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Reflection on Learning Skills Development

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Published: Thu, 05 Jul 2018

Learning Preferences

Learning is a life long process and can be had in various shapes and forms. It can be based on education, experience, formal training etc. Every individual has his preferred way of learning which can change during the course of his lifetime. Eg. Individuals can prefer class-room learning when they are young and formal training when they grow old. Usually learning based on experience is considered one of the best ways to learn, but George Bernard Shaw (cited in Moyer, 2007) believes that experience doesn’t guarantee learning. He points out that men are wise in proportion, not to their experience, but to their capacity for experience and one needs to pay attention to find the lessons. Formal training is another way to learn and has been greatly successful within organizations over the years. But, Peter Drucker in his article “Managing Oneself” (HBR March–April 1999; pg 148) doubts the effectives of formal training by stating that training can be an impediment to learning because it is based on the assumption that there is only one right way to learn. Education and class-room based learning have traditionally been a preferred mode of learning. Rapid rise in technology and its applications has meant ready and continuous access to training and business communications which has meant that learning can now be more timely, specific and synchronous (Sullivan, 2003). Today’s generation want to be connected to instant messaging and short, highly-focused training that can be quickly downloaded and accessed via mobile phones, PDAs, or MP3 players(Ware, 2007; pg 58). Every learning technique has its advantages and limitations and the most preferred learning technique depends on variables like age, life-style, receptiveness and responsiveness of the brain, patience etc.

Preferred Team Roles

Teams have become a key component in organizations; properly working teams are now central to the organizations health. (Fisher at el., 1998) Because of the growing emphasis on team-working, a lot of research has gone into the structure, dynamics and the operations of the team. This has led to segregating team member by their functionality and the roles and responsibilities they entail as a part of the team. Belbin (1981) identified eight different roles within the team with each member complementing the others strengths and compensating for the weaknesses. Belbin classified and named his team roles as:

  • The plant – Is a problem solver and has innovative, creative and unorthodox way of dealing with situations. Has a strong ownership of ideas.
  • The resource investigator – Is the networking member the team that explores opportunities through new and pre-existing contacts. Is an extrovert, enthusiastic individual having good communication skills.
  • The coordinator – Coordinates different activities of the team and acts as a chairperson. Is responsible for most of the decision making and is normally more experienced than other members.
  • The Shaper – Overcomes obstacles with his drive and courage. Thrives on pressure.
  • Monitor-Evaluator – Has good judgment and the ability to look at the bigger picture. Has more strategic focus.
  • TeamWorker – Responsible for avoiding conflicts and making sure the team gels together and coordinates well.
  • Implementer – Responsible for turning ideas into actions.
  • Completer – Is a perfectionist responsible for finishing the project on time.

(Belbin, 1993)

Attitudes to Decisions making

No matter what sector or industry people work in, they have to make decisions. Decision making involves risk because, most often than not, the outcome cannot be guaranteed. By definition, a decision involves choice and therein lie the difficulty- making the right choice. (McGuire, 2002) The degree of risk involved is greater if the decision is made at the strategic level as compared to the tactical and operational level.

Normal attitudes to decision making include:

  • Indecisiveness – People try to evade decision making because it involves risk. Faced with choices and being unclear about which one to make leads to indecisiveness and inaction.
  • Over Analysis – Another attitude to decision making can be over-analyzing options to make sure the correct decision is made. Langdon (2001) calls it ‘paralysis by analysis’ syndrome which means inaction caused by too much thinking.
  • Decisions made on past experiences (historical evidence)– Decisions, at times, are also made by on past experiences without considering the current situation. Eg. If faced with a similar problem as in the past, there is likelihood that the decision similar to the one made in the past will be made.

Other attitudes to decision making include decisions made in haste and decisions made without proper consultation with others.

