Take a look at companies that experience sustained profitable growth and you will find learning organizations.
What is a learning organization? A learning organization is one that routinely gains knowledge and insight that helps it perform successfully. A learning organization creates behavior patterns that encourage and enable individual growth and development…what we will refer to as conscious transition. In fact, our entire lives should be about conscious transition. We are always moving from where we are now to where we want to be. Not surprisingly, organizations are just like people. Every person and every organization is capable of learning and evolving (transition) … some people and companies just learn and evolve (transition) better and faster than others.
When a business leader successfully creates a learning organization, they improve the competitiveness of their company, they improve employee engagement, and they are better at leveraging the intellect of the collective team. And again, it is no surprise that these companies frequently experience superior financial performance over time.
Come on guys, fess up. Has your significant other ever asked you to stop solving her problems and just listen? Well, in the context of a personal relationship, to sit tight, listen and not solve the problem is a big paradigm shift for some. The same is true for business leaders. But the business leaders who are willing to let employees dig deeper to learn to solve problems themselves will reap the rewards in the end. By serving as a facilitator of knowledge acquisition, insight and independent thinking, rather than being the solution provider, the business leader is creating a corporate culture that is primed for achieving accelerated growth.
In organizations that have not yet achieved a state of accelerated growth and maturity, you will often find the Mr. (or Ms.) Fix-it mindset among the business leaders. This is fine and often necessary when you are in the start-up and initial growth phase – or even the continued growth and stabilization phase. But the business leader who can’t eventually bust out of the Mr. Fix-it phase will rarely see the accelerated profitable growth and maturity phase of business evolution.
The rate with which a company grows is directly tied to the rate with which the employee team grows. Developing people is critical to corporate success. So in the spirit of creating a learning organization, let’s look at one example of how a business leader (manager) can help accelerate the personal growth and development of an employee and/or employee team.
An employee comes to the business leader with a problem and would like help solving it. Naturally, Mr. Fix-it kicks into gear and the business leader gets actively involved in defining, analyzing and solving the problem. Woo! Woo! Great teamwork, great collaboration and great success. But remember, you’ll only achieve accelerated profitable growth and maturity when every brain in the company goes through the same problem definition, assessment and solution development process independent of the business leader, the result of creating an empowered and enlightened workforce. In other words, the business leader must consciously transition from being Mr. Fix-it to being a facilitator of knowledge acquisition, insight and independent thinking.
When an employee comes to you with a problem to solve, facilitate knowledge acquisition, insight development and independent thinking by asking the employee to respond to the following questions:
- Define the problem, obstacle or opportunity.
- Define the critical business issues surrounding the problem/opportunity.
- Identify some of the key factors that need to be reviewed/assessed.
- Identify the people, in or outside of the company, that are best qualified to help solve the problem or leverage the opportunity.
- Ask the employee how much time is needed to accomplish the following:
– Assemble the proper team to address the problem, obstacle or opportunity.
– Get the team up to speed (gather information and assess the options).
– Develop a proposed solution.
– Present the proposed solution to you (and others if appropriate).
• Obtain approval and executethe plan.
Many business leaders struggle with not diving in and responding to most of the above questions themselves. Instead of being patient and helping the employee learn how to create a process to address the problem, obstacle or opportunity as an empowered and enlightened team member, they respond to the request for help by actually solving the problem themselves. They dive right in and lead the charge.
Although this works to address the priority, it does not contribute to the development of a learning organization