Create a Learning Culture: Qualities of The People Who Drive Change

The role of knowledge development is ever-present in the workplace.

Oftentimes, there is a particular group in charge of driving/guiding these initiatives, from implementing knowledge management solutions, communicating the initiative internally and measuring its success.

All of the preceding elements will be deemed failures if a culture of learning isn’t created.

In order to create a learning culture, a number of characteristics are required of those driving the initiative. If you are setting up the team to guide this change, or are a team member, examine the 4 qualities below and assess your ability to either pick suitable resources to guide the change that is required or develop them yourself.

  1. Position power
  2. Expertise
  3. Credibility
  4. Leadership

1 Position power

Position power refers to a person’s pull on key decisions within the business.

Are the people driving this change key players in important aspects of the organization? Change can only be created when decisions are made around important topics, and those who are too junior in the company won’t have the power to make an impact.

For example, if you are an intern looking to create a culture of learning in your organization, you will likely need to secure a full-time position and get some time at the company in an official role before your suggestions for change will even be heard, let alone acted upon. You’ll also need to prove your worth and have a proven track record of providing value to the company (this lends itself to the other qualities listed in this article).

Key takeaway:

Building up time at a company and getting involved in key projects lends to position power over time.

2 Expertise

Expertise refers to a person’s experience around a specific area, crucially, this will be related to the change initiative. It also refers to the dynamics of the group.

This quality is different in that a number of different viewpoints are needed, so a certain level of diversity is required. One person’s point of view around the change initiative is insufficient. There needs to be a few different voices.

For example, when creating a team whose goal is to create a learning culture, consider different aspects such as their demographics, departments of work and past experience in different roles, preferably in different companies.

Key takeaway:

Recruiting those with varied (but relevant) backgrounds lends itself to the effectiveness of the change initiative.

3 Credibility

Credibility refers to the reputations of the people who are driving the initiative.

People with a proven track record of success will likely repeat this pattern, making them ideal candidates to drive the project. Likewise, those who have been effective in the past will be listened to, given their credibility gained from previous success. Those who have failed will be ignored.

An example would be an employee who has attempted to implement a number of initiatives in the past, but who usually failed. Their opinion around the change initiative will fall on deaf ears due to their past downfalls.

Key takeaway:

Those who have shown success in the past have credible opinions. Their reputations go before them and are capable of inspiring others to act.

4 Leadership

The final quality is deemed the most important of the four.

Leadership refers to the leading characteristic required to instill action. Often deemed an inherent quality, or at best, difficult to develop/recreate.

Leading, at its most basic level, is centered around action. Those who are proactive around the initiative will be best suited to drive change. Those who can inspire others into action will be of even more value to the initiative.

Take a senior-level employee who takes it upon themselves to spearhead research around a knowledge management solution. They assess the different options, speak to the various company representatives and write a detailed report on their findings. This is leadership through action. The communications this executive initiates at the next step will aim to inspire. Be this through educational email summarising the report, in-house meetings outlining his/her findings or casual conversation.

Key takeaway:

Leaders through both action and inspiration will be most effective at driving change.

Characteristics to avoid

There are two predominant characteristics which are not suitable for driving change.

They are:

  • Inability to work in a team
  • Lack of trust

Inability to work in a team

Those who are incapable of putting their own priorities aside will fail in a position requiring change. Never deviating from a personal opinion, or refusing to acknowledge the opinions of others is deemed a barrier to collaboration. These types of people aren’t good in teams but can excel in other areas.

A potential reasoning behind this is described by Dr. Tomas Chmorro-Premuzic in his article A Psychologist Finally Explains Why You Hate Teamwork So Much.

Premuzic cites a competitive instinct and driving ambition to excel as a blocker to effective teamwork. Some individuals can sometimes find it hard to align with others and work collaboratively. An obsession with success/targets/power is the predominant issue here.

Lack of trust

Heavily linked to a driving need for success, a lack of trust can be an inhibitor to change. Those incapable of trusting others with tasks or information will work poorly as part of a team looking to drive an initiative.

Petersen and Corderey examined the role of trust in the workplace and its impact on teamwork in their research entitled Trust, individualism and job characteristics as predictors of employee preference for teamwork.

The study found the two situational forms of trust (trust in co-workers and trust in management) were strong predictors of an employee’s preference for teamwork. As a result, this could be seen as a precursor to effectiveness in teamwork.

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