Friday, March 6, 2009

Leadership Is Understanding and Using Adult Learner Principles


Leaders and managers often get upset with their subordinates because they feel that their direct report “doesn’t get it”. It becomes very frustrating when a reoccurring problem takes place during a process or in a report monitored by a superior.

Let us be honest. How many of you department leaders/managers have employees who, “JUST DON’T GET IT!”? Is it them or is it you?

It is important that we do not overlook the “people resources” necessary to carry out the mission of the business. Business staff members represent a building of “adult learners”. The leadership for the training and development of staff with the vast learning resources available is important. Confident and knowledgeable staff members can excel which will mean that their contribution to the organization may excel also. The following are sample ideas to help leaders maximize worker’s learning and efforts.

1. Take your “self-study” data and compile the recommendations for improvement.
a. Work with staff members to brainstorm ways to make these recommendations happen.
b. Set up the goals and strategies with time lines to make these happen
c. Post goals and strategies on line, on the walls of the office as well as on the back of business cards. Staff members can hand out their cards for networking. This is good for business as they are networking and marketing at the same time.
d. Constantly revisit these in individual and group meetings
e. Establish a scoring rubric for measurable results
f. Post measurable results so that the staff and public are constantly
reminded of the benefits of working for or doing business with the

2. Build adult learning communities and opportunities for the staff members. Capital Works * reported that employees learn at work through the following means:
a. Company provided training 10%
b. On the job experience 35%
c. Interaction with co-workers 18%
d. Mentored by peer or manager 10%
All other ways reported were 5% or less... so they are not the most effective way to build learning in a concentrated effort.

The trick is to understand the informal learning in the organization, find more accidental learning and encourage it to strengthen the interaction with co-workers.

3. Use andragogy – “the art and science of helping adults learn” making classrooms learner- based classrooms…not teacher based” *. There are specific “adult learner principles” to be understood and utilized by every leader and department manager. These should become a part of the management culture to help all staff members “get it”.

Business workers are “adult learners”…not just adults hired to do a job. Most need to be treated as such so that they can develop the confidence to become more intrinsically motivated, excel in at their work and add enthusiasm for the business’ culture.

* Marcia Conner – “Introducing Informal Learning”