Leadership and management skills

Leadership is the ability to obtain results from others through personal direction and influence and requires management of self and management of others. Leadership and management differ in the way that management is concerned with ensuring things remain as they are and is often done by standard practice and regulation; leadership involves possessing vision, and the ability to communicate that vision. Leaders should possess the following skills

  • Problem Solving – Problem solving involves identification and definition of the problem, generation of a number of solutions that could be accepted, evaluation of alternatives and their outcomes. An important attribute within problem solving is, communication, in particular, listening skills, as various opinions and possible solutions are being generated. The leader has to see the big picture and choose the best possible solution (decision-making).
  • Decision making – Decision making goes hand in hand with problem solving (as cited in the last paragraph). Every aspect of leadership requires decision making. Delegation, for example, requires the manager to decide which individual is suited for specific tasks and how to distribute work in an optimal and best possible way.
  • Communication – It is very important that the leader has regular and open communication with both the customer and the team members.
  • Change-management – Managing change is also vital to effective leadership because changes might be requested by the stakeholders, caused by unexpected events. Therefore, it is important that the leader has the skills to manage and control change and make sure that the impact of change on accomplishing objectives is kept to a minimum.

Management skills

Independent of the leadership ability, managers has been studied to have different styles. The style chosen by a manager depends on the assumptions that they make about subordinates, what they think they want and what they consider their attitude towards work to be. Managers have to provide direction to the team, the drive and motivation to work as a part of the team, represent the purpose of team working and working as a group.

All the components mentioned below are essential traits of a leader. There has been a widespread acceptance that leadership is an essential management component but it has proved to be difficult to identify the elements of effective leadership and how effective leadership relates to good management practices. (James & Walke, 2004) It is worth pointing out that there is no one best style of leadership that is equally effective for all circumstances. The best leadership style is the one that fulfills the need of the group the most, while at the same time satisfy the needs of the external stakeholders.

Personal Development plan

Areas of development

Author’s weaknesses lie in the following areas:

  • Delegation skills – The author is not very good at delegating tasks and has an inherent weakness to doubt others capabilities. He is more comfortable when most of the crucial responsibilities and decision making rests in his own hands and where he just tells the team what to do.
  • Communication – Communication in one of the author’s other weaknesses. This takes off from his delegation style, because he believes in centralized decision making and the need to communicate with subordinates or other team members is seldom realized.
  • Negotiation – The author also finds himself lacking in negotiation skills at times. He is good at understanding and knowing the background to the problem but it’s the bargaining phase of negotiation that the author is not very good at (especially in project management environment).

Strengths (Key Skills)

Author’s strengths lie in:

  • Organization and Planning The author excels at organization and planning and makes good use of planning tools. He takes time out to decide on the critical activities and the slack and apportion responsibilities accordingly. He has a clear understanding of the tasks ahead and prioritizes tasks according to their order of importance.
  • Motivation – The author is a highly motivated individual who could turn on creative juices, fight against odds and walk the extra mile to reach set goal and attain objectives.
  • Change Management – Embracing change is another one of the author’s positive traits. He has always identified the need to change and how change can be effectively implemented with least resistance.

Background

Preferred team role

The author’s preferred team role based on his capabilities is that of the ‘plant’ (going by Belbin’s classifications). Armed with strong theoretical basics and practical training, he has a strong ownership of ideas. The author also possesses an unorthodox way (out of the box thinking) of dealing things and is always looking for new and better ways to tackle issues and solve problems. He is skeptical to an all-logical approach to problem solving and does not always adhere to norms and proven ways of doing things. Author’s weakness lies in his ability to work under pressure and to consequently avoid situations that may entail pressure.

Decision making style

The author does make decisions after a proper analysis of the situation and how the decision affects individuals and the organization. His decision making style involves a process of elimination where a final decision is taken after eliminating alternatives. The author’s weaknesses lie in giving minimal consideration to external factors. What is required for decision making is the use of appropriate decision making tools. SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) is one such tool which helps to assess the internal and external decision making environment. Edward de Bono’s ‘six thinking hats’ is another tool for making team decisions. Before making a decision, the author has to make sure that the impact on external stakeholders is also considered. One of the other weaknesses of the author is the tendency to rush with decisions (haste). To overcome this, the author has to make sure that the issue is defined properly, all the information and alternatives are carefully considered and all the options weighed and evaluated before the decision is made.

