Poor management is the top reason why people leave companies. Therefor, creating good managers and leaders is essential to the health of a learning culture.
- Another critical component for building a positive culture of learning, is the role of your managers and leaders. This is because the real, daily experiences of any organization lives in the environment that managers create for their employees, and that leaders create for the departments and teams. Let's first look at managers. We've all heard the adage that people leave a boss, not a company, and it's true. Numerous surveys have shown that the number one reason people give is the relationship with their manager, and I'm sure you've had a range of bosses in your career too.
The good ones help us be our best, and make us feel great about coming to work, and the bad ones, well, they make us eventually realize that we'd be better off somewhere else. When you look deeper, it really comes down to whether the manager is creating a positive learning culture. It's the manager's daily words and actions that are the soil from which the tree can thrive, or wither. While other parts of the organization can compensate a little for a poor manager, nothing has as direct of an impact on an employee's ability to thrive and grow.
I've identified 20 key skills that managers need in order to build a positive culture of learning, I've listed them in the handout for this chapter. Since most of us have a manager, I encourage you to take a look at and rate your own manager against these critical qualities, and also to evaluate how well your organization is preparing all of your managers to excel in these skills. If you get your manager and leading training right, the whole culture of your organization shifts. This cannot just be information about these skills but actual instruction, followed by practice that builds the right habits, and it must be coupled with ongoing coaching, to further increase skill levels to mastery.
When I look at how manager training is offered in most organizations, it's often missing these critical elements. Hearing about good coaching is not the same as actually coaching someone. Talking about what facilitates team collaboration is not the same as doing those behaviors in a realistic simulation. We must must must ensure that learning events include practice, so that we can help people develop the right habits, and build their skills to the right levels. The truth is that managers need to develop mastery in these core skills, or else their employees won't be able to thrive.
Now let's look at your top leaders and executives. I think the healthiest and most vibrant organizations have leaders who themselves have a growth mindset and believe in the power of learning. They talk about their own mistakes, insights they've gained, and their own quest for improvement. They also advocate for learning, they empower a leader of learning and give that person the same status as HR, creating a team of talent equals. They not only promote learning, but they participate in it.
This might include kicking off a key program, as well as authentically attending some events as an eager learner. The key here is humility, the best leaders never assume that because they sit at the top of the organization, they've got nothing left to learn. In fact, the best leaders are the hungriest learners. Needless to say, their beliefs, attitudes and actions cascade through the whole organization, making it much easier for the talent teams to get traction. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, leaders hold managers accountable for the health of their teams.
All of the above efforts fall flat if managers are not evaluated and rewarded based on the health of their teams. This one is a biggie, high performing organizations don't turn a blind eye to the damage being done by poor managers. Let me be really clear, when there's high turnover on a team, something is wrong, when teams stumble and underperform, something needs attention, and when there's high levels of absenteeism, illness and complaints to HR, you've got a crisis.
Just like with trees, employees will show you the quality of the soil they sit in, and if you ignore it and allow poor managers to stay in those roles, you'll undermine all attempts to create a positive culture of learning. I believe this is the number one problem that needs to be addressed in organizations today, and the organizations that do, reap amazing rewards, in the form of competitive advantage, employee engagement, and customer loyalty.
- Establishing a growth mindset
- Integrating learning into your organization
- Empowering through knowledge sharing
- Overcoming obstacles
- Addressing opportunities
- Measuring success