Performance Management – Creating A Learning Culture

As I reflect on my client conversations this month, the topic of creating a learning culture and using the performance management process as an enabler of this dialogue, has come up a lot. This approach is about finding moments every day to have a new insight or doing something that stretches and develops us. In this blog we will explore strategies to consider to create an environment of growth and development every day. 

How do we learn best?

If you reflect on the last time you learnt something new, you will gain valuable insights about how you learn best. Typically learning happens in three key ways:

  • Formal training – learning a new skill through a programme, podcast, or book, for example. 
  • Learning by doing – taking on a stretching assignment or project that is outside of your comfort zone.
  • Learning through collaborating – having conversations with a mentor or coach, for example, to further your growth through self-awareness. 

It is useful to consider what type of learner you are vs the team you manage. We all have our own unique ways to learn best. I notice in coaching sessions that some people learn best by talking out loud, others by making notes, and some people by visual metaphors. By being aware of your own approach and others, we can tailor our style of communication and support to everyone in our team even more. 

What environment do you create?

Most leaders set the tone of the team around them. At its best the leader is role modelling their own development by being open to others about their own progress and failures. Examples might include:

  • Sharing their failures with the team and what they learnt from them. 
  • Inviting other people’s opinions in a team meeting rather than sharing only their view. 
  • Inviting others to speak first and attentively listening. 
  • Ensuring there are regular conversations about development, not just during quarterly performance conversations. 
  • Being agile in the moment to potential learning opportunities for someone – spotting these and grabbing them. 
  • Using a coaching approach as a leader can support the learning of others more effectively than having a transactional approach to a conversation. 
  • Creating an environment where everyone can contribute, for example in meetings, taking into consideration people’s personality preferences of introversion or extroversion and ensuring you bring all voices to the meeting. 

What does stretch or learning look like?

This will vary from person to person. We are aiming for anything that takes you out of your comfort zone either personally or professionally. Examples may include:

  • Taking up a new hobby. 
  • In your exercise of choice, doing something differently, for example a new class, or milestone for running, tennis or golf for example. 
  • If you are a reader, then choosing a different genre of book than your usual preference. 
  • Reaching out to connections at work for different opinions on a project and asking their opinion. 
  • Taking moments for self-reflection either on your own or with a coach, can increase your self-awareness and in turn create a moment of growth. 

Performance management conversations

Every conversation can create an opportunity for learning. I was working with a leader recently who noted that it only took ten minutes to have a powerful conversation with her direct report, because she used an open, exploratory style and was genuinely interested in the other person’s growth. Using these valuable coaching techniques can create quick moments of interaction that make a difference. Examples include:

  • Have a meeting container – i.e. start with asking what the person wants to get from the meeting, ensure you explore in partnership with the person during the meeting enabling them to share, and finishing with their learnings about themselves. This in itself can create powerful conversations that don’t need to take very long, once you are both in the rhythm of doing this. 
  • Listen – Active listening takes full presence, withholding judgements and noticing your own assumptions and distractions. 
  • Inviting – Asking questions rather than directing the conversation encourages exploration beyond the comfort zone. 
  • Staying away from solutions – being properly heard without the need for someone else to come in and fix things is useful in building the relationship, as well as accessing someone’s creativity and resourcefulness. It takes practice. I encourage you to notice how often you jump in with solutions when you could perhaps invite ideas from the other person. 

In Summary

I invite you to reflect on what you could do to create more learning moments for you and your team over the next few weeks. Learning can happen every day in small ways rather than only waiting for the formal training programme or performance management conversation to notice it. In fact, there is huge benefit for the whole team to operate a culture of learning every day, encouraging creative thinking, collaboration and creating a fail fast and learn from it mindset, rather than feeling the need to hide mistakes.

The comfort zone can be a cosy place, yet inviting people every day to take the leap out of it into growth and development can be rewarding for everyone, creates an environment of both challenge and support.  If you would like to understand how coaching can help you create a learning culture or support your performance management conversations with your team, please get in touch.

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