Wednesday, 31 December 2008

How to embed learning...

I came across an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal (even though I live in England...isn't the web cool!) called 'Lessons Learned - The key to effective training isn't necessarily what happens in the classroom. It's what you do afterward.'

It is a great article about how you really embed learning in an organisation following a training course. This is something that I think it is really important to focus on and I always ask myself the following questions when putting in place a training programme:

1) What are the outcomes that we want to achieve (think/know/do)?
2) How will we know if we have achieved these outcomes?

Big questions......but not always easy to answer.

The WSJ article provides some interesting tips on helping with this:
  • Ask the delegates to put an action plan down on paper. The act of writing it down can really help people think about it more deeply and also makes them more likely to take action.
  • Measure results. If delegates know they are going to be observed and measured following a training course, then they tend to do something about it.
  • Help from peers. Get people together in peer groups following a training session. Share experiences and you will find that people benefit from the support and encourgement.
  • Supportive superiors. An actively involved  boss greatly increases the odds that an employee will apply what they have learned back in the work place
  • Access to experts. Research shows that employees who participate in follow-up meetings with instructors after training are more likely to apply new skills and knowledge on the job.
The article provides some real life examples that support these points and has a practical tone to it - something that I like! If you have any other tips then I would be interested to hear from you.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Time for reflection...

I am really looking forward to my Christmas break and taking some time to be with my family. For me it is also an important time to just sit back and reflect on whether I am focusing on the right things in my life. Everyone clearly needs to shift their focus at different times but it is important to do this in a conscious way.

Techniques such as the 'wheel of life' can be really useful to help with this. Have a think about where you would have plotted yourself 5 or 10 years ago compared to now. Are you focused on the right things or is it at the expense of other things?

Saturday, 20 December 2008

More Line Manger tips: GROW - A model for coaching

Whilst not formally qualified in coaching I often find myself in 'coaching conversations' with people - not always those that work for me. Initially I found this uncomfortable but I persevered with it as I seemed to be getting some positive results. The breakthrough came when I learned about a simple model called GROW that provides some structure to the coaching conversation.

I thought it would be useful to share with you as it is a tool that every line manager should have up their sleeve....

GROW is simply a set of questions that you ask the person that you are coaching. The sets of questions are grouped into:

1) Questions about Goals. Questions such as 'what would you like to discuss'?, 'how do you know that this is something worth achieving?'. These questions are designed to help the coachee think about where they want to get to and how much it means to them.

2) Questions about Reality. Questions such as 'what is happening at the moment', 'what is holding you back'. These questions are designed to understand where you are starting from.

3) Questions about Options. Questions such as 'what is the right thing to do', 'what would you do differently if you were to start over again'. These questions are designed to explore what is possible and any resources that can help you achieve your goal.

4) Questions about 'What Next'. Questions such as 'what are the next steps', 'rate on a 1 - 10 scale your motivation to achieve the agreed actions. What prevents you from being at a 10?'

When I first started to use these questions it was all a bit clunky. However once you start using the technique often it quickly becomes more natural. Now I find that I can build them into a conversation much more easily. The key thing to remember is the order that you ask them - always follow G.R.O.W. The questions are extremely powerful as they really help people think deeply and clearly about their goals and how to achieve them.

Give it a try and I am sure you will see the results

If you want to know more about GROW then check out the following links:

Mind Tools - they use a slightly different definition of GROW but the same principles apply

For a useful worksheet to use when having the conversation then check this out.

For more on GROW and other coaching techniques Clare Chapman offers some useful articles.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Specific tips on coaching and feedback

In my last post we started to look at how feedback and coaching are important elements of a line manager's role.

As a line manager there are a couple of specific components that are worth focusing on with respect to feedback and coaching:
  • Being as specific as possible and avoiding generalisations

  • Thinking about whether this is the right time

  • Avoiding being judgemental and focusing on being descriptive

  • Providing a balanced view

  • Having a two way conversation

  • Maintaining self esteem.
The following table gives some specific examples for all of these components.

Click on the image to make it bigger and print it out as a reference.

As with all development this requires practice so don't expect to get it absolutely right first time. Also, the next time you are on the 'receiving end' have a think about why it went well, or not so well. Which of the components above were in place and which weren't - why and how did that make a difference?

Monday, 8 December 2008

Leadership Development Carnival

Dan McCarthy's Leadership Carnival has come to town again........and is definitely worth a visit for the latest thinking on the subject of Great Leadership.

If you haven't visited Dan's blog before then I recommend it highly for not only insightful thinking but also some really practical advice and tips on all things leadership.

In this month's carnival my pick of the most interesting links cover topics such as:

- 6 powerful questions to ask in your Performance Review........I have made my own notes on this!
- Succession planning strategies
- The Workplace of the Future

......and loads more....

Friday, 5 December 2008

More Line Manager tips - feedback and coaching

If a line manager is not taking steps to develop the people that work for him then they aren't doing their job properly. Of course as a line manager there a hundred different priorities that need to be sorted out but how often is people development near the end of this list?

One of the key ways in which a line manager can do this is to provide some good quality feedback and little coaching now and then. It doesn't take a huge amount of effort (but it does require some) and the rewards can be very high for both the line manager and the individual.

First a question - what is the difference between feedback and coaching........?
  • Feedback is what happened and can be praise or for issues identification
  • Coaching is how to improve
As a line manager you need to deliver both and in sequence - feedback and then coaching.

There are lots of types of feedback that you need to provide to your people. 

Consider the following types of feedback:

Reinforcing: encouraging what they are doing right. If people know that they are doing the right thing then they will keep on doing it. If they aren't told it they may well assume that it must be wrong!

Correcting: adjusting what they are doing wrong (the opposite of reinforcing)

Confronting: probably the most difficult type of feedback and the one that many line managers avoid. Conflict is inevitable and there are likely to be performance issues.

Of course, what is most important here is how you provide the feedback. Many line managers often fire the feedback like a bullet from a gun.....and then wonder why it didn't go down very well.

Just take a moment to put yourself in their shoes - 

  • How might they be feeling?
  • What would be the best way to deliver the feedback?
  • Is this the right time to provide them with feedback?
  • How can I remove emotion from the situation by keeping things factual? 
In my next post I will give some further insights into the best way to provide feedback including some specific examples.

....and now with your coaching hat on some questions to ask yourself.

Do you genuinel believe that every member of  your team has untapped potential?
  • You, the person you are coaching and the operating context all affect the way a task is done. If you thought about all of the variable how might things work differently, rather than just following a process that you always use?
  • Everyone has their own way of learning. Do you coach the way you would want to be coached?
  • Your team member will have their own perspective - on their performance and on you. How is your coaching affected by what you believe your team member thinks of you?
  • You can't like everyone. What impact does liking or disliking a team member have on your relationship with them?
In my next post we will look at some of the key components in a bit more detail with some examples and advice on how to coach and provide feedback....