In a world where more and more people realize their voice matters, simply engaging people is not enough. People need to feel empowered in the process of work and learning. The shift from compliance to empowerment is essential in organizations today. With that in mind, how do we help people grow? The question is not, how do we motivate them, which is an entirely different idea. Motivating others is possible, but it is not long lasting. We can only truly motivate ourselves for any sustainable amount of time, this is not something that can be done for us. Leaders need to look at how we create environments that remove barriers, and support the development of the innovator’s mindset in individuals. Leadership’s job is not to control people, but to unleash talent. The environment and processes we create are important in helping people find their own way and strengths.
Yet we too often focus on external “motivators” to be the driver for change or even learning. One of the biggest shifts in my own thinking in the past few years is how learning is such a personal endeavour, yet we try to package it up and decide the paths and passions for others. Stephen Downes summarizes this sentiment nicely:
“We have to stop thinking of an education as something that is delivered to us and instead see it as something we create for ourselves.”
With that being said, there is a lot of professional development that is working to “incentivize” learning with the use of external motivators. Immediately doing this, in many ways says that it is not something that is important to learn without the incentive, or else we haven’t take the time to focus on the “why” of the learning. If people don’t understand why we are learning something, it will not stick. They need to make their own internal connection. I understand though that in some areas, I don’t need to really explain “why”, before we move forward. For example, if there is a safety plan in school, I would have the expectation that people knew how to do it and spend their time learning any procedures that we have in school. That being said, I have seen states require “credit hours” for professional learning and have watched people show up so they can check off that they were there. This is not going to create powerful and deep learning, but is simply a checklist in the “game of school“. If there is no ownership over our own learning, how deep will we really go?
So what would I do differently?
Daniel Pink talks about the important of autonomy, mastery, purpose in motivation, and with that in mind, we should think about developing long term professional learning with that in mind. Although growth plans are something that have been prevalent in schools for as long as I have been teaching, I think it is important to ask questions that focus on those three elements, while also helping leadership remove barriers to help learners achieve their goals. As we develop our own professional growth plans for any period of time, here are some questions that I think are important to include.
1. What would you like to learn? (Autonomy)
Although this question has driven my own professional learning for years, it is still necessary to set the stage for deep learning. Ownership over the learning is crucial in this process.
2. What questions will be the driver for your learning? (Autonomy)
Inquiry-based professional learning is a powerful process, which helps you to view yourself not only as a problem solver, but also as a problem finder. It also helps the learner articulate why this learning is important to them and gives them ownership over the process. Here is an example of how these questions can drive growth.
3. Why is this important to your? How will it help the school? (Purpose)
This is a crucial element to not only a person’s learning, but also to help them use their strengths to improve learning, while helping leadership understand those strengths to tap into. The best teams in the world build upon individual strengths to bring people together toward’s a common goal; they do not try to mould people to something that they are not.
4. How will you know (measures) that you have achieved your goals at the end of this time? (Mastery and Autonomy)
Accountability is crucial in this process but helping the person define their own measures not only helps them to define what “mastery” could look like, but also have autonomy understanding their own point “a” to point “b”.
5. What barriers will you need removed, or what support will you need to be successful? (Unleash Talent)
This question is crucial and necessary to leadership. A lot of reasons things don’t happen in schools is because of dumb policies and guidelines that make “innovation” extremely hard and simply “hoop jumping”. One thing that I used to say to my staff all of the time was, “I cannot solve problems that I don’t know about.” That is true, but perhaps I needed to ask them a lot more what the problems were that I could help with.
To have a “culture of innovation”, developing educators as leaners is crucial. Helping them understand their own passions and interests, and giving them opportunities to use them to further the vision of the school is paramount. But if we see learning as a truly “personal” endeavour, focusing on the ideas of “autonomy, mastery, and purpose” in developing our professional learning plans is crucial into the development of both individuals as well as our organizations.