Here are a few phrases you’ll never hear a successful CEO say: “I’m comfortable with a business that breaks even,” “I love a staff that does the bare minimum,” “A Q3 with the exact same profit as last year? Awesome!”
Successful companies are always looking to grow and outpace their competition, which is why a learning organization is such a prominent goal. Having a company culture centered around learning from mistakes and continuous growth has more value than any software or consulting you could find. So if you’re looking to build a learning organization and grow your business, here are four tips that can help you get there.
1. Give your staff opportunities to take risks
Most businesses are too harsh on employees for making small mistakes. This leads to a stigma among staff that they need to play it safe, and stick to what they know. So encourage your employees to step out of their comfort zone and take risks.
This pill can be tough to swallow. They’re called risks for a reason, so there’s no guarantee that you’ll see results, and when employees take risks, sometimes it can lead to losses. However, taking risks is the only way that your staff can take it upon themselves to grow.
Encourage your staff to find new ways to approach challenges or learn a new skillset that could give them mobility. This will give your employees motivation to get better on their own, and if they make a mistake, then it’s a great learning tool for what to do next time.
2. Reward and recognize your employees for learning
Imagine a baby taking its first steps. If you compare their walking talents to most adults in the world, they’re not the best at it. In fact, they’ll stumble and fall over every chance they get. But everyone around that kid is encouraging and awestruck when they take their first steps towards becoming a functional and bipedal adult.
Through encouragement and rewards, that kid is going to be much more determined to get better at walking. Show your staff the same type of recognition.
I’m not saying that you should treat your staff like they’re a bunch of babies. That would be condescending and quite frankly, an awkward conversation for everyone involved. When you train an employee at a new position, they’re not going to get the hang of their new responsibilities right away. But if they show potential, cultivate their determination and encourage their growth. They’ll strive to get better in no time.
3. Put more development plans in place
If an employee is underperforming, it can seem easy to give them the old pink slip and send them on their way, but that’s the easiest waste of an onboarding budget imaginable. As long as your staff shows drive, it’s important to lay out steps for them to improve.
Offer them recommendations for a book, or show them examples of what they’re working towards. Sometimes the only difference between a lackluster employee and an all-star is knowing the steps to get there.
However, it’s important to make sure that these employees don’t feel singled out. Set development plans evenly across the board for your staff. When you show your staff that everyone has areas to improve upon, these development plans seem a lot less like babying, and more like an actionable plan to get better.
4. Let your staff see their strengths from your perspective
Sometimes it can be tough for someone to appreciate their own skillset. If you’ve ever heard your own voice in a recording, you understand exactly what I mean. But sometimes it’s the only way that we can hone in on what we’re good at, and learn what areas we could work on.
Try implementing 360s for your staff. No, I’m not talking about spinning them around in their office chair, that’s more of a last resort. 360s are performance reviews from the perspective of managers, peers, and sometimes even customers. You’ll be able to show your staff their strengths and give them opportunities to tackle their weaknesses
However, try not to focus on the weaknesses too heavily. Studies show that this can lead to self-confidence issues which can be counter-productive in the long run. But when you prioritize your staff’s strengths, you can give them the motivation to work harder, and improve their skillset.
Overall, it’s about facilitating drive in your employees.
A true learning organization is hard to come by. It’s hard to find a staff that has the motivation to continuously improve. When you know how to cultivate that motivation yourself, you can turn any business into an ideal learning organization. And when your employees actively seek out ways to get better, you’ll see results in no time.
Growth usually takes on one of two very distinct pathways: a linear path and an exponential one. The latter sounds great, right? Just pull a few levers and watch your organization reap the benefits of exponential growth, making all of your dreams come true. Wait till that next quarterly review, you’ll show them you mean business!
Except that isn’t the entire story, and consistent leadership development results are better than exponential growth that isn’t sustainable.
So why talk about exponential growth in the domain of creating better leaders in the workplace? Well, because it never hurts to have something to aspire to. It never hurts to see what can indeed happen when consistent action is scaled out. That’s the key to making leadership development a potent component in today’s fast paced business environment.
What does feedback really mean? We talk about feedback, but we know that not all feedback is created equal. Feedback should begin with empathy, which is truly understanding the other person's perspective. From there, we want to come forward with evidence that backs up the statements we're going to make to that person. Direct, professional, and straightforward is the name of the game here.
Feedback and accountability go hand in hand within the world of strategically assessing leadership strengths and weaknesses.
What Comprehensive Feedback Isn't
Sometimes it's important to highlight what something isn't before we can really start visualizing what it is constructively. If you want to build or even transform current feedback and accountability processes, here's what to avoid most:
Relying on one assessment. There is no perfect assessment, and it's critical to avoid idolizing any assessment as the One True Measure of performance
Keeping resources too narrow. This isn't about trying to use as few resources as possible. Pull out all of the tools and see what's reasonable in terms of the specific leader being refined for greater opportunities (the ultimate goal)
Don't settle for just covering strengths and weaknesses in terms of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Full insight requires full analysis; KPIs are just a shortcut.
Collecting quantitative data is important, but don’t skip the opportunities to collect qualitative data along the way as well. For example,
Breaking Down Strategic Leadership Assessment - The Best Path Forward for Growth
In order to get the growth needed to stay competitive, it's time to go back to the drawing board. What does strategic leadership assessment look like in action? Well, the important point is that it begins with realizing the end goal: you're getting insight into an individual's makeup and identifying what their true strengths and weaknesses are. We're going back to the 3D Leadership model as one of the key foundational points of this plan.
Staying the Course
Motivation is a big topic in the business world because we're used to watching people quit. Why do people quit before they've reached the finish line? Sometimes it's a matter of not being able to visualize the end. Or perhaps it's not having enough milestones to reflect upon as they move deeper into their journey. Not everyone will finish their leadership development plan, or approach it with enthusiasm.
Reassurance isn't a bad thing, and it can help bolster morale to the point where employees buy back in. For entry-level employees, leadership development can feel impossible because they're starting their journey with a lot to cover. For the more seasoned leader, development often takes a "been there, done that" feeling.
Dive Deeper Into Refinement With Developing World Class Leaders: The Ultimate Guide to Leadership Development
Digging into the roots of better leadership development isn’t an easy journey. Yet it is absolutely essential for companies of all sizes.
Did you miss the deep dive on assessments? Check out the Strategic View of Hiring podcast episode, Exploring the World of Assessments.
Check out the book store and order a copy of Developing World Class Leaders: The Ultimate Guide to Leadership Development today.
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