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In my book and in my post on this blog in August i compared how we teach our children new things, like walking or using the toilet, to how we develop our teams at work.

I have since discussed this with a few people and a number have fed back to me that as we are intelligent adults, we shouldn’t need as much help and support. I don’t subscribe to this at all. If you have never done something before, why wouldn’t you need help and training?

For example, if you ask someone to write an agency brief and they have never written a brief, is it surprising that they write it badly or get a bad response from the agency? Of course not. Could we do it ourselves quicker and better? Of course. But this doesn’t help anyone in the long term. If we worked through the process, the parts of the brief, let them have a go and then went through it in detail, metaphorically holding their hand and walking them through the process would we get a better result? Of course we would. The challenge is finding the time to do so. However, if this employee was your daughter learning to walk or use the toilet you would find the time and would feel proud when he or she achieved their goal.

Having said that, something occurred to me this week.  In all the examples and analogies, we generally wait for our children to be ready to learn or show an interest in doing something new.  When Jolie and Fraser started to walk, we waited until they naturally stood up and had tried.  We then helped and supported them.  When we potty trained Jolie we waited until she had shown an interest in learning to use the toilet.  When we try to force learning upon our children, it is much more difficult.

The challenge is that at work we do not always have the luxury of being able to wait until someone shows an interest in learning or developing new skills.  Most of the time we have to ‘force’ new tasks upon them.  This means that developing our teams can be extremely tricky.

We have to be willing to allow our staff to fall over in order to help them learn and develop. We have to accept that the first few times, they will probably fall flat on their face or have ‘an  accident’. However, it is only through making these mistakes and with positive encouragement to persevere that they will conquer the task.  We need to build this learning into the timings for a project or start them off on less important projects where we do not mind if there are some problems as we will have the opportunity to fix them before it is too late.

We have to encourage them to learn and develop, possibly before they are ready.  And with that in mind, we have to make sure we have the right support structure in place to help them deliver.

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