To lift an employee’s performance, you can bark do-this, do-that commands. But you’ll make a more positive impact by helping people discover for themselves how to improve.
Use adult learning theory to guide your coaching. Here’s how:
√ Start with “why.” Ask the employee, “Why do you think you need to learn this?”
The best answer will reveal an eagerness to learn for the right reasons. But if the respondent doesn’t connect the dots, identify the purpose before you proceed.
√ Branch out. Lay out a variety of information sources, perhaps in a library or “idea room.”
Prod employees to venture outside their comfort zone. Suggest ways for them to experience fresh perspectives from people they might otherwise overlook. Have them join working groups that focus on cross-departmental projects.
√ Resist distractions of too much information. A coach paves the way for meaningful learning. But the temptation to get transfixed by distracting data can prevent true learning from taking place. If the employee constantly bounces from smartphone app to tweets to texting, work together to assess the quality of each activity and to what extent it promotes personal and professional growth.
√ Emphasize lifelong learning. Urge employees to keep striving to learn more rather than reach an end point where they can declare, “I’ve learned enough.” You want them to view learning as an ongoing, enriching challenge in which they’re always open to meeting new people and uncovering new resources.
— Adapted from “Applying the 6 key principles of adult learning to yourself,” Jeff Cobb, www.missiontolearn.com.