Most of us have experienced the enjoyment of doing easily something that we’re good at. And most of us know how frustrating it can be to keep on trying things that we struggle to do well or to do at all. But from a management point of view, we often want people to be flexible / multi-skilled, and we often want people to learn new skills. So how can we achive these objectives and still keep people motivated? Here are some thoughts:
Allow for the “learning curve”. When we learn we often take a while to get the hang of a new skill, and sometimes we make mistakes along the way. Managers and leaders need to make reasonable allowances for this – provide extra time and try to correct or prevent errors as quickly as possible. We also need to make sure that learners adopt the “One Best Way” and not pick up bad habits from other employees.
Catch people doing things right! Look for opportunities to give positive feedback, rather than only focusing on what needs to be done better. Try to “sandwich” each slice of negative feedback between at least two “slices” of positive feedback.
We often focus on people’s weaknesses / things that they find difficult, and we try to get them to do these things better. But don’t neglect the opportunity to help people improve the things that they’re already good at. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to go from “good” to “outstanding” than it is from “acceptable” to “good”.
Make learning fun – create some friendly competition, publish a league table, recognise and reward improvements, get your most epxerienced folk to run some “this is what effortless skill looks like” demos.
Be honest, keep it fair and lead by example. Balance the easy tasks and the difficult tasks, and spread them out fairly. Make clear that we all have to do things that we don’t like or that we struggle with, and show people that that’s what you do every day, because even you are not quite perfect yet!