The Leader's Mindset - Facilitating Learning
As coaches, parents, teachers, and employers we facilitate Learning & Development of the people we work with. In recent years social science, psychology, neuroscience, and related areas have opened up our eyes to challenge a lot of assumptions we may have had about humans and our ability to learn and improve.
God-given ability is something many many people believed in for years. In sport we hear "a natural baller" or "you can't teach that".
Well it's fairly obvious nobody is natural at anything, although they may be predisposed to something and may have a higher genetic ceiling to somebody else. There are 2 things about the 2nd part of this statement - it's right "you can't teach that".
Why? Because it's arguable we can't teach anything, particularly in sport or motor learning. This idea that the coach, teacher, boss, or whomever has all the answers and they have to hand these answers to the player, student, or employee is a flawed concept long outdated. What we can do though is introduce ideas to someone or create an environment where they can develop skills to contextually deal with questions that need skillful answers.
Where teaching and facilitating has kind of gotten mixed up is between the hard sciences. People might say this is a mathematical formula and it works like this, or this is physics and this physical science is fact. Or they go to the more softer solutions and ideas that have many varied solutions - such as our understanding of history or a war to how we decide to pick up a ball in hurling.
Of course if you are building a house and you have regulations then there are legal and optimum ways to sit the roof, angles or openings you are allowed to have that constrain a build. These are (without going too Donald Rumsfeld LOL) "known knowns".
Sport in particular is not like that. Yes we have regulations, but a hurler has to battle with an opponent where he or she does not know what they are going to do to counteract their play. Sports coaching is all about building physical and psychological environments that facilitate development and are challenging while allowing a safe place to be creative and make mistakes without admonishment.
Teaching of course has to cross a number of boundaries and has a mix of hard science and numbers, then discussion and more discovery subjects. I remember 2 different history teachers I had: one wouldn't accept any challenge or discussion - history was what it said in the book. While the other was famous for saying "I'm not sure if I even believe myself sometimes, question everything. The winners write history." I engaged more with the latter teacher and my grades were significantly better.
Some deep research has taken place in this area, an extension of, or using as, a barometer from Carol Dweck's "Growth Mindset" work. This theory on Growth Mindset challenges old perceptions of where our ability comes from. It says nature, nurture and skills can be developed and facilitated where the individual believed they could develop their skills (growth) as opposed to where someone believed they were "born with" fixed abilities.
The only problem with this that sometimes for the individual, if the teacher didn't have a growth mindset then everyone was snookered. I blame the "good steady pensionable job" culture, but anyway....
A really good paper from Ratten et al in 2012 found the following things:
Other studies have had mixed results on Growth Mindset with teachers,. However, some of those (and there aren't too many) were scientifically flawed and wouldn't be rated highly as scientific studies - studies that fell both negatively and positively for what it's worth.
For coaches and other leaders we can take something from this: Skills can be improved at any age, it may be slower with older players, but they can improve. Our attitude and mindset on the pitch is absolutely critical to the players' development.
Strategy and a clear process with a step-by-step guide of where we are, where we can go, and what we are going to work on, really helps the people we are coaching. It is a case of short term pain for long term gain.
Good coaching, teaching, leading isn't easy. It takes hard work, practice, failing, trial and error and an open mind.
It's not just the people we lead who need a growth mindset - we need one as well!
Some more food for thought there on coaching and leadership.
Hope you enjoyed, see you next week