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What I learned from my neighbour – the importance of social learning

We all learn throughout our careers. Perhaps that’s from formal training or hands on experience, but what we often don’t take into account is the social learning we participate in on a regular basis. Article by Rachel Matthews, Bray Leino Learning

Many people don’t understand the value of talking through their experiences, understanding the skills of their peers and colleagues, and asking for help and advice. Social learning encompasses all of these things, often leading to important changes in attitudes and behaviours. Discovering how others do things, how they apply their skills and how those methods may benefit the way you work can be extremely valuable.

You may have come across the 70:20:10 model, and if you have you’ll know that this concept focusses on the understanding that the majority (around 70%) of learning comes through experience, 20% from social learning with colleagues (and others) and 10% through formal learning, such as face to face training courses or eLearning.

Take a look at the people that surround you in your office. Do you understand what they do? Do they understand what you do? It is likely that every one of them will have an important skill or knowledge that you could learn from.

Not really knowing our work neighbours is an unfortunate but common fact of life. We deal with them when we need to and talk to them during a coffee break, but otherwise our professional paths may never cross.

That problem you’ve been dealing with recently, the one you’ve spent hours going over and over in your head? Have you considered that someone in the office has experienced the same thing and can give you some guidance on how to resolve it?

You may never know what your peers know unless you take the time to get to know them. Be social. Develop relationships. We always recommend that social learning be integrated into a learning strategy to create a truly blended learning programme. This allows delivery of the best possible results, along with the benefit of a diverse and understanding team with great interdepartmental relationships.

We spoke to four senior managers and leaders about a piece of advice or learning they received through social learning that helped them develop their career.

Director, Plus Change Consulting
Managing change in a large corporation

“When I began my career in Change Management I received a valuable piece of advice from my line manager whilst leading a particularly difficult change initiative for a large Global Corporation. He coached me on how to understand and influence a very difficult stakeholder group. His advice was to invest a lot of time in winning their trust and confidence and to understand their fears and dreams. Developing these insights into the personal motivations of this stakeholder group enabled me to keep them on side, resulting in several eventually becoming advocates and champions for the project, rather than critics and resistors to the changes.”

Head of OD and HR, Cashflows
Admit when you’re out of your depth

“Many years ago I was promoted and had responsibility for managing a budget. Managing revenue and expenditure to a budget wasn’t a problem but creating the budget for the next year left me completely out of my depth. My FD at the time was, in my eyes, a very stern figure who didn’t suffer fools gladly. I was, quite frankly, terrified of him.

On the day I had my first budget review meeting I experienced a personal loss and to my horror broke down during the meeting. My scary FD tuned into the most wonderful, compassionate man you could imagine and, as a result, I found the confidence to admit I was out of my depth.

He proved to be a patient and generous tutor who got pleasure out of educating someone at the beginning of their career. He also admitted he was desperately shy which manifested itself into aloofness.

So the moral of my story is not to be afraid to ask for help. Be prepared to admit when something is new to you and, most of all; don’t judge a book by its cover.”

HR Consultant, Edge Accessories
Back to the future coaching

“Years ago I joined a company where the HR team was totally dysfunctional – they had had a succession of HR Managers and Directors, had very little direction and no development. It was all a little bit daunting as a highly effective HR team was one of the key levers to success within this company of over 700 employees. I needed support and a different perspective.

One of my peers suggested that we go through an exercise called “back to the future”, but without the turbo-propelled car and mad doctor!

The challenge was for me to visualize my team two years hence. What did this ‘A Team’ look like? Who was in the team? How did they transact with one another and everyone else in the organisation? What made them effective and successful? What were their key competencies which drove this success? How did I feel having this ‘A Team’ and what actions did I do to achieve this?

This was actually a very simple, but fun and highly successful way of creating that vision. It was much more powerful to put myself in the future with that ideal team, whom I wanted to join me in helping to turn this company around. It was extremely effective to say what I had done and how I had achieved it, rather than what I would do. This approach was subtly different, had huge impact on me and provided clarity about the end result, as well as the journey to get there.”

Director, Bray Leino Learning
What more could you give?

Some of the best advice I have been given was by a motivational military trainer. It was fitness related but resonated so closely with me on a professional level that I still say it and use it today. “Don’t leave here today; knowing you could have given more.”

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