Box of Crayons Blog


How to Help Your Team Get Smarter

How to Help Your Team Get Smarter

As a leader and manager, you want to help your team thrive and grow. To do that, you also need to help them learn. People learn when you create an opportunity to stop for a moment and reflect upon what just happened.

Here is a look at my best strategies to help you become a force for good and a force for learning. Tune in below.

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So what do you think your role as a manager actually is? What’s the—what’s at the heart of being a manager, being a leader?

You know, I suspect your immediate response is, “I’ve got to get stuff done. You know, I’ve got to-do lists, I’ve got projects, I’ve got meetings, I’ve got emails. I’m just trying to process stuff.” And that’s true; that is part of your job as a manager or a leader but it’s not the only part of your job. It’s really to help others thrive. And how do you do that? Well, you help people learn.

So I think one of the most, I’m going to be dramatic about this, the most honourable thing you can do as a manager and leader is to step fully into your role as a teacher and as a facilitator and to help people learn. But here’s the challenge: you need to know how people learn to be able to do that. And I’ve got some bad news. People do not learn when you tell them stuff. I mean, it’d be nice if that was true, wouldn’t it? But truly, it floats in one ear; it literally floats out the other. It doesn’t literally float out it but it does float out the other ear. They don’t remember stuff.

And you know that to be true about you. When people have told you stuff, going in here, going out there. Forgotten immediately. They don’t even learn when they do stuff. Again, you think that would be the case but, actually, people often just get stuff done and then they’re on to the next thing and they haven’t really had the opportunity to learn from that.

Where people learn is when you create an opportunity to stop for a moment, reflect on what just happened and actually create the opportunity to help them learn.

So I want to share my best strategies for you to help you become a force for good, a force for learning, and really help employees learn. And why would you bother to do that, particularly when you’ve got meetings to attend, emails to do, projects to fulfill, task lists to complete? Well, there’s three things that I think make it a useful exercise for you, that serves you as well as it serves the other people.

First of all, it increases the capacity of the people that you’re leading, so they can do more, and if they can do more, they will do more. So you’re increasing. Even though you may not be adding, literally, new people to your team, you’re increasing the capacity of your team by helping them learn. You’re also increasing their degree of self-sufficiency, and if they’re self-sufficient, they’re self-starters, they get stuff done without needing you and they spend less time with you. That may make some of you sad, but I know it’s going to make some of you very happy. And, actually, there’s no problem with spending time together but rather than spending time because they need you to show them stuff, they’re coming to do other more useful things like maybe some coaching, maybe some feedback, maybe some learning around that. So increasing self-sufficiency is the second benefit from helping and being committed to helping your people learn.

And the third piece that’s useful here is it increases their sense of engagement. Dan Pink, one of his—I’m a fan of his books, and the book that is kind of most connected to great work is probably Drive which really tackles employee motivation. And Pink says that what really motivates people isn’t promotions and it isn’t money, it isn’t any of that; it’s actually three core things. It is purpose, autonomy and mastery. Now, purpose we talked about a lot, with the difference between good work and great work. Great work tends to have a greater sense of purpose. Autonomy is at the very essence of what coaching people is about. But mastery is about helping them learn; teaching stuff so they increase their capacity, they increase their self-sufficiency about the three things we talked about before. So that’s why it’s useful to be committed to help your people learn.

So how do you help your people learn? Well, let me give you my three best tips. The first is to step into this role as a teacher and as a learner and a facilitator, to say, “This isn’t a nice to have, this isn’t an add-on if I’ve got time; it’s just integral to the very things that I do as a manager and leader. I am a teacher. I am a facilitator.” So own that. Really be powerful about it. The second thing is to create the learning moment.

This really happens at the end of almost every interaction you have with people, (indiscernible) be on your team or colleagues or bosses or vendors or customers or clients, whoever they might be. And what I think you should be doing, and I’m going to give you something really specific here, is when you come to the end of a conversation or you come to the end of an interaction, rather than rushing off to the next thing, just pause for a moment and say, what was most useful or most valuable here for you? That creates that moment when they have to pause, they have to extract the learning, they have to figure out what was useful. You get feedback on what was useful, so that helps you be a better teacher next time.

And if you really want to enrich the relationship, tell them, “Here’s what I found most useful about what just happened.” Have that exchange of learning, and that deepens the learning and deepens the relationship. And the third thing I would say is this: If the people go on a more formal training course, perhaps to a Box of Crayons program, but not necessarily, take a role as a manager and leader to check in with them about how that went for them.

Check in with them beforehand and say, “What are you going on? What do you hope to get from it? How will you measure success?” When they come back from the training ask them, “What did you learn? Did you get what you were hoping for? What will you be doing differently as a result of this? How can I help you?” There’s some really good research that says that if managers are involved in the training before and after, the chance of success of that training is much higher than if the manager is disengaged. So if there’s an opportunity for formal training, make sure you get involved to support the people who have been on that training so you can help them learn and help them sustain their learning.

Not enough just to get stuff done as a manager and leader. Your job is to grow the capacity, grow the wisdom, grow the sense of meaning, grow the sense of engagement of the people that you lead, and stepping into that role as a teacher and facilitator will allow you to do just that.

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