Some experiences provide more learning than others

Challenge

In our series on cultivating learning and development in yourself and others, we examined how we learn from experiences last week. If you missed it, you will find it here.

The next natural question to explore is: Then do we learn equally well from any type of experience?

Obviously not. Taking the bus to work each day is normally not a great learning experience, nor is doing the weekend shopping with the family, unless of course there is a challenge involved.

When something becomes challenging, we have a great opportunity to learn. And often we quickly solve the challenge and then pat ourselves on the back: “Well done, you are making progress.” Or we pat our associates on the back and tell them: “Well done! Nice job. I see you are learning a thing or two.” The learning that takes place here we sometimes also refer to as external. We are learning something about how the world outside ourselves actually works. This learning is often also context specific. Under these circumstances, this is what one needs to do. But when the circumstances change, as they have a tendency to do, then that learning is not always so useful.

So quite frankly these are not the challenges that maximise our learning. True learning begins when we hit serious resistance. Things are not working out the way we hoped. Maybe we are even experiencing serious setbacks and even failures. These situations provide some really interesting learning because of our lack of success.

These are the situation where we learn about ourselves more than anything else. And the learning does not arise for the external event but from how we choose to respond to whatever is going on.

This is where we learn:

  • To resist the temptation to blame others for the situation
  • We see how stepping back from the situation helps us gain perspective and as a result, we learn how we are possibly contributing to the mess that is being created.
  • How to develop resilience in moving beyond the unpleasantness or pain of the experience and commit ourselves to do something about our personal limitations
  • In short, this is where we learn how to grow.

Challenges that start out as failures and setbacks thus provide som of the richest learning environments that we can possibly encounter. Most of us get this on a personal level. “Makes sense. I screwed up on that assignment but I learnt a lot.”

But do we apply the same tolerance and understanding attitude toward the members of our team who screw up from time to time? Do we see that as a valuable part of their learning process or do we see them as a problem?

Maybe our learning should start there…


BestThis blog post is the third in a series of blog posts where Mike is exploring: Why is it important to develop not just yourself but also the people around you?

Building capacity is at the heart of the Service Profit Chain. If you are not familiar with the intricacies of the Service Profit chain, we have a special treat for you:

For this month only, you can download Mike’s book Best! No need to be cheap if … for FREE using this coupon JLXW8P9QSE. It is only available for the first 50 people so first come first serve.

Download the book here!

Converting knowledge to wisdom

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

“What use is it to have a bellyful of meat if one can not digest it? If it cannot transform us, if it cannot improve us and fortify us?”

Wrote Michel de Montaigne back in the 16th century in one of his many rants against a French school system that “requires you to just parrot back everything you are told”.

So how do we actually convert knowledge into leadership wisdom?

The key word here is experience, experience not as in breathtaking customer experience, but learning from experience.

Because we all agree that we learn from our experiences, or do we?

If you have ever made the same mistake twice, you will have to agree that we do not consistently learn from our experiences.

When then do you learn from your experiences?

Elementary my dear Watson: Whenever you take the time to reflect on your experiences, you make deeper learning possible.

Reflection can be a personal reflection, or it can tackle the form of a team reflection.

Our reflection can be a surface reflection:

  • What happened?
  • Which actions were taken?
  • What were the consequences that we observed?

Or we can choose to do a deep reflection:

  • What did I learn about myself through this experience?
  • What are we learning about how this team functions and handles conflict through this experience?
  • What broader issue can we see arising from this experience?

Surface reflection helps us understand past actions and behaviours. Deep reflection helps us examine underlying beliefs and assumptions.

Both are important. But even more important is to start developing a practice of reflection. Make a habit of having a regular end of day/week or month reflection session with your team. Develop a personal particle of reflection. The best way to do that is to start a journal and spend just 10-15 minutes a day nothing dow your answers to:

  • What has been my focus today?
  • What have I observed?
  • What am I learning?
  • What will I focus on tomorrow?

Now your are on track to convert knowledge into wisdom.


BestThis blog post is the second in a series of blog posts where Mike is exploring: Why is it important to develop not just yourself but also the people around you?

Building capacity is at the heart of the Service Profit Chain. If you are not familiar with the intricacies of the Service Profit chain, we have a special treat for you:

For this month only, you can download Mike’s book Best! No need to be cheap if … for FREE using this coupon JLXW8P9QSE. It is only available for the first 50 people so first come first serve.

