Why Effective Leadership Relies on the Learning Curve

February 20, 2024

Why Effective Leadership Relies on the Learning Curve

In today’s competitive business landscape, success hinges on fostering a learning organization where leaders invest in both employee engagement and leadership development. Forward-thinking leaders employ the "learning curve" as a foundational tool when working with their teams, optimizing it to ensure that crucial information doesn't just stick but propels the organization forward.

But here's the question: Does it not exasperate leaders when they must repeatedly revisit topics? The learning curve can provide a remedy to this frustration, substantially boosting leadership effectiveness. To lead others to greater achievements, structuring conversations in line with how adults learn is indispensable.

Let's explore this concept, dissecting the learning curve from a leadership perspective.

How to Increase Results: The Four Learning Stages

Leadership's role in facilitating effective learning can be summarized through four distinctive stages:

1. NORM (Current Mindset): The journey commences with understanding your team's existing mindset and attitudes. This foundational phase forms the basis for effective leadership.

2. STORM (Initial Resistance): People initially resist change, giving rise to what we call the "Storm." This natural resistance is an integral part of the learning process, akin to your team's learning curve. Allowing individuals to express their concerns during this phase without prematurely intervening is essential.

3. FORM (Understanding): The "Form" stage marks the moment of enlightenment when team members comprehend and commit to a plan. It's the lightbulb moment when they begin to formulate solutions. Encouraging team members to actively partake in the problem-solving process is key. Hands-on involvement leaves a lasting impression on the brain, making it more likely for the team to remember and follow through.

4. PERFORM (Execution): This final stage is the desired outcome, where individuals perform the tasks effectively and efficiently. They "get it done" the first time.

Why Norms Matter

To produce results, it's imperative to acknowledge and work with your team's current norms – their points of view. Overlooking these norms can lead to miscommunications and resistance. For instance, announcing a sudden change in the workplace can trigger resistance, with team members harboring concerns and complaints. By asking questions and inviting open dialogue, leaders can obtain critical insights that often get overlooked. This input proves invaluable, particularly when tackling difficult topics.

Embracing Resistance: The Importance of Storm

Resistance to change is a universal response when people are introduced to something new. It's an integral part of the learning process. Leaders must allow their team members to ride this "Storm" out. Inhibiting it can obstruct the learning curve. By enabling individuals to express their thoughts and feelings during this phase, you create a channel for the learning experience, fostering open dialogue.

The Power of Self-Discovery: Form

In the "Form" stage, team members start to understand and commit to a plan. This is where the real magic happens. Individuals begin to formulate their solutions to the situation at hand, reinforcing the importance of hands-on involvement. Encouraging team members to actively participate in the problem-solving process can be instrumental in creating lasting impressions.

Getting Things Done: The Learning Curve's Payoff

Once team members have poured out their concerns, their brains automatically begin to generate solutions. This is akin to your experiences when you've expressed your frustrations and then started brainstorming solutions. Allowing individuals to follow the learning curve from start to finish, without shortcuts or interruptions, results in sustained achievements.

Why Isn't Everyone Doing This?

The fact that not all managers follow this process can be attributed to various factors. Some have not been exposed to leadership training that equips them with the tools to address real-life people problems. Others may fear the intense energy and unpredictability of the NORM, STORM, FORM, PERFORM learning curve.

Traditional management approaches often lead to opposition and defensive postures. They tend to involve resolving the Storm prematurely and monopolizing the conversation. However, for effective leadership, embracing the learning curve's flow is the path to success.

This is not just a theoretical concept; it's a proven approach. Leaders can achieve significant results by opening the channels of communication and letting team members express themselves without shutting them down. By doing so, even those who initially opposed your ideas can become your most dedicated advocates.