Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Is Your Manager Your Biggest Obstacle to Learning?

Potentially yes!

A manager's own preconceptions about the power of nature over nurture appears to dictate how much training their people get.

Some research by Peter Heslin and Don VandeWalle shows that managers with preconceived ideas about people's attributes tend to be less likely to ensure they receive the training they need. Whilst another study found that managers who think people's attributes are fixed gave their staff less coaching.

Whilst this may not come as a big surprise to most L&D Business partners, perhaps the positive side of the research will be. The evidence also indicates that managers with these entrenched views can be persuaded of the error of their ways, through evidence and by encouraging reflection about why developing capability is important.

Helsin and VandeWalle suggest that in order to enhance workforce productivity, cues to help managers to believe that people can change could be built into performance evaluation systems.

"These cues might include written, verbal and video-based reminders to managers...that all employee skills tend to be developed over time with practice and helpful feedback."

So what could this mean for corporates. Overall it's great news. To some extent this research suggests that a culture of learning in an organisation can be grown if it is fed proactively.

But it could also has some consequences on how we view type and trait based diagnostic tools.

If they aren't handled properly they could well lock down managers' expectations - "She's an INTJ", "he's Low Detail Conscious, "their profile shows an inability to handle rapid change". If those labels re-inforce a percieved "limit" to your performance through a type or trait, then that may reduce your opportunity to develop the skills that would enable you to develop and change.

Spotted at:

Heslin, P.A., VandeWalle, D. (2008). Managers' Implicit Assumptions About Personnel. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17(3), 219-223. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8721.2008.00578.x

No comments: