Ways to get a strong position in organisations

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A skill is the learned capacity to carry out pre-determined results often with the minimum outlay of time, energy, or both. Skills can often be divided into domain-general and domain-specific skills. For example, in the domain of work, some general skills would include time management, teamwork and leadership, self motivation and others, whereas domain-specific skills would be useful only for a certain job. Skill usually requires certain environmental stimuli and situations to assess the level of skill being shown and used.

David Kolb developed a model of learning styles based on the learners preferred style of learning. He identified two lines of axis; our approach to a task, preferring to do or watch and our emotional response, preferring to think or feel. From this he progressed to four learning style types; activist (doing and feeling); reflector (watching and doing); theorist (watching and thinking) and pragmatist (thinking and doing). The author's understanding of the purpose of the above-mentioned learning styles enables learning to be steered according to the preferred learning method. The author states that categorising a person into one style of learning is both unrealistic and limiting. "Everyone responds to and needs the stimulus of all types of learning style - it's a matter of using emphasis that fits best with a person's learning style preference". (Chapman - 2001, www).

The four learning styles identified by Kolb in 1974 look at the behaviours of different types of learners. An activist is hands on, relies on intuition rather than logic, uses other people's analysis and likes practical experiential approach; reflectors are able to look at things from different perspectives, they are sensitive, they prefer to watch rather than do it, they gather information and use imagination to solve problems; theorists are concise and have a logical approach, ideas and concepts are more important than people and they require good clear explanation rather than practical opportunity; pragmatists can solve problems and will use learning to find solutions to practical issues, they prefer technical tasks and are less concerned with people and interpersonal aspects. "Don't expect theorists to be comfortable being thrown in at the deep end without notes and instructions. Conversely, activists may become frustrated if unable to get hands on experience as soon as possible. As with any other model this is only a guide". (Chapman - 2001, www).

Kolb's model of learning was later adapted by Honey and Mumford in 1986 and took a fresh stance on the model. Peter Honey and Alan Mumford are best known for their learning style questionnaire. The questionnaire is self-administered and determines your preferred style of learning according to the results of the self-assessment. The author will analyse the use of such questionnaires later. Honey and Mumford translated Kolb's four learning styles into, do (activist), review (reflector), conclude (theorist) and plan (pragmatist). Their model bullet points specific behaviours that are easily interpreted to identify a category of learner; for example, 'do' learners immerse themselves fully in new experiences and enjoy the here and now, 'review' learners stand back and observe and are cautious preferring to take a back seat, 'conclude' learners assimilate disparate facts into coherent theories and are disciplined and rational, 'plan' learners are keen to put ideas, theories and techniques into practice and will search out new ideas and take opportunities to experiment. "Knowing your learning style can help avoid repeating mistakes by undertaking activities that strengthen other styles". (Honey and Mumford - 1986, pp.1).

The author believes that the identification of individual learning styles can be a positive step in achieving engagement of learning and aids the continuing process of lifelong learning. The discovery of an individual's preferred style of learning could be adapted both in educational terms and that of routine and physical tasks. For example experience has fostered different methods for memorizing facts (addresses, telephone numbers, etc.). Some need to see instructions in writing and others will rely on the spoken word. The author understands from experience that the process of mastering your own learning style takes effort, time and can often be emotional when learning through trial and error. "Learning changes are not brought about without effort, and the process can be painful. We all thus seek ways to ease the pain, shorten the time taken to master the necessary new material, and make the gains acquired more permanent". (Rogers - 1986, pp.33). Learning how we best learn, however is not the only factor that will influence a persons' ability to learn; their age, personality, environment and previous learning achievements all play their part in the process of learning and just as important the retention of the information taught.

Learning styles as the author stated can be a positive step in the identification of a person's preferred style of learning and often training and teaching organisations use this information when delivering lessons and training sessions. The author questions how realistic and therefore effective is this process of identifying and establishing an entire class or group of people with corresponding learning styles so that the class or group will learn at the same pace and react to the teaching style adapted to a particular learning style. "The discovery that people have different learning style preferences is both good and bad news. It tends to be good news for individual learners. They often have 'aha' insights as things suddenly fall into place and they understand why they learn more easily in some situations than others. It tends to be bad news for trainers, developers and line managers. It reminds them that people differ and that one size can never fit all". (Honey - 2005, www) The author's comments are somewhat clarified by the following quote, "Creating a climate that fosters behavioural change, thinking clearly about the design of activities, being able to distinguish content from process, locating or improvising training resources and exercises, dealing constructively with resistance and heightening the trainee's awareness of self as learner all impact on the preferred style learning of each learner". (Smith - 1983, pp.144).

Honey and Mumford's learning style questionnaire or one of it's adaptations is used in a plethora of organisations as a tool in selecting candidates for recruitment and is also applied when resourcing groups for project design and development through to implementation. As previously discussed the questionnaire was designed to identify preferred learning styles, which the learner would have developed over the years from learning 'habits' that previously benefited the learner in a teaching environment. The questionnaire pinpoints learning preferences so that the learner has an enhanced awareness of the learning experiences that are more appropriate to their individual learning style. The questionnaire consists of around eighty statements that are designed to interrogate your responses to certain situations. You are asked to either agree or disagree with each numbered statement. At the end of the questionnaire your answers are collated and referred to a chart that will discover your preferred style of learning.

In theory this model of questioning a learner to identify learning preferences is an ideal development apparatus, however the author questions the fair, valid and reliability factors that feature in this type of diagnostical questionnaire. So many other aspects that could and often do influence decision-making are out of the learners' control. For example, the environment in which the learner completes the questionnaire, is it noisy, cold, hot or uncomfortable? Is the learners' frame of mind, stressed, tired, aggravated or de-motivated? All of these factors will contribute to the thought process and therefore the agreement or disagreement of each of the listed statements. So, depending on when the learner completes the questionnaire and considering the environmental and personal conditions that are apparent at that time, the results could vary for the same person over a number of different days or even weeks. "The Learning Styles Questionnaire introduces people to the idea that their learning style preferences are not fixtures and that it is possible to develop under-utilised styles. This helps people to see that there are advantages in working towards becoming better-balanced, all-round learners. We provide exercises designed to help people identify feasible ways to strengthen learning styles of their choice". (Honey - 2005, www).

Personal Skills

Employers are looking for workers who have that special something: the skills, tendencies and attributes that help to keep productivity and profits up. Businesses are looking for employees with strong "personal" skills, . Keep these in mind, because employers certainly are. Personal skill is fast-paced, high impact, activity-oriented, standards-based program geared for employees in an organization.  Following is the list of personal skills which an organization defines for their employees.

Carefulness

Creativity

Good attitude

Influence

Safe work behaviors

Sociability

Methods To Improve Personal Skills

Time Management

Stress management

TIME MANAGEMENT

Time Management involves setting priorities and undertaking goal management in order to as efficient and productive as possible. Time management is about taking control of one of the most valuable resources we have, our time. It is an essential tool for stress reduction, success, and perhaps even survival, especially in today's society of increasing demands on a much leaner workforce. This increasing workload is not hypothetical, but, is in fact, a reality. Time management also proves to be beneficial to individuals outside of the workplace, given the fact that most employees have just as many or more demands on their time away from work.

Professional Skills

Professional skills refer to skills and knowledge attained for both personal development and career advancement. Professional development encompasses all types of facilitated learning opportunities, ranging from college degrees to formal coursework, conferences and informal learning opportunities situated in practice. It has been described as intensive and collaborative, ideally incorporating an evaluative stag

Methods to Improve Professional Skills

.There are a variety of approaches to professional development, including counseling, coaching, mentoring and leadership.

Counseling

Mentoring

Coaching

Counseling

Counseling is one of the methods used to offer advice and assist with the development of members of staff in an organization.   It is not only limited to personal matters affecting members of staff but can also be used to assist with the professional development of individuals and can help to steer one in the right direction in terms of business development. Business development counseling may involve providing advice on accessing finance, marketing, human resources, operations management and feasibility studies. Counseling is a very important aspect of management specifically in conducting performance appraisals, handling grievances and taking disciplinary action against employees. 

Mentoring:

The word 'mentoring' originates from Greek mythology, where it is said that

Odysseus entrusted his home and the education of his son to his friend Mentor.

"Tell him all you know," said Odysseus, hence the common understanding of

mentoring as passing on experience and knowledge.

Mentoring is a relationship between an experienced person and a less experienced person for the purpose of helping the one with less experience. The protégé, or mentee, seeks the advice and support of the more experienced person. Mentors answer questions concerning the tasks that their protégés need to succeed in reaching their goals. The mentor provides wisdom, guidance and counseling as mentees advance their lives, careers or education.

Informal Mentoring

Structured Mentoring

Peer Mentoring

Community-Based Mentoring Programs

Coaching

Coaching refers to the activity of a coach in developing the abilities of coachees or clients. Coaching tends to focus on the achievement by coachees of a goal or specific skill. Methodologies for coaching are positioned away from the directive or the facilitative, and rest on accompanying clients within a dialogue that will allow emerging patterns and solutions to surface. Coaching lies out of the scale between mentoring and training on one end, and psychotherapy and counseling at the other.

Coaching is an integrated set of actions, aimed at boosting the performance of an individual or team. Coaching includes:

A context of trust and understanding

Agreement on the goals

Stretching opportunities to perform

Ongoing, ad hoc, feedback

Periodically, coaching sessions of greater depth

A recognition by the line manager of the obligation to coach, and the incentives to do so 

Models of Learning

Personal and professional Development Planning is a structured and supported process undertaken by an individual who reflect upon their own learning, performance and achievement and to plan for their personal, educational and career development.   Now a days it is a common process in practice by the government and business organization to develop and implement an personal and professional development plan of an employee which helps to achieve potential and reach goals at work place and in personal life.

The aims and objectives for personal and professional development plan is to improve our capacity to understand what and how we are learning, and to review, plan and take responsibility for own learning and career choices.   Every individual should be more effective, independent, and confident self directed learners, improve their general skills for study and career management, and encourage a positive attitude to learning throughout life.

Recognize and value past and present achievements

Identify transferable skills and personal competence

Clarify personal and professional goals

Personal Skills Audits

Self Assessment

Self assessment is a process in which you examine yourself in attempt to discover and learn more about yourself.   Your likes, dislikes, behaviors, attitudes and habits can be found during this process.   You can use the discoveries to your advantage by accepting or changing strengths and weaknesses.  

Personal SWOT analysis

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. This form of analysis is traditionally used for business purposes to analyze a business or project. This can also be applied to your personal life. The first step is to identify your own strengths and weaknesses. The next step is to identify the external opportunities and threats. This information can then be used to enhance your life. Once you identify the internal and external factors affecting your life, you can use this knowledge to plan the best course of action.

Strengths:

What are your abilities, skills talents in this area?

Do you have any specialist knowledge in this area?

What resources do you have that support this strength?

Who can you ask for advice, support or help?

What is already working well in this area?

Weaknesses:

What are your main limitations in this area?

What skills/ abilities are needed in this area that you don't have?

Are there any resources (money, time, help) that you don't have that you really need?

Opportunities:

What opportunities (dreams, wishes, goals) have you been considering in this area?

Do your personality/ intelligence preferences or motivational needs indicate any opportunities that you haven't previously considered?

What could you improve in this result area for you? List as many 'goals' as you can - which one or two will have the most impact on this aspect of your life?

How can you take advantage of your strengths to pursue these?

Threats:

What external threats (changes to income, events, etc) could affect you negatively? How could these affect you?

Are you facing any risks in this area if you continue along your current path? What are they - list them all. What would happen if these risks took place?

What obstacles or roadblocks are in your way?

Do your personality/ intelligence preferences or motivational needs indicate any threats that you haven't previously considered?

Personal Development Plan

Many employers ask their employees to write down their personal goals in a formal process that they call personal development planning. One person may write a development plan that is focused on advancing her career through additional education. Another person's development plan may involve planning for retirement, while still another person's development plan might include losing a specific amount of weight or starting a program of exercise. Usually some of the personal development plan goals have to relate to the job itself, but progressive companies like Monsanto, for example, encourage the employees to set targets that are specifically meaningful to the individual. The personal development plan may become part of a company's annual review process.

As the world moves forward in technology, communications and global relations, individuals must find a way to keep up with the changing pace. Personal development planning is a way to bring out a person's distinct characteristics and strengths. In doing so, individuals develop the skills needed to excel within their areas of expertise.