Preferred learning style

The author’s preferred mode of learning is through hands-on training after having a firm theoretical knowledge of the basic concepts. A good way to learn for the author would be to start with a theoretical learning exercise through a tutor based class-room course and then having to execute the learning with hands-on training under some supervision. This would be an ideal scenario as it blends theory and practice. It might take some extra time to carry out the training, but at the end of it, the author would have added sufficient skills and is likely to be more efficient while working. This will also make sure sufficient time is allocated to train individuals; training is not rushed with and does not cover just one aspect (theoretical or practical).

Goals

The author sets goals based on his strengths. He makes sure that the goal is specific. A specific goal like improving profitability by 3% in the next financial year gives direction to the efforts. Also the author makes sure that the set goals can be measured (in relative or absolute terms) and are attainable. If goals are far too optimistic (unrealistic) and beyond reach, then it tend to have an adverse effect on motivation. The author only sets goals which he believes can be accomplished. It is made sure that the goal is attained within a specific time frame. Goal setting is a variable process for the author where the goal can be varied depending on external and unforeseen circumstances. Goals are set based on authors past performances and it is made sure that the goals are neither too easy nor too difficult to attain.

Planning

A plan is devised by the author to attain goals. Firstly, the author lists key skills required to attain the goal along with other requirements and constraints. Then a structure is given to the planning process to bring all aspects of planning together into a coherent, unified process. The planning structure includes analysis of opportunities, identification of aims, exploring of options, selection of the best option, evaluation of the plan followed by implementation and closure of the plan.

Opportunities

Setting up a goals and giving direction to the career to achieve that goals opens up several opportunities. The first opportunity is to realize the shortcomings and working on improving them. When we list our goals, we build our self-image and we see ourselves worthy of these goals which acts as a motivating agent. (Hosking & Bass, 2001) As a result, we try our best to develop the traits and personality that allows us to possess those goals. Improving on weaknesses and learning through experience are the two best opportunities to be gained from the self development process.

Progress

The author makes use of indicators like Gantt Charts (See Appendix 1) and Network diagrams (See Appendix 2) to track progress. Gantt charts help in setting a time frame that allows carrying out all the necessary steps. The author makes sure that the critical activities are paid sufficient attention and sufficient time is allocated as ‘slack’.

Authors skill set also includes soft skills such as impulse to lead and attain objectives, anticipatory skills to adjust the goals according to the changing environment and empowerment skills. Successful plans make optimal use of skills, experience and specialist knowledge.

References

Belbin, R.M (1981) Management Teams –Why they succeed or fail, London, Butterworth-Heinemann

Belbin, R.M (1993) Team roles at Work, Oxford, Butterworth-Heinemann

Drucker, P (1999) People and Performance: Managing Oneself ,Harvard Business School Press Books, p1, pg 148

Fisher et al., (1998) The distribution of Belbin team roles among UK managers, Personnel review, volume 29, 2, pg 1-14

Janice, W (2007) TRAINING Tomorrow’s WORKFORCE., Rosemary; Kerschenbaum, Steve. T+D, Vol. 61 Issue 4, p58-60,

Hall, B (2007) Five Ways to Use Social Networking for Learning.,. Chief Learning Officer, Vol. 6 Issue 5, p17-17

Hosking, D. M., & Bass, A. (2001). Constructing changes in relational processes:Introducing a social constructionist approach to change work. Career Development International, 6/7, 348-360.

McGuire, R (2002) Decision Making, The Pharmaceutical Journal, Vol 269, pg 647-649

Moyer, D. (2007) The Stages of Learning,. Harvard Business Review, Vol. 85 Issue 5, p148-148

Mumford, A (2002) Horses for Courses, Learning Centre, Accessed from http://peoplemanagement.co.uk Date accessed 21/05/2007

Sullivan, A. K., & Strang, H. R. (2002-2003). Bibliotherapy in the classroom: Using literature to promote the development of emotional intelligence. Childhood Education,79, 74-80.


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