Growth-oriented businesses with high performance goals seek ways to create cultures where people grow personally while contributing to company vision and mission. In order for an organization to achieve “next level” results, it must develop employees capable of believing that they can reach goals that, at first, may seem beyond their reach. Professional coaching is gaining attention as a highly effective means to enhance employee performance to generate improved organization results.One of the critical elements in an effective learning environment is the level of support provided. People learn best when they have active support — when and from whom they need it. When parents take an active role in their children’s schoolwork, those children do better in school. The same rule applies for professionals in the workplace: when leaders support their direct-reporting employees or proteges in certain ways, people learn more and apply what they learn to obtain desired business results. Professional coaching is now a proven and widely accepted performance improvement strategy; however, it should compliment the manager-employee relationship, not replace it.Research by Broad and Newstrom (1985), Feldstein and Boothman (1997), Del Gaizo (1997) and many others have found that people learn best when the learning is supported actively by those to whom they report. The concept provides common sense for the parent/child, manager/subordinate, peer/peer or coach/client relationship: if the lesson I am to learn is valued, and it offers the promise of greater reward for my having learned the lesson, then I will learn and apply the lesson to the best of my ability. But what does “active support” look like? Who determines value? What might managers do to communicate their investment in associate learning to greatest affect? For starters, they can simply meet with the learner prior to and soon after the beginning of a learning process or event. In fact, Robert Brinkerhoff and Max Montesino (1995) reported that learners who had “before/after” discussions with managers enjoyed significantly higher levels of learning transfer, fewer barriers, and more practice opportunities than learners who had no discussions with managers.Equally important research shows that when a learner is exposed to a new idea one time about 50 percent is retained for one day, 25 percent is retained for 48 hours, and after 16 days as little as 2 percent is still retained. However, when using spaced repetition, if you are exposed to an idea six times over the course of a week, for example, up to 62 percent of information is retained for 15 years to a lifetime (think: learning your multiplication tables or exposure to advertising slogans). Managers play a key role in making such repetition possible. Effective coaches build repetition into the learning and development process.Active support is critical whether you are a manager or report to a manager about your learning. If you want to get more value from your learning investments, then discuss goals, application and the kind of support needed before and after every learning event. Then sustain the learning to ensure you apply it to improve your results.While training focuses on acquiring new knowledge and skills, it does not always lead to new behaviors or desired results. Improved performance and increased success requires ongoing development geared toward specific measurable goals, attitude change and new habits. Clear goals that align both business and personal need, the use of spaced repetition, and ongoing support are all critical to getting desired results from any learning initiative, whether it is a workshop, certification exam, professional conference, ongoing development, temporary assignment or other activity. Professional coaching can accentuate learning and development but cannot and should not replace the support of the manager. Managers and employees co-create the value of learning and the degree it is retained and applied.Questions for Leaders to Ask Prior To a Learning CycleThe following is a list of questions that you can use as you start the learning process with a staff member or direct report. Creating a clear understanding of the expectations through open and honest communication can go a long way in securing a successful learning cycle.

  • Let’s talk about what you know about the learning role or event in which you are to be involved. What experience have you had with [the topic]? What questions are you taking with you into the experience?
  • What among your current skills will link with the skills you are developing?
  • How might you improve performance (own, team, department, organization) with the learning you are about to do? What is the benefit in our having you involved in this activity?
  • What new attitudes or habits might you need to develop to help you be successful?
  • How does this opportunity connect with our business need? With current goals/objectives? Why do you think you should learn more about this topic?
  • What will success look like? I mean, what will we see that will show us that we found the right fix for a particular performance gap or goal?
  • Who do you understand our stakeholders in this investment to be? To whom do we need to demonstrate success?
  • How can we make sure that you will have a timely opportunity to practice and apply what you are about to learn? What among your current job responsibilities will offer you the opportunity to apply what you will learn? What projects do we have coming up that might fit this bill? What activities outside of your daily work might contribute to your developmental goal? What support do you need from me in ensuring your opportunity to practice?
  • How will we know that you learned something? How will we see that you are applying/transferring the skills effectively? What ideas do you have for how we should measure your transfer of learning (e.g. from the workshop to the work floor)?
  • When and where will you present the highlights of what you will learn/discover to the rest of us?
  • Here is the support that I can and will offer when you return to the job and begin transferring your knowledge…. What more or different can I do to support you?
  • Let’s firm up a meeting time for after the session, so we can revisit this conversation. At that meeting, I would like you to catch me up on what you have learned and to talk about your ideas/plans for application. For now, we will plan for that to be a one-on-one meeting, but also be thinking about anyone from the organization who you would like to attend that meeting, too. Thanks very much, in advance, for your time on this. Enjoy the learning.

Do you want to get more value from your learning investments? Then discuss goals, application and the kind of support needed before and after every learning event. Have a learning plan that establishes value, aligns with business need for the year, for the organization, for each strategic business unit, and for the individuals in each unit. With any performance intervention consider a strong link between manager support and professional coaching.Author: Mark SturgellArticle Source: EzineArticles.comProvided by: WordPress plugin Guest Blogger

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