9 Ways To Make The Learning Stick
The learning begins when the teaching is over.
By Brent Filson - 8/2006
The elephant in the room for corporate leadership development leaders is how to have clients continue their learning when they get back to their jobs.
Most leadership development leaders go about it in the wrong ways -- if they go about it at all. The right ways are surprisingly simple, easy to execute, and smashingly effective. They’ll get your clients motivated to learn over the long haul, achieve a much larger ROI for your programs, and contribute to the top and bottom line growth of your business.
(1) Use your best cat’s-paw: their managers. Clearly, most of what people learn in a course is usually not applied back on the job. The first step in rectifying that is to bring the managers of your clients into the learning process. They’ll be willing to be involved if they see their participation helps them achieve more results, results they themselves are being held accountable for.
–Before the course: Your clients and their managers must come to an agreement on what constitutes successful applications of the course methodologies back on the job.
–After the course: The clients and managers identify and validate the course-driven changed behavior that will lead to increases in results that the manager defines as relevant. "Course-driven changed behavior that leads to increases in results" is the operative concept. If the course does not advance that concept, it may not be worth their time.
–Ongoing: Both managers and clients should continually measure, monitor, evaluate, and validate the post-course progress of the clients. And they should be held accountable for such activities.
(2) Promote the RIGHT leadership. The WRONG leadership not only costs too much, it can lose you your job. Many learning leaders put courses together based on the wrong kind of leadership and then wonder why their clients avoid manifesting such leadership on the job.
If you don’t focus on right leadership at the beginning -- in your course design -- then, getting your clients to apply what they learned will be like trying to change tires on a moving car.
Here’s what right leadership is: It’s fundamentally motivational. On one level, that’s a simplistic way of looking at leadership; however, on another level, seeing leadership primarily in motivational terms is a necessary first step in understanding and applying right leadership.
Right leadership is not about ordering to people to go from A to B or having a style of leadership that promotes such leadership; right leadership is about having people want to go from A to B. Instilling "want to" in others, i.e., having people be motivated, is the defining difference between average and great leaders.
Here’s what right leadership does: It simply gets results, not average results but a concept I’ve been teaching leaders for some 22 years: "more results faster continually."
When the right leadership they learn in the course propels behavior back on the job that helps them achieve increases in results they are being held accountable for, they’re more likely to continue that behavior.
Many learning leaders, however, don’t make a systematic, comprehensive effort to support and strengthen such behavior. Such an effort could involve not only monitoring their on-the-job leadership activities but providing systematic reinforcement through specific, on-going processes. There are many categories of such processes, recognition, rewards, punishments, etc.
For instance, in the recognition category, you can implement on-going processes that incorporate:
- upper management recognition
- peer recognition
- recognition from their immediate supervisor and the supervisor’s supervisor.
A footnote: "What does your organization really reward?" is a question you should be asking when you develop rewards and recognition processes. Yet because few leaders ask the question, their organizations often reward the wrong things. Sure, these organizations may pay lip service to rewarding people for the right things: getting results, getting the right results, getting the right results in the right ways. But what they really reward, often in terms of promotions and job perks, are such things as the care and feeding of top leaders’ egos, political machinations, tyrannical leadership.
(3) Get the results most learning leaders miss: hard, measured business results. Leaders don’t really learn unless they are getting business results, not training results. (For more on this see the last July issue, "6 Reasons To Bomb-proof Your Leadership Development Programs For The Coming Recession.")
(4) Promote the right results requirements. Even if your clients are getting business results, they may the wrong business results. If they are getting the wrong results or what they or the company perceive are the wrong results, they will not take your methodologies back on the job. To make sure your leadership development course sticks with your clients, insure the results they aim to achieve will meet these criteria.
- The results will come in a specific length of time.
- The results will go beyond what the leaders are achieving now.
- The results can be measured, validated, and used as springboards for even more results.
- The results can be translated into money saved/earned.
- The results can’t be achieved without the help of the right leadership you’re promoting.
(5) Promote Critical Convergence. Critical Convergence should be a foundation concept underlying all your program offerings. If the words "critical convergence" are not in your lexicon as a learning leader, you’re missing out on great opportunities to boost the leadership effectiveness of your clients as well as your job and career.
You know that mandates directing your clients to apply what they learned back on the job rarely work. What works, as you well know, is that the clients themselves become motivated to take initiative to keep the learning alive.
They will only push themselves to accomplish extraordinary things for your leadership programs when they share in your enthusiasms for those programs. That sharing is called "critical convergence", the joining of your enthusiasms and theirs so they are as enthusiastic as you about applying what they learned at work. This means that no skills should be adopted that cannot be directly applied on the job. Until a critical convergence happens, the learning won’t stick.
Don’t think the critical convergence happens automatically. You must work hard to achieve it.
- It must be built into the overall learning strategy, starting at the design phase.
- It must be a part of each phase of each course.
- It must be promoted after the completion of the course through action plans that get business results.
Here are three steps you can take to help make a critical convergence happen in particular situations in the field.
- Understand their needs.
- Turn their needs into problems.
- Have their commitment to your cause be a solution to the problems of their needs.
(6) Switch on the organizational megawatts: relationships
There is a tendency for leaders to focus on macro level activities; but the most powerful learning processes that make learning stick happen at the micro level with people-to-people interactions and relationships.
Those daily interactions determine whether your programs live or die. Promot
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