|Management Self-Development - A Guide for Managers, Organisations and Institutions (ILO, 1985, 282 p.)|
|Chapter 10. What can institutions do to encourage self-development?|
The main teaching and training activities that you will be involved in as an institution will be those of helping people to use self-development materials, running courses, and individual counselling.
For our purposes here we can divide courses into four categories, namely:
- short introductory courses on self-development (1 day);
- longer course (say 5 days) on self-development;
- short courses on specific aspects of self-development;
- other courses, involving self-development as a process and method.
In appendix 9 there is an outline for two of these short courses (1 and 5 days) on self-development.
When it comes to specific aspects of self-development, a whole host of courses can be mounted. For example, each of chapters 4 to 8 provides a grouping of themes or topics that could form the focus of a course - built around the activities described.
Introducing self-development into existing programmes can be very helpful, especially as this may well be more acceptable to managers who might be somewhat doubtful or sceptical about a course that was specifically aimed at self-development.
How might this be done? Experience suggests two ways. The first is to include a number of sessions on self-development (e.g. based on activities in this book) amongst a number of other, subject-matter oriented sessions. At the same time, a subject-based course can be used as an opportunity for particular managers to develop by asking one or two to run one or more of the sessions, based on their specific area of expertise. Obviously, though, you will need to think about working with them on preparing their session, possibly giving some coaching on basic principles and skills of instruction.
Another way is to incorporate self-development processes into the teaching of other, subject-matter oriented sessions. This can be done by:
- relating the subject matter to participant's own real life issues, by getting them to start with the issues and then helping them with theories and syllabus items. This inevitably requires a much higher level of flexibility than is usually found on content-oriented courses;
- providing a friendly learning climate, encouraging learners to take risks, disclose uncertainties; make it clear that mistakes are both necessary and expected;
- encouraging a many-sided approach to issues and problems;
- helping learners to use creative thought processes, by stimulating them to look for unusual and unexpected ideas and solutions;
- using a questioning approach and encouraging participants to do the same; questioning should be open-ended and meaningful, and should cause the learner to think and explore ideas, rather than merely recite facts and definitions;
- emphasising a learning approach that views problems, issues, theories and ideas as a whole, in totality, rather than in separate, compartmentalised fragments;
- creating an atmosphere of self-evaluation, leading to self-responsibility for learning and feelings of self-worth.
Example from Nigeria
On a particular management course in Nigeria, participants (from several organisations) were asked to identify the main things that went wrong in their organisations. They shared this with each other, and it was then compared with a related theoretical model.
This process, which was used a lot during the course, included the following four steps:
(1) think about a real issue, of importance to self;
(2) share and discuss this with other participants;
(3) compare with theoretical inputs into the course (by the teacher, read in books, etc.);
(4) work out implications for self.
Whilst not entirely "self-developmental", this does compare quite well with the self-development cycle described in chapter 1 (figure 3).
During the same course, participants were also given the opportunity of doing some of the self-assessment activities from chapter 2, as well as a number of the self-development activities.
This mixture, of clear self-development sessions with other "content" ones that were handled using developmental processes, certainly led to excellent results. A formal evaluation was carried out. When asked what were the main things they had learned, participants' responses included
- I have realised that most of the things we do are related to one another and cannot be separated;
- the course is entirely different from any I have attended previously in that I feel more involved by doing a lot of thinking for myself;
- it is interesting and encouraging to note that most of my colleagues have the same problems as I have;
- I have got more confidence in talking to people in discussion; how to learn, think and understand other people's problems better;
- I have learned to think for myself;
- I now know how to be part of an organisation;
- I realise for the first time the importance of myself as a middle manager;
- I see that in an organisation, if something affects one section the others will also be affected;
- I have learned that I can make better decisions if I face problems without fear and with confidence;
- I have learned to learn by myself without necessarily having to be told everything I need to know, which I find rather stimulating and practical;
- I have come to recognise that "self" must be included when dealing with other people's shortcomings and achievements.
Participants were also asked what features of the course helped them to learn. The mixture of self-learning and inputs related to their own issues comes through as being central here. In particular this was achieved thanks to:
- the fact that ideas put forward by participants were accepted and respected by the tutors;
- pairing and small group work developed a strong team spirit;
- learning processes related to the participants' own experience;
- an extensive use of handouts, charts, diagrams;
- practical activities;
- a friendly atmosphere;
A process such as used in this case is almost bound to lead to relevance, since it starts with participants' issues.
In summary, then, this approach provides a useful - and acceptable - bridge between purely self-development activities and ordinary syllabus-content courses.
If your institution runs a correspondence programme this will require another form of teaching. Obviously these will include marking assignments and sending out new materials; other processes have been examined already, including radio or TV programmes; counselling facilities, individually or in groups; and two-way communication.
You may also like to consider the possibility of occasionally bringing together participants in a correspondence programme, for short residential workshops (say between 2 and 5 days). Obviously, one purpose for this is to give the learners an opportunity to discuss difficulties and problems with tutors. Another very important aspect of such seminars is that learners can meet each other, share experiences, and perhaps arrange to meet or correspond with each other afterwards. This can be most helpful, since one of the biggest difficulties encountered by correspondence course students is the sense of isolation.
Another way of overcoming this, and of helping learners with difficulties, would be to establish special self-development or self-help groups for correspondence course students, as well as other groups for managers working on their self-development.