“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
– Benjamin Franklin
As a manager, have you ever felt like you are hitting your head against a brick wall? Do you feel like your team ignore your suggestions, directions and advice? Do you find you have to explain the same things to them over and over?
If you answered ‘yes’ to one or more of these questions, you might be hitting what we could describe as the management brick wall. Rather than keep hitting your head against it while thinking it’s your employee’s fault, how about considering what you could change in your approach to improve the situation.
Consider the following tips that might go part way to knocking down the wall.
1. We all learn differently
Each person in your team is unique; they are not (and nor should you want them to be!) a replica of you. As such, they each will have slightly different ways that they prefer to learn a new skill, seek knowledge and gain experience. Some people learn best through reading and reflection in a quiet environment, some like to read and then discuss, some like to get stuck in and give something a try, some like to watch a demonstration, some like to hear from an expert, some like to talk to different people…and so on. Often learners are described as Visual, Auditory or Kinesthetic, yet many are a combination of two or more of these categories and there will be subtle differences amongst even learners with the same ‘type’ of learning style. Understanding how each team member likes to learn will help you understand how best to approach teaching, instructing, coaching and guiding them in new areas. And understanding how they like to learn is as simple as asking them!
2. Our motivations vary
As with learning styles, we each have different things that will motivate us to perform and succeed at work. For some it is having new challenges, for others diversity in their work, for some it is working in a team, for others it is to be able to work autonomously. Strange, but true, research in this area has found that money is not the prime motivator for most people – sure it’s often important, yet not the main thing that inspires them to achieve. Looking for opportunities to tap into people’s motivations will help you to build their knowledge, skills and experience more effectively than just giving them a task to do or telling them how something should be done. For example, if you want them to develop their networking skills, you will only get so far by telling them they need to interact more with other staff members. On the other hand, you might find their skills grow if you explain how developing these skills will enhance their chances of future promotion (if that is a motivator) and that you are asking them to sit on a cross-functional team (working in a team may be a motivator as well) because you feel it will give them more opportunity to learn about the company and to network with colleagues.
3. Sometimes there are other ways
It may be hard to believe, however sometimes our way isn’t the only way. In fact, sometimes there might even be a better way! So be open to your employees’ ideas. As long as they are clear on expectations, know what the boundaries are, and assuming there is no significant risk, there will be times when asking them how they would like to approach a task might be an effective strategy. People learn much more effectively when they need to tap into their own ideas and take responsibility for their actions – they learn when it works and they learn when it doesn’t. As a manager, if you set the expectations, then coach and support them, you might be surprised to see positive results!
So if you feel like you are hitting your head against a brick wall, take 5 minutes to think about what you can do differently to get the best out of your team.
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