2020 Goal: Develop my team and still get stuff done…

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We’re still in the aspirational and ambitious throws of kicking off a new year (and a new decade), so why not pile on with one of the most elusive unicorns of team leadership – building capability whilst also getting the work done.

The two activities can seem to undermine each other sometimes:

“we need time to develop which means work output will suffer”, and

“we need to keep up our work outputs which means we don’t have time to keep our skills sharp…”

Whilst the intention of this blog isn’t to solve all the world’s problems, this one is definitely in the wheelhouse, so consider these ideas when you’re thinking about how you’ll set up a decade of growth in capability and in team work performance.

Tip 1: Shift away from ‘going to a course’ as the default for learning

It’s 2020. Gone are the days of team members taking a day off the tools to attend a course that they may or may not even be aware is important for them. The need for learning these days occurs ‘in the work’ as challenges emerge and need to be solved.

If the learning need emerges through the work, then it makes sense that the learning experience should also be grounded in the work.

Courses will always be necessary. It’s important for some learning to occur outside the work. What I’m suggesting is that it not be the default when someone doesn’t know how to do a certain part of their work.

Tip 2: Promote and validate all the ways that learning happens

If we can make a shift away from being ‘course-centric’, then it’s important that the learning occurs somewhere. There are lots of ways for people to learn and refine skills in the flow of their work. A sample (and not exhaustive) list to get you started:

  • Shadowing an experienced peer
  • Working on a cross-functional project
  • Best practice sharing in forum settings (like team meetings, function sessions, online social networks, etc)
  • Maintaining a team ‘lessons learned’ library in SharePoint
  • Buddying and peer to peer coaching relationships
  • Taking the time to reflect on learning moments

People often naturally engage in these activities. When it isn’t explicitly called out as ‘learning’ it is less likely to be seen as valuable and may not actively be embedded as a skill to be mastered within the team. So, the call out here is to make it overt. Join the dots between day-to-day work activity and learning.

Tip 3: Include the team in planning their learning rhythm

With a broader range of modalities to learn from now, take the time to work with the team on what effective team development would look like for them through the year. A few questions that can get diverse input happening:

  1. What are the capabilities that our team already does really well?
  2. Which parts of our work could we get better at?
  3. What resources do we have within the team to get better at these skills?
  4. Where are these skills done well outside our team that we could tap into?
  5. What actions can we commit to as a team to build our capability consistently?
  6. Who wants to take a lead role in keeping us all on track as a team?

Tip 4: Build in accountability and recognition

If the team has committed to taking specific actions around development, ensure that each member of the team has taken note of the role they play in making it happen. Some may be experts already and their role will be to share their knowledge, others may commit to the role of bringing in expertise from other teams or capturing information in a central place to serve the team’s development. Whatever it is, it’s critical that everyone gets to play a role and is included in the team’s development journey.

Be sure to discuss and recognise the role people are playing both in team meeting forums and in regular one-on-ones to maintain momentum. When team members see progress, they will be more likely to continue until development is a habit, not an oddity.

Now… get started!

So, there you have it. Not turning the world upside down, just redefining what learning looks like for people at work, so they build capability whilst also delivering on work outcomes. The modern world is built for learning in the moment and leveraging networks and accessible content to solve problems, so why not just make it the way your team works?

Develop my team and still get stuff done… I think they call it a learning culture.

Lachlan’s commitment to helping people succeed in the future of work is driven by core values of inclusive leadership, strength-based growth, development for all, customer-led design, and deep relationships.

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