One of the key responsibilities of those in a leadership position is to encourage and facilitate the learning of those they lead. No matter what size the organisation, creating a workplace where people are able to learn will in turn create growth and sustainable ability to meet challenges, remain competitive and encourage innovation.
Whilst interventions like training courses can be a useful means of developing employees, it really is important to begin by looking at what employees need from their development to enable them to grow, to be challenged, to problem solve and be innovative.
We can provide all the learning opportunities in the world for our employees but if they don’t see that learning as having a purpose and being meaningful to what they do, they are unlikely to value any intervention. Hence ‘It’s all about Them, Not You.’
The most valuable learning opportunities are often available much closer to home and sending someone on a training course is not always the best way to provide development or bring about change. Take behaviours for example, by role modelling as a leader, we impart messages about the behaviours and values we want to see in our people; the way we want them to serve customers, interact with each other and represent the organisation. In doing this we can create the culture we want for the business by shaping the attitudes of those within it.
Remember also that learning is best when it happens in a shared environment, whether this is sharing the learning experience with others or the resulting successes and failures, joining in the celebrations or sharing ideas about how things could be improved in the future. Taking an approach such as Action Learning, where a group of people work on a real problem and in doing so, pool their knowledge and skills to resolve the issue as well as developing problem-solving skills. Sharing learning and its outcomes makes it so much easier to learn from what has been experienced.
Providing a learning environment also means giving people the courage to make mistakes and more importantly to learn from them. If we encourage them to be innovative for example, and do things differently, then as a leader, we have to meet them half way by doing two things. We have to provide them with the resources that they need to be innovative and secondly provide them with the tools to reflect on and evaluate their successes and otherwise.
Remember that by showing employees that you are willing to invest in resources, tools and time for them to grow, there will be pay back in terms of engagement and willingness to give more of themselves, which in turn reaps rewards for the organisation.
The overriding messages from this then are that in order to make learning worthwhile, we need to keep it as close to home as possible, make it relevant and value-adding for the individual, provide opportunities for shared learning and shared reflection and make sure they have the necessary resources to promote learning and growth.
We need to focus on their needs as individuals and not ours as leaders.