One of the things that is happened in the training and coaching industry but I think at times has been damaging is the employees perception it's the company's responsibility to train them. There is something so wrong about this perception and understanding by employees. Self-development is a powerful concept but I also think it's one that needs to be taught and facilitated. If people invested in themselves and their own career development along with the services that a company provides in terms of training and learning opportunities this is a powerful combination; nevertheless, many organization's employees assume the training they receive is suffice. In reality the training might be suffice but there is something to be said for the mental commitment to developing oneself as an accelerator.
I believe self-development is a manifestation of taking initiative. We need to not only facilitate these concepts but ask questions around them. For example, ask a simple question such as:
"what are you doing to take initiative to improve in this particular area?"
We also need to facilitate action as a relates to self-development and taking initiative. A manager coach can ask employees to identify one area where they want to improve as a relates to their job and to find a book or article that is specific to that desired improvement. Give them one week to find that book or article and then assigned to self-directed learning activities such as:
"Come into next month staff meeting and share two unique things that you've learned as a result of that material that you're committed to changing."
A few years ago I met with three different client's sales teams. I asked all three teams if they were invested, truly invested, in their career development. 100% of all three sales teams raise their hands and said yes. The next question I asked was how many of you were currently reading a book about improving your selling ability… Here it comes: 89% of the people from three different organizations sales teams were currently not reading or doing anything as it related to improving their ability to sell. The result? They were lying to themselves. The true result? They were undermining their own ability to be successful in progress their career. This is not a criticism of these people as we have to remember self-development is something that also needs to be facilitated from the leader.
On the other hand maybe they've been conditioned to just receive training and have never really thought about the concept of self-development.
Here are five self-development strategies: (Audio Overview: click here)
- Journal-based Coaching- have employees write down one positive thing they did and one where they had a lack of success specific to an area of performance being focused upon. Writing it down gets the employee to truly own it and see it in a format other than verbalization.
- Chaining Training - one of the simplest things that you can do is to print an article that is germane to your team or group of employees. Make one copy and distribute it to the first employee. Ask that employee to write down what they learned from the article and one thing they're committed to improving as a result of reading the article. They write this on the back of the article. The next step is they handed to another employee in this prompts the employee to see how other people on the team are simulating the articles content as well as their commitment to improving. This breeds momentum and self-development from a team concept.
- Observational coaching - if you have someone who needs to improve an element of service one of the best things that you can do is have them observe other employees outside of their particular careers. Currently, we work with the bank on the East Coast and one of the things managers do is ask their front line staff to go observe service at Starbucks coffee. I am not a coffee drinker but I love Starbucks level of service. The task is to go observe and write down the observation as well as one thing they learned from the observation they are committed to improving.
- The Floor is Yours - the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team, a longtime client of ours, uses this concept consistently. The objective is each person can pick a book they want to read but every two weeks someone is asked to get up and share the book they are reading, what they've learned, and suggestions for the rest of the sales or customer service team. This breeds confidence, presentation skills, and more importantly a positive association with self-development.
- Teach the Teacher - to know something is to have the ability to teach it. One of the most positive things a manager coach can do is to prompt their employees to become teachers. Whether it would be a new product or service or policy assign an employee the responsibility to teach to the rest of the team. This prompts a major dynamic shift from sitting back is a passive learner and watching to actually standing up and being prepared in really knowing the subject matter.
These methods are not full proof, rather they are successful if the manager coach does the following:
- Provides positive reinforcement in regard to the effort exhibited.
- Rewards the employee for their commitment to learning and the task at hand.
- Make self-development a continuous element of their coaching program.
- Not being critical, at least not initially, of the task at hand as long as there was a true commitment and effort. The ultimate goal is to create a positive association with self-development.
- Scheduling self-development activities on a monthly if not quarterly basis.
Note: Did you know self-development is actually one of the areas we measure in our coach-ability and approach-ability employee assessment?: click here