Working towards building yourself for a different role while doing your current job is the new kid on the block. It’s called working towards your ‘aspired role’ or ‘career path’ (refer to my earlier post on this). It could entail enhancing capabilities to take the current role to a new dimension or building different skills for an entirely different job.
Taking time off and enrolling for a course at a premium institute, like, Lovely Professional University (as per an advertisement I watch on TV these days) is not an option that is workable mostly. Hence, organizations are exhorting managers to encourage people to learn on the job.
Since learning a different skill while contributing to your current job gets with it problems of multi-tasking, setting aside time and finding a means to learn what is needed, it mostly fizzles out. The role of the manager in facilitating this learning is ambiguous. Somewhat, like my role in getting Prithvi potty-trained. How can I add value? Role-modelling is not an option, nor is classroom training or simulations. So, what can I possibly do?
Since building on the potty-training analogy can take undesirable ramifications, let’s work with another one: a hearse driver learning to be a school bus driver. Some stuff is easy to do:-
1. Define the end-result – What are the behaviours and skills he would need to demonstrate as a school-bus driver?
2. Define the key behaviours and skills in the current job that would require the maximum change – For instance, learning to interact with the passenger(s). Illustrate the fact that these will need the maximum effort.
3. Break down learning goals into weekly, monthly quarterly targets. Give time off from his day-job to learn the new job.
4. Review and measure, give regular feedback.
However, while every manager knows these steps, she still struggles to translate it into an experience the employee will cherish. So, what are we missing out? Here is my formula:-
1. Get creative – People get bored with the same old learning methods. In fact, I can sense people dreading the same old ‘get a mentor’, ‘do a project’ recommendations, but will still nod silently, maybe to expedite swallowing the bitter pill. Some people even manage to fake a smile and look bright-eyed, while they are muttering to themselves, ‘No way’. There needs to be some more pique, a tingling stimulation in their journey.
‘Let’s play a game. This week, I want you to give me test drive in the hearse, driving it like you would drive a school bus, smoothly and gently. And, then, take me out in the school bus, driving it like you’d drive a hearse. This small game will help us pick out the key differences between the two roles.’
2. Get Involved – The boring drill of ‘reviewing progress’ has to change. It cannot be a passive method of taking stock. ‘So talk me through what you did and what you learnt.’ Instead, actively experience the progress. ‘Can you draw me the route map of Route A of the school bus?’
3. Give spontaneous rewards – ‘I want to take you out for lunch at your favourite Mexican food-joint – I just loved the way you handled that meeting with those angry parents’. Its reinforces the critical learning points. It encourages.
4. Worry about her progress – Just as you lose sleep over the performance-misses on her job, do you lose even half that sleep over what she has failed to complete on her development plan? If you genuinely worry, it shows. It is the only way to build accountability in her. Besides, when you really worry, you work around the roadblocks she faces and regularly inject fresh lease into any effort that is withering away.
So, this was my formula – would love to see additions to this!! Write on….