Learning and Development in the Workplace

Although team development and encouragement are important to successful delivery in the workplace, the team’s individuals’ personal growth, learning, and development are critical. A delicate balance between both priorities is what a team leader must achieve. However, as we will layout, learning and development in the workplace is a key ingredient to team and organisation success. This article carries on our look at how individuals and teams can be more effective in the workplace and provide a complimentary text to our article on Effective Coaching in the Workplace.

Like all of my articles, your feedback and comments are very much welcome.

What is Personal Growth, Learning and Development?

In the workplace, individuals and teams’ learning and development are important because they gain real personal and team growth and move into an effective performing team.

Why is it Important? 

Individuals within teams have personal growth needs, which are an essential part of self-fulfilment. Similarly, workplace teams need development by sharing and learning from each other otherwise, the performance of the team risks standing still.  Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith, in their book Wisdom of Teams – Creating the High-Performance Organisation distinguish high performing teams from other teams by their capability to learn and develop so that both team and personal growth occurs. 

However, please beware of the syndrome where focus on team needs becomes a purpose in itself rather than helping the team achieve its purpose. 

What are the Symptoms That This may be an Issue? 

Some symptoms you should be aware of may be evidence of the team becoming more focused than its goals and objectives. These symptoms include:

  • team keeps making the same mistakes. This could be from displaying the same behaviours but expecting different results or the whole process in itself is no longer suitable;
  • team members express boredom or seem bored and so are no longer driven in achieving the team’s goal and vision;
  • there seems to be a lack of passion or excitement in the team;
  • the team easily hits its goals all the time (without seeming to stretch) and members seeing this as a way it should be rather than an opportunity for the team to be even more effective; and 
  • team members are seeking to leave the team due to being unfulfilled rather than wanting to or being to change from within to strive in improving the team.

Tips and Tools for Active Growth, Learning and Development

However, team managers can take several constructive and proactive steps to change or prevent these symptoms from growing. Five steps often sited include:

1. leaders can vary the tasks and responsibilities they give to team members to develop other skills and knowledge. Try to balance projects and tasks between those who already have all the capabilities and those who could develop them by being given the responsibility for them;

2. create “grow” goals for team members that will not only make them more effective as team members but will assist in developing those around them and compliment the team’s skills needs;

3. set goals for team members through a structured approach such as the GROW method developed by Sir John Whitmore in his book Coaching For Performance: GROWing Human Potential and Purpose. The GROW approach (which we also covered in my article Effective Coaching in the Workplace) covers the four points:

  • G – Goal: what is the objective or goal that the team member wants to achieve?
  • R – Reality: what is the situation right now and what is prevent the team member from achieving this?
  • O – Options: what are our options to achieving the objectives/ goal?
  • W – Will: what will we do to achieve our goal?
Learning and development in the workplace are critical to both team and organisation success.

What are Goal Type Questions?

The Goal stage addresses the objectives or goals you and the team member are trying to achieve are? To reach this, you need to be answering questions such as:

  • what is it you really want to achieve;
  • what is your ideal outcome;
  • why is this is important to you;
  • how would success look to you, and;
  • are the personal consequences for you of not achieving your goal?

A great quote from Anthony Robbins is, “setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible”. It highlights how important setting a good foundation or framework is in an effective coaching process.

What are Reality Type Questions?

So once the goals are set, an assessment needs to be made of the current reality. These questions may include:

  • think about what is preventing you achieving your goal;
  • what have you tried so far and how successful have these approaches been for you;
  • describe what else have you tried and how did they work towards you achieving your goals at that time;
  • list the three most important issues for you right no, and;
  • how is your current situation helping and hindering you?

What are Options Type Questions?

The Reality questions provide you with an assessment of needs to be addressed and what has worked and not worked in the past. Now the Options questions provide you with an opportunity to explore the direction to head into next. These questions would include:

  • if time, money and resource were unlimited what could you try;
  • if person X were in your shows, what would they do;
  • what ideas do you have about moving this issue forward;
  • what would make the situation worse for you if you did it (then reverse everything they come up with); and
  • where else could you get ideas, support, and insight to help you with this?

What are Will Type Questions?

With the Options now set out, the final step is to address the Will questions. This discussion would include questions like:

  • how motivated are you right now to go and do the things we have talked about;
  • what could stop you taking the next step and how can we address any of these barriers;
  • what two things are you going to do now to move this situation forward;
  • when are you going to do it and how will you know it is done – how will the situation look different; and
  • what contingency plan do you have if option A does not go the way you want it to?

People often say that without WILL, there is no responsibility or action.

4. periodically review the team’s workplace effectiveness, including growth, learning and development. Using a Career Development Discussion to get individuals to focus on their role and how that fits within their immediate team and where the next steps are for their career; and

5. try to balance the needs of the team, task and individual. John Adair’s model of action set out in his book John Adair’s 100 Greatest Ideas for Effective Leadership and Management suggests that too little attention on the team’s growth and learning leads to low morale, and an unsupportive environment is needlessly made. Too much, on the other hand, leads to an easy-going environment in which there are many meetings but few decisions, little challenge, and frustration from talented individuals about the lack of progress and new ideas. 

Recent Posts