Monday, November 1, 2010

Learning and the Crisis of Confidence - Part # 2

THEME: Fall 2010 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable Report

Monday morning: November 1, 2010

Dear friends,

There is a difference between proficiency and learning, and it causes a lot of problems when it comes to execution at either the operational or strategic levels. First, learners are not as proficient as experts. If you want to get better at something “new” or “different,” then you need to pay the price for people to become proficient. However within most work places, we are truly afraid to make mistakes and to have others, who report to us, make mistakes. Still, learning means making mistakes and tolerating people who fail.

Recognizing that a learner is not very good the first couple of times in applying a new concept or utilizing a new tool, we have to recognize that an orderly work environment does not always support people who make mistakes. Furthermore, many learners focus on surviving today and do not consider implications for tomorrow. This is particularly true when these individuals work in an environment that is filled with fear rather than clarity and trust.

Alan M. Webber in his article, “Why Can't We Get Anything Done?” in the June 2000 issue of Fast Company magazine reminds us that what you want is “better than”, not optimal. Your job is to do something today that's better than what you did yesterday. And to do something tomorrow that's better than what you did today.

After many lunch and dinner meetings this past spring, summer and early fall, I have learned the following lessons from listening and working with exceptionally fine leaders who are moving through complex work environments which require tremendous learning. First, no goals = no focus. Second, every day employees project their expectations on to us as leaders, hoping we will meet these expectations. Third, we need to clarify our own roles first and before we clarify our expectations of others. Finally, reward people more at the start of change than at the end of change because moving from no movement to movement (think Jim Collin’s flywheel) is more difficult than movement to more movement.

This week, think about the difference between proficiency and learning. Support people to learn from their mistakes rather than to keep repeating them.

Have a super week,


Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257

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