Download the book here!

Why developing others should be high on your agenda

Learning

When implementing the philosophy of the Service Profit Chain, we often look at three core parts:

And all three are driven by the continuous development of your team.

Employee engagement is closely linked to job content. What do I get to do at work (the other part of a job is job context which is all about the condition you get to do your work in)? A key component of job content is the perception that I am growing and developing myself.

Any book or article you read about creating a customer-centric approach inevitably will talk about value. If we are not providing value, we do not have a business, not for very long at least. But values in a service business is a result of employee competencies. This has to do with the notion that services are asymmetric in their nature. What the client buys is not what we sell. The client has a need and we translate that need into our product. If you are going to do that better than your competition, it requires competent people.

And finally, customer loyalty is developed through skillful interaction that produces an emotional connection with our customers. Delivering the basic product according to specifications just ensures satisfaction; getting to loyalty requires so much more.

So you can do what many organisations do, hope that they will improve as they go.

Or you can do what the top performing service companies do, you can develop a culture of continuous improvement and learning that drives everything that you do.

If you are wondering what works best, let me help you…

Think about any type of human endeavour where we can observe that high performance is vastly different from just ordinary performance. Playing the piano, ballet dancing or competitive swimming just to name a few. In virtually every arena in which we observe excellence, we also see a commitment to continuous improvement…

We also know from research on learning that if you are good at something and you just do what you are good at every day, your performance will gradually deteriorate and get worse. Don’t believe me? So if you have had a drivers licence for more than 5 years, do you think you could pass a driver’s test tomorrow? See what I mean?

Only if you continue to practice can you maintain or even improve your performance.

So how do we build continuous perfomance into our day to day work? What can we do to make sure that our people are always learning and developing? That is going to be the theme for my next series of blog posts.


BestDuring the months of April, May, and June, we will be focusing human development. Why is it important to develop not just yourself but also the people around you? And what are ways to do it when we already have plenty on our plate as it is?

Building capacity is at the heart of the Service Profit Chain. If you would like the full concept served up in one go, you will find Mike’s book Best! No need to be cheap if… HERE.

For this month only, you can download the book for FREE using this coupon JLXW8P9QSE. It is only available for the first 50 people so first come first serve. Download the book now!

Why my fear of roller coasters does not keep me out of amusement parks

Helix - Liseberg - Gothenburg
Helix – Liseberg – Gothenburg

They scare the living daylight out of me those roller coasters.

Intellectually I understand that they are safe, probably safer that taking a taxi to the airport, statistically… but still. It’s always been like that, so maybe in a previous life I was traumatised by a roller coaster gone wild. Anyway that is not the point of this final blog post of the year. The reason I mention it is because paradoxically this year I have seen more incredible roller coasters and heard more delighted shrieks from thrilled crowds than at any time previously in my life. More on that in just a minute.

Yes I am in a reflective mood.

You see, technically, this week is just like all the other weeks, but somehow in our mind it’s quite special. It marks an ending and a new beginning and we all get in this mood of yearly review and even more importantly setting new bold goals for the coming year.

All my lovely blogging colleagues are probably bombarding you with: The ten best books you should have read, the eight new trends that you must understand or (flavour of the year) the twelve point action plan that will make this your best year ever!

So why the roller coasters?

Well believe it or not, this was the year that I got to spend considerable time in amusements parks!

Seriously!

As always I have been doing work with my loyal gang of regular hotel clients, but I also got to spend time at Efteling in Holland introducing the Service Profit Chain for IAAPA. In Copenhagen, we introduced a new approach to leadership development at Tivoli gardens and I had the honour for 16 weeks to take a group of seriously enthusiastic managers from Liseberg in Gothenburg through the GROW leadership program.

So what am I learning?

I think my key takeaway this year has been confirmation that at the end of the day, being a great manager is deceptively simple on the surface, and incredibly hard to do well in practice. It’s like juggling. You see the guy rotating 5 oranges in the air and you think: “That’s neat. I can do that.” You pick up the oranges and you understand that there is a gap between knowing and doing.

The 5 oranges of management that you need to juggle have been elegantly formulated by the Gallup organisation based on their extensive research of hundreds of business and managers.

Great managers have these talents/skills/abilities:

  • They motivate every single employee to take action and engage them with a compelling mission and vision.
  • They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.
  • They create a culture of clear accountability.
  • They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency.
  • They make decisions that are based on productivity, not politics.

