Have you noticed that when you’re a passenger in a car driven by someone else (or when you drive and rely on your GPS), that you may not remember the way to get to the same destination the next time? Yet if you use a good-old-fashioned map or just instinct (and a little bit of getting lost) the first time you drive to your endpoint, the way forward the next time seems to have embedded itself in your memory without the assistance of directions.
So it is with the way your employees learn:
Learning is stalled when you:
- tell someone how to do something
- do it for them
- give them the answers when they ask
- don’t encourage them to stretch beyond their comfort zone
- won’t tolerate errors, mistakes, gaffes, or anything less than perfection
- don’t guide them to think and learn from their errors, mistakes, and gaffes
You will help them to learn when you:
- let them figure it out for themselves
- delegate and let them “just do it” with few instructions about “how”
- guide them with questions to help them find their own way to do it
- stretch them beyond their comfort zone
- allow errors, mistakes, gaffes, and imperfection
- coach them to think through what they’ve learned from their errors, mistakes, and gaffes
The next time you feel your frustration rising with that person who “just doesn’t get it”, consider that they just might get it if you do your part. You’ll find that they may not do things exactly the way you would like them to be done. They may not be perfect and they will make errors. But if you take the time to help them to think through their actions, they’ll do it their way and they’ll likely do it well – and even better the next time.
Asking questions and listening without judgment is a great way to start. Open ended questions that don’t lead them in a specific direction will help them to think. Refraining from judgment as you listen to them work out their dilemma will keep them thinking; and with thinking, comes learning. With learning comes motivation, making your job easier.
Ask: What’s your first step? And then what will you do? What will keep you from doing that? How can I help? Who else can help? What will you do differently next time?
Listen without judgment: I know very well that little duck that is quacking in your head that says “that’s the wrong way” and “that will never work”. When he starts in, take a couple of deep breaths and remind yourself that you are listening, not judging.
From the moment we are born to the moment we pass on, we learn by doing, making mistakes, and thinking about how we can improve. We’ve had people in our lives who’ve ignited our learning and growth (parents, teachers, colleagues, friends, and leaders) and we’ve had those who drag us down with their need to control, to be perfect, and do things their way.
Which one will you be?