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Understanding the learning process and how to adapt your managment style

18th April 2017 | Blog


By Julien Picq, Head of Business Systems

We all get excited when starting a new job, a new task or a new project but what happens next is often a series of successes and failures. How, as a manager or future manager, can you adapt yourself to drive your team members to overcome difficulties in an efficient way?

What ever we are learning at any stage of our life or career, we are all going through a learning process which could be defined in a few phases.

Phase 1: The Excitement

This is beginning and the most joyful phase of all. Remember the time when you decided to learn how to ski?

At that time, how was your motivation? What was your skiing ability?

So you talk to your friends about your upcoming, exciting ski trip. You go to the store and buy a colourful ski jacket, oversized goggles and a funky winter hat. Great, you are all set and ready to ride like a pro. You are now on the top of the snow-covered hill and you feel energized by the environment and proud to be part of the skier club. Of course you have doubts and start thinking:  what if I don’t make it? What will people think of me if I fall? Will it take me longer to learn compared to others? Is skiing really for me? But you don’t get discouraged because you know that you look awesome in your new ski outfit and you believe in yourself. If others can do it why not me, since it looks so easy. You scream loud to give you strength and finally hit the slope, there you go!

Your motivation is high, skill zero.

Phase 2: The disillusion

In spite of all the advice you received, you fall down… You laugh and get up and try again and again and again. At the end of the day you are exhausted, you feel the pain. Three days later you don’t think it is going as well as you have thought. Your posture is still wrong and you haven’t figure out what the ski poles are for. You want to take a break, lay down on a sunbed on a café terrace. You want to quit!

Your motivation is low and skill a bit higher.

Phase 3: The learner

You may have been encouraged by someone or found the motivation in yourself because you really want to succeed. You have accepted the fact that it will take some time to learn and seek advice from others. You observe the best skiers; you try, ask for feedback and correct yourself. Then it starts to work out, the excitement is back for a short time until you fall again. You think you know what you’re doing until the next slope gets steeper.

Your motivation and skill goes up and down until…

Phase 4: The performer

You finally feel confident and go fast on the steepest slopes. You enjoy every moment, make jumps and shine. Others start to look to you as an example. You even teach others how to ski, show them the tricks. You are awesome again and you just love it.

Your motivation is high, skill is high.

Phase 5: The demotivator

For the fourth consecutive year you are invited to go to the same ski resort. In spite of the fact you liked the place, you don’t feel amused. You consider the slopes too easy, you need more challenge. You start complaining, even discourage others including new skiers. You are considering trying snowboarding but you are afraid to start something new again from scratch. You may stay in your comfort zone and become the group terrorist (think back to Ken Way’s piece in the last issue) or decide the very next day to grab a snowboard in your hand and start the Phase1 again. Of course your ski skills will help you to learn faster and you believe you can reach phase four with your snowboard in no time.

Your motivation is low, skill is high.

Such analogy can be applied for any learning process we are going through. Without strong motivation behind we can quickly get discouraged. How could a manager help?

Adapt your managing style!

Managing people is about detecting in which phase your team member is currently at and adapt the managing style accordingly.

Phase one: Your new team members just arrived. Thinking back to the phase one ski analogy, they are very motivated to start their new assignment. Spend time with them to show them how to do things and to set up your level of expectation. Do not expect them to be autonomous, they need you to give directions and constructive feedback.

Phase two: In this phase your new team members will need your psychological support. Even if they have already digested the theory through training sessions, the reality is not as easy.

Phase three: This is the phase where your team members will need to be coached, guided when needed.

Phase four: Your team members have became good performers and are autonomous. They just need top level guidance and look for your trust. Be aware that they may know more than you already. Delegate your work and focus on other priorities while monitoring their results. Build up a structure so they can teach the others.

Phase five: There is a risk your team members will become terrorists and bring down overall team motivation. Maybe look to find them different responsibilities.


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