That’s it! But again this is just more information, and I am sure you don’t need more information.

What you need is probably execution, the HOW part.

So that brings me to next year. Early 2017, we will be launching the Team Leader’s Toolbox – a training program aimed at helping busy mangers learn quickly how they juggle their ‘oranges’. Leave me a note here if you would like to be notified when we launch that program.

We have been exploring this theme of Leadership and Management over the year on the blog as well and if you missed some of the posts you can download a compilation in the form of ebook HERE.

Thank you for reading my blog. If there is anything you would like to see more (or less) of next year, don’t hesitate to drop me a line. I love hearing from my readers.

Merry Christmas and my best wishes for the coming year!

team-leaders-toolbox2Enter your email address below and we will notify you when we launch the Team Leader’s Toolbox!

_________________________________________________

This post is one of a series where we are exploring the notion of leadership and how this is different from management. Our starting point is the Service Profit Chain and the understating that the management part of our job will only take us so far. If we really want to create an organisation that is capable of delivering outstanding customer experiences, we need to develop an organisation that delivers outstanding employee experiences – and that requires leadership. You can check out other articles of the series below:

  1. Are you an inspiring leader to work for?
  2. What does it require to be an inspirational leader?
  3. The something for something system is at the heart of the uninspiring workplace.
  4. How is team management different from team leadership and why should I worry?
  5. Teams are organic systems, and therefore, by definition unstable.
  6. How you can help you team manage their states
  7. Do you understand the stages that your team goes through?
  8. What the h… went wrong?
  9. Who gets the last chef?
  10. Progress drives engagement – So how do you focus on progress?

Progress drives engagement – So how do you focus on progress?

Progress

Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run. Whether they are trying to solve a major scientific mystery or simply produce a high quality product or service, everyday progress, even a small win, can make all difference in how they feel and perform.

The Progress Principle

This quote which makes so much sense to me brings us to another aspect of not just why we need to focus on developing the people around us, but also how we can do it.

Focus on progress

In order to progress, we need a baseline to progress from. Once we have a baseline, we can start thinking about what we need to learn or practice in order to get better.

For learning actually to happen, there must be a gap between your current capability and the results that you desire.

So in order for our people actually to learn they need to:

  • Have an awareness of the gap
  • Be willing to declare their incompetence (I don’t know how to do that.)
  • Commit to learning

(I have written about this in a previous post some time ago.)

So if I sneak into your business and tap any one of your team members on the shoulder and ask them: “What are you working on at the moment in order to get better?”, or I ask them: “In what ways does your boss feel you have made progress last month?”, do they know?

Or is progress something that is randomly observed and then celebrated: “Oh look isn’t this nice!”?

Focusing on progress is an important part of your leadership role. And your most important tool for this is not a dashboard in excel but conversations, one-on-one conversations (According to Gallup research, team members who have no or very few one-to-one sessions with their direct supervisor are 67% more likely to be disengaged at work. I mention this just in case you have the notion that one-on-one is a waste of time and it is easier to tell them all at once.)

If you happen to be a manager of managers, this is even more import – you are the role model. If you are not having one-to-one conversations (about progress) with your direct reports, there is little chance that they are having them with their team members. In fact, if you are not talking to them about how they are progressing with their approach to manage progress with their team, I am pretty sure it is not happening at all.

How to structure an engaging conversation

What would be a good way to structure these conversations?

Establish the gap. Once we have a gap, we can establish a goal. Moving toward our goal is what progress would look like. Then we can have a chat about so what is going on now compared to that goal. Once we agree on how what is going on is different from the goal, then we can talk about what options there could be in order to make progress towards the goal. Finally, we pick an action and commit to doing that.

The following conversation will be a follow up / feedback on how this is going. If you are familiar with coaching, you will have recognised that what I have described here as a framework is in fact the GROW coaching model – you can check it out in more details HERE.

In any case, in my upcoming course The Team Leaders’ Toolbox, we will be exploring this model more in details. If you would like to be notified when we launch that, sign up with the link below!

team-leader-toolbox-1Enter your email address below and we will notify you when we launch the Team Leader’s Toolbox!