Identification

People who are capable of earning a living in today's world may not necessarily be using their abilities to their fullest. To use an ability, a person must first know that it's there. Personal development planning provides a framework in which individuals can identify untapped abilities and construct a plan that will capitalize on their specific skill sets and strengths. Development is an ongoing process that integrates personality and character with the demands that everyday experiences bring on a daily basis. Personal development may often require the learning of new habits so new patterns of productivity can emerge.

Function

Personal development planning is designed to affect all areas of a person's life. The overall process emphasizes the importance of personal values. The choice of career path and personal goals are all based on core values held by the individual. From there, the habits and behaviors required to make these values a real part of life can be factored into the plan. As a result, the effects of a clear sense of purpose and direction causes distractions and unnecessary conflicts to lose importance.

Focus

Areas of Development

Areas of development within a personal plan fall into two categories--building on existing strengths and abilities, or developing new skill sets. Identifying which areas to work with requires a person to know what his current strengths are and which abilities need further development. Self-reflection and feedback from others are ways to hone in on strengths and abilities. Feedback from others provides input on qualities that may be difficult for a person to see in himself. This type of feedback should be workable and rational, meaning a noncritical and specific directive will be apparent.

Behavior Change

The process of behavior change can be challenging even under the best circumstances. Behavior change requires a person to incorporate new habits and attitudes that may run contrary to her current lifestyle. Personal development planning is designed to connect this process of change with a person's core values and motivations. By doing so, the reason for change takes on a real and personal meaning. The objectives laid out in the plan should provide clear guidelines on how a particular habit will be incorporated into a person's daily routine.

Learning Styles - Which One are You?

Peter Honey and Alan Mumford have identified four main learning style preferences. By thinking about your preferred style, you can try and apply this to learning new things. If you're able to use your natural style, you're likely to find learning much easier and quicker. In the mid 1970's Peter Honey and Alan Mumford adapted David Kolb's model for use with a population of middle/senior managers in business. They published their version of the model in The Manual of Learning Styles (1982)[6] and Using Your Learning Styles (1983)[7].

Reflectors learn best when: 

observing individuals or groups at work  

they have the opportunity to review what has happened and think about what they have learned 

producing analyses and reports doing tasks without tight deadlines 

Reflectors learn less when: 

acting as leader or role-playing in front of others 

doing things with no time to prepare 

being thrown in at the deep end 

being rushed or worried by deadlines

back

Most of us has elements of more than one learning style.Think about your strongest style and your weakest style to identify how you learn. 

This excerpt has been taken from the Honey and Mumford Learning Styles Questionnaire. A full online version of this questionnaire is available from  www.peterhoney.com on a pay-as-you-go basis for £10. Your results include a full report with suggestions about how to become a more effective learner.

Theorists:

Theorists adapt and integrate observations into complex and logically sound theories. They think problems through in a step by step way. They tend to be perfectionists who like to fit things into a rational scheme. They tend to be detached and analytical rather than subjective or emotive in their thinking.

Theorists learn best when: 

they are put in complex situations where they have to use their skills and knowledge 

they are in structured situations with clear purpose 

they are offered interesting ideas or concepts even though they are not immediately relevant 

they have the chance to question and probe ideas behind things 

Theorists learn less when: 

they have to participate in situations which emphasise emotion and feelings 

the activity is unstructured or briefing is poor 

they have to do things without knowing the principles or concepts involved 

they feel they're out of tune with the other participants e.g. with people of very different learning styles

Activists:

Activists like to be involved in new experiences. They are open minded and enthusiastic about new ideas but get bored with implementation. They enjoy doing things and tend to act first and consider the implications afterwards. They like working with others but tend to hog the limelight.

Activists learn best when:

involved in new experiences, problems and opportunities

working with others in business games, team tasks, role-playing

being thrown in the deep end with a difficult task

Activists learn less when:

listening to lectures or long explanations

reading, writing or thinking on their own

absorbing and understanding data

References

http://www.presentations.com/msg/content_display/training/e3ied0764c52ea0c6b7a858277ba7f9e652

Read more: Definition of Mentoring | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/about_5080021_definition-mentoring.html#ixzz0sR9v8m8r

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