You Can Lead An Employee To Water But You Can’t Make Them Think

One of the many, many differences between management and leadership is this:

Management is about telling people what’s what.

It’s intellectual and factual.

Here’s the process for this and the expected standards for that.

Leadership is about inspiring people and motivating them.

It’s emotional, maybe even – if you’re inclined to think this way – spiritual. Why not, right? Because, in many ways, the best leaders are like priests, prophets and gurus.

Leaders share their vision and inspire their people to see it too.

To crave it like a drowning person craves air.

This is why you can’t achieve leadership through ordering people around. Even the military – the very symbol of “ordering people around” – knows this. The leaders who lean on their rank don’t have soldiers willing to fight and die for them.

There’s only one way to get that:

By earning their trust.

Trust, like everything else that occurs in someone else’s head, isn’t something you can directly influence. Your employees see the world through their own filters, distortions, biases, omissions and confusions.

You are, ultimately, just another signal in a universe buzzing with noise.

So you can’t reprogram people to make them act differently.

You can’t order change.

All you can do is influence someone to make the change themselves.

(I say “all”, as if that isn’t the most powerful thing in the world… )

If you want your change initiative to succeed, then you can’t think of the plan first, people second. That’s backwards. No matter how good the plan, it won’t run without your people.

If you start with your people, though, something interesting happens.

As any psychologist can tell you, questions are powerful. A question is not something that calls for an answer – it’s something that calls for thinking. Asking the right question can inspire entire new lines of thought.

In my work as a coach and hypnotist, I see this all the time. You’d be amazed at how effective a question like, “what do you need to do differently in order to solve this problem?” can be.

And so that brings us to the questions you ask your people.

What needs to change?

In an ideal organisation, what does a typical day look like?

How can we get from where we are to where we need to be?

What do you need from me?

All such powerful questions. Even as a simple thought experiment, this can inspire the change all on its own.

But when you take the answers to those questions, feed them into a plan and chase their implementation?

My goodness, you have a potent cocktail in your hands.

The best way to enhance your organisation is with the ultimate advantage: trust.

But how do you measure something like that, let alone improve it?

Especially if your workforce is stretched thin, cynical and burned out on change?

There are simple, effective and proven strategies you can begin implementing today. I know you can unlock the creativity, productivity and joy of your employees.

Peer Learning Groups and the Adult Learner

Discovering how adults learn is more than just an academic obsession of researchers and university professors. Instead, it is an important endeavor in today’s environment when learning is essential for organizations to remain competitive and forward-thinking.

Sir Malcolm Knowles, the “father” of adult learning, suggested 4 principles:

Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance and impact to their job or personal life.
Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.
Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for the learning activities.
Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented.

To be effective, every learning and training initiative must incorporate these principles. Peer learning groups, as designed by The Peer Learning Institute for management development, are based on and satisfy these four principles.

Principle #1: Effective learning has immediate relevance and impact. Adults want to learn how to solve an immediate problem they have in their job. The managers who come together create their peer learning group around a selected topical module that will provide just-in-time knowledge and skill-building to help them better handle a current workplace challenge.

Principle #2: Effective learning is self-directed. Adults like to take responsibility for their learning decisions. Peer learning groups are self-directed. The managers themselves identify their learning need as a result of a workplace challenge that has stumped them. They direct the structured discussion of the issue. They select the knowledge and skills they choose to adopt and use.

Principle #3: Effective learning builds from experience. Adults have abundant knowledge from experience. They need to share what they know so they can build upon that knowledge. Given the right environment, adults can also learn from each other. The first peer learning group session begins by having the members identify, analyze and discuss where they have mishandled or poorly addressed a workplace challenge. This forms the basis for subsequent discussion of the root causes of the issue and alternative strategies to resolve it.

After experimentation between sessions one and two, the managers reflect on their experience and plan how they will alter their approach in the future to manage the specific challenge under consideration.

Principle #4: Effective learning is problem-centered. Adults prefer to target a specific topic or skill. A peer learning group, as described above, focuses on active problem solving through: the identification and analysis of alternative strategies in session one; the experimentation with a different strategy to address the problem during the time between sessions one and two; and the reflection and behavioral adjustment decision that occurs in session two.

A peer learning group that is built on these adult learning principles is an excellent laboratory for solving problems and trying new techniques to manage critical workplace challenges.

In summary, if you want your managers to learn effectively and develop professionally, it is wise to implement peer learning groups that embody the four principles of adult learning as advocated by Sir Malcolm Knowles

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