__________________________________________________________________

This post is one of a series where we are exploring the notion of leadership and how this is different from management. Our starting point is the Service Profit Chain and the understating that the management part of our job will only take us so far. If we really want to create an organisation that is capable of delivering outstanding customer experiences, we need to develop an organisation that delivers outstanding employee experiences – and that requires leadership. You can check out other articles of the series below:

  1. Are you an inspiring leader to work for?
  2. What does it require to be an inspirational leader?
  3. The something for something system is at the heart of the uninspiring workplace.
  4. How is team management different from team leadership and why should I worry?
  5. Teams are organic systems, and therefore, by definition unstable.
  6. How you can help you team manage their states
  7. Do you understand the stages that your team goes through?
  8. What the h… went wrong?
  9. Who gets the last chef?

Who gets the last chef?

Who gets the last chef?

That was the title of my presentation for a group of managers last week. The title was inspired by a number of conversations that I have been having with clients during 2016. (You can substitute ‘Chef’ for the type of critical position that is part of your current reality.)

Reflecting on those conversations, I realised that there has been a common thread through most of them.

They have all been concerned with:

  • The lack of bench strength on their management teams
  • The scarcity of new talent

On a day to day basis, this is not so obvious, and therefore it’s not a high priority; but it hits them every time a key team member needs to be replaced. First, they realise that there is no obvious no.2 who has been groomed for the job. Secondly, when they start the search, they quickly understand that there is not a lot of talents available out there.

Problem is that once they realise this, it’s a bit late to do much about it other than pray…

And honestly, are they going to get the cream of the crop in that situation? Probably not. Most likely, they will get what is left over. It’s like purchasing a second hand car. You are essential taking over someone else’s problem.

Why?

Because the smartest of your colleagues out there have understood the problem a long time ago and have been working strategically with their HR development.

They don’t start thinking about who is going to replace the head chef on the day that he resigns.

They have a strategy to be the preferred employer in their area and an important part of that is a proactive strategy for succession planning. That means that when they recruit or promote someone to the position of, say sous-chef, they ask themselves does this person have the potential to become a chef one day, or is this just a good cook who just might make it as a half decent sous-chef? If that is the case, we have created a problem with a time release.

Part of being a preferred employer is being recognised as an organisation where employees can learn, develop and grow. And in order for that to happen, someone needs to take charge of developing, coaching and mentoring.

If you are a manager, that someone is you.

But this is an actually quite challenge for most managers. In fact, it is one of six key challenges that managers have in common across borders, hierarchies and professions, according to research conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership.

Developing, coaching and mentoring team members also happens to be one more of the leadership attributes that our current series on defining management and leaderships is about.

So let’s start off by understanding how do people actually learn and develop in the job situation?

According to a much quoted piece of research also by the Center for Creative Leadership*, lessons learned by successful and effective managers are roughly:

  • 70% from challenging assignments
  • 20% from developmental relationships
  • 10% from coursework and training

The authors of the research explain it like this:

Development generally begins with a realisation of current or future need and the motivation to do something about it. This might come from feedback, a mistake, watching other people’s reactions, failing or not being up to a task – in other words, from experience. The odds are that development will be about 70% from on-the-job experiences – working on tasks and problems; about 20% from feedback and working around good and bad examples of the need; and 10% from courses and reading.

We can support learning and development through courses and training sessions, absolutely, but at the end of the day, it can only be support for what is actually going on in the day to day job situation. That is where the real learning takes place; which is why the immediate manager plays such a key role in the development of team members.

In the coming blog posts, we are going to explore this crucial leadership competence and what you need to do in practical terms.

*Lombardo, Michael M; Eichinger, Robert W (1996). The Career Architect Development Planner (1st ed.). Minneapolis: Lominger. p. iv. ISBN 0-9655712-1-1.

team-leaders-toolbox-3Enter your email address below and we will notify you when we launch the Team Leader’s Toolbox!

__________________________________________________________________

This post is one of a series where we are exploring the notion of leadership and how this is different from management. Our starting point is the Service Profit Chain and the understating that the management part of our job will only take us so far. If we really want to create an organisation that is capable of delivering outstanding customer experiences, we need to develop an organisation that delivers outstanding employee experiences – and that requires leadership. You can check out other articles of the series below:

  1. Are you an inspiring leader to work for?
  2. What does it require to be an inspirational leader?
  3. The something for something system is at the heart of the uninspiring workplace.
  4. How is team management different from team leadership and why should I worry?
  5. Teams are organic systems, and therefore, by definition unstable.
  6. How you can help you team manage their states
  7. Do you understand the stages that your team goes through?
  8. What the h… went wrong?