We are on this planet to learn, which is quite self-evident. Learning does not stop when you finish a degree in higher education. Quite on the contrary, a degree is only an ending to a new beginning with work life demanding from us new ways of dealing with change. How can your employer support you better in your learning and development? In your growth?
The matter is important as China Gorman, the CEO of Great Place to Work, has pointed out: “As companies grow and the war for talent intensifies, it is increasingly important that training and development programs are not only competitive, but are supporting the organization on its defined strategic path.” Are you working in an organization where leaders and professionals recognize the full potential of their team members? And where employees own and drive their own learning?
Are workers able to take that responsibility and if so, do they know how to learn effectively? Studies point out that students already are capable of assessing their own work and generate their own feedback at school (Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick 2006). That, of course, depends largely on what kind of students we are talking about – high-achievers are likely to have these skills. So, how could workplaces build on this ability?
It is crucial that employees are seen as having a proactive rather than a reactive role in generating and using feedback. Furthermore, could team leaders and managers be seen as teachers or coaches who provide their subordinates and colleagues with feedback about how their present state (of learning and performance) relates to their goals and standards? That again brings us to the question what kinds of skills do team leaders need for the feedback to be efficient and impactful?
My argument is that feedback should be a plug-in in a coaching conversation. Coaching skills are ever more important in working life for both the team leader and the team members. Let me explain how.
I got familiar with the term while studying the recent trends and shifts in formal assessment in education. What they talked about reminded me so much of what I do when I coach or teach people about coaching. Self-regulated learning (SRL) means in practice how learners are able to give feedback to themselves and monitor the different learning processes such as setting goals, thinking of the strategies to achieve these goals, managing their resources and the effort they put into their work, and their reaction to external feedback and what they produce as a result.
In other words self-regulation refers to the degree to which learners can monitor aspects of their thinking, motivation and behaviour during learning (Pintrich and Zusho 2002). It is their ability to think about their thinking and to give themselves feedback on what went well and what did not. This is what we help our coaching clients to do. Those who are more effective at self-regulation are likely to produce better feedback and are more able to use the feedback they generate to achieve their desired goals (Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick 2006). External feedback from team leaders and colleagues can further empower employees as self-regulated learners. Studies have shown that people can learn to be more self-regulated. However, the question remains of how to enhance both internal and external feedback in support of self-regulation?
I argue that for a fruitful feedback culture to exist it is important that employees know how to set proper goals for themselves and to generate feedback on their own progress. What can enhance that? Every employee should have self-coaching skills, and team leaders need to learn how to support and challenge their team members by coaching them and providing feedback on their progress.
That is what we essentially do as coaches. We help our clients reflect on their learning and development and challenge them to set bigger and bolder goals as they progress for them to grow as human beings and learn more by doing. That is such a valuable experience for anyone, and this is how one-on-one or team coaching can support your company feedback culture and learning.
What I suggest is that feedback is a plug-in and a natural part of a coaching conversation. It no longer needs to be an awkward moment in which you know your boss is going to wrap negative feedback between a positive feedback sandwich and hand it to you. Is coaching easy? No, however, everyone can practice becoming better at it.
Leonard-Cross (2010) found that coaching can impact positively upon an individual’s level of self-efficacy. Participants’ positive beliefs about themselves and their inner ability to achieve their goals increased through coaching. This can happen both with an in-house coach and an external coach. The connection to self-regulated learners is that usually they exhibit a high sense of self-efficacy; however, that is a topic for another article.
Some questions for further thinking are how do we encourage team members to have a proactive rather than a reactive role in generating and using feedback? How can managers and team leaders organize assessments and support learning? The good news are that I am writing about the principles of good feedback practice that will be published later.
Key thoughts to share:
Take control of your own learning.
Have a clear goal in mind and the skills to set goals and follow-through to completion.
Ask help and feedback from those who know the matter better than you. Those who have been doing what you do much longer. These people hopefully have the coaching skills to help you reach better results than you could on your own.
Written by Anna-Riikka Hautala. Anna-Riikka works as a full-time coach at Growthroom and studies currently in the professional teacher education program at JAMK.
We at Growthroom believe that there are many workplaces that could offer its employees more impactful learning and development experiences. Are you dreaming of working in an organization where leaders and professionals recognize the full potential of their team members? We have tackled this problem by offering dynamic and top-rated trainings in the areas of coaching, personal development and communication, presentation and training skills. Do ask us more!
Leonard-Cross, E. (2010). Developmental coaching: Business benefit—Fact or fad? An evaluative study to explore the impact of coaching in the workplace. International Coaching Psychology Review, 5(1), 36-47.
Nicol, D. J., & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006). Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in higher education, 31(2), 199–218. Taylor & Francis.
Pintrich, P. R. and Zusho, A. (2002). Student motivation and self-regulated learning in the college classroom, in: J. C. Smart and W.G. Tierney (Eds) Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research, Volume XVII (New York, Agathon Press).