Eight Ways to Engage Managers in Self-Directed Learning

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“It’s uncomfortable to challenge the status quo.” – Seth Godin

Self-Directed Learning is Powerful

In the peer learning group process offered by The Peer Learning Institute, six managers with a shared challenge meet onsite in a self-directed peer learning group for two 90-minute sessions, separated by a month of practice. During those sessions, they follow a structured agenda and our materials to explore the root causes of their challenge, learn a new technique for handling it and commit to practicing their new behavior. As a group they co-create new knowledge and understanding of the issues under discussion without a trainer, facilitator or coach.

But What If…?

However, Jackie Clifford, in her article “Are learners ready to embrace learning innovation?”, asks the question: “But what if our learners don’t want to be engaged and self-directed? What if our learners only feel that they’ve been learning if they have received a large quantity of information, delivery via a slightly interactive presentation or lecture?”

Since peer learning groups require engagement and self-direction from the managers who participate in the groups, that is an important consideration.

So, how do we help the managers to embrace the concept and benefits of peer learning groups? The answer is through both word and deed, beginning with how the concept is introduced and how management demonstrates its commitment and support.

There are eight ways you can engage managers in self-directed learning and overcome perceived fears of non-traditional learning activities.

Management Support

First, we need to show managers that upper management believes in the power of peer learning groups to build management skills. This means an obvious commitment at the top to provide time, a place to meet, and support of the practice of new skills and behaviors, which may well include trial and error as the managers try out new techniques for handling their management challenges. This also means following up with the managers to reinforce and validate new behaviors.

Peer Learning is Tried and True

Second, we need to clarify that peer learning groups are not a new, untested learning method. Many organizations use them, with a resulting increase in manager competence and confidence, employee engagement, and organizational success.

Misery Loves Company

Third, we need to help them understand what’s in it for them. If they’re facing a management challenge, it can be very lonely at the top. Sharing their concerns with others at the same level who have faced a similar challenge can be very enlightening and reassuring at the same time.

Expertise Validated

Fourth, we need to validate that they already have a great deal of knowledge and experience that can be helpful to other managers when shared, which can be very rewarding. Peer learning groups offer an opportunity to share what they know and learn from and with others.

No Additional Work

Fifth, they need to understand that their practice time will not add to their workload, because they will be using what they learned to carry out their daily duties as managers. They will just carry out those duties differently, using their new skills.

Immediate Results

Sixth, we need to help them recognize that what they learn in the peer learning groups will have an immediate positive impact on their effectiveness as managers, the morale of their employees, and the results of their programs and services.

Self-Direction is Supported

Seventh, we need to ease the concern about the requirement of self-direction with the fact that a structured agenda is available to walk them through the peer learning group discussion. The printed session materials also provide clear guidance to the conversation as well as new information.  So the managers will not be at loose ends, wondering what the discussion should be about or where it should lead.

Peer Learning Groups are Safe Spaces

Eighth, we need to emphasize the fact that the peer learning groups are self-directed means that there is no outside facilitator present. As a result, the members are safe to discuss compelling concerns and even individual employees with complete confidentiality.

Using these eight  solutions should help to minimize managers’ resistance to the idea of peer learning groups and improve their level of engagement and comfort with self-directed learning.

For more information about peer learning groups and how they can improve your management development program, schedule a call with one of our training specialists: https://bit.ly/37ohb5Z

Deborah Laurel, Co-Founder and Chief Learning Officer

The Peer Learning Institute


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