping Lewis achieve his potential.
  • Lewis was taken under the wing of a hugely experienced mentor – Ron Dennis. Not only did Ron provide feedback and advice to Lewis, he also fought his corner for him when required. F1 is a fiercely competitive business and there are hundreds of eager drivers just waiting to step up. Ron had the belief in Lewis and put his own neck on the line.

Leadership Qualities

  • Listening to Lewis speak after his championship winning race in Brazil he continuously referred to his success in a collective way. For example “as I approached the last lap I knew that we still had a chance and that we just had to keep going”. Like all great leaders Lewis always wants to make sure that the praise and recognition is centred on the team and not himself.
  • Last year Lewis missed out on the title by a single point and this was largely due to a couple of mistakes he make. However Lewis made it very clear that he took responsibility for them and that he would learn from them and come through a stronger person. It is a great example of how people only really develop by making mistakes on the job and then using the learning to really grow as a person.
  • There are many factors that can influence a successful outcome in Formula 1. However if you look at the ability of the drivers there is very little to separate them – they are all extremely talented and capable. The one thing that does differentiate them though is mindset and attitude. Lewis has bags of belief in himself, but in a quietly confident way. Whilst those around him are getting emotional (and even attacking him personally) Lewis has always remained calm and confident. At no point was this more obvious than when he overtook the Toyota on the final lap in Brazil to win the title – nerves of steel and resolute belief.

As a learning and development professional I think it’s important to find good examples of real world examples that help to illustrate development issues and approaches. Building your own catalogue of these over time can often help your influence with the people that matter.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Make Learning Stick......the role of the manager

If there is one area that can have the most influence on embedding learning (making learning stick) it is the role of the line manager. So, what is the role of the line manager....?

1) Prior to the learning intervention even happening a good line manager will have frequent discussions with their people about their development needs. Some of these may be formal but some will also be informal - chats on the phone, a quick catch up with a cup of tea etc. This means that the line manager is aware of the development needs and can help the employee recongise them........and to then take some action.

2) OK, so it is agreed that you need to undertake some sort of development activity. The role of the line manager here is to help the employee to be really clear what outcomes they are looking for following the development activity. Are you expecting some behaviour change, are you expecting to be able to undertake a new kind of role etc? This really helps to focus the employee on their needs and to both build on strengths as well as identifying any blind spots.

3) Even during the learning intervention (eg. if it is a 5 day programme) a good line manager will check in to see how things are going. What have they learned? Do they still have their outcomes in mind.

4) Following the learning intervention it is really important to sit down and have a discussion about what they learned. What are they now more aware of, what are they going to focus on. A good manager will encourage the employee to come up with the items themselves. Write it down as part of your development plan.

5) The following days and weeks are the most crucial to making the learning stick. It is so easy to fall back into your previous thinking or ways of working. A good manager will be regularly monitoring progress. A great manager will have agreed specific tasks and/or assignments that will force the employee to apply the new behaviours.

6) A continuous loop of feedback, review and action with the employee is then what is needed to really embed the learning. What development is needed next to build on this success, what assignments might now be appropriate?

Making learning stick is the responsibility of the learner. However, the manager can have a highly influential role in helping make this happen!