Leaders, Best Practices Squelch Learning

Leaders, in the corporate and government spheres embraced the concept of best practices and certification with great ardor based on the alluring part of the definition.

Best Practice

A technique or methodology that, through experience and research, has proven to reliably lead to a desired result. (Source: WhatIs.Com).

Experience – proven — desired — results!  What leader can resist that? It lowers risk, sounds efficient, and breeds success right?  Hold on just a minute.

Success in today’s world requires initiative, innovation, and learning. If we grip onto what’s been proven we increase the risk of falling behind by staying behind with the proven. We squelch learning.

If you are wondering what got me, The People Skills Coach™, started on a post about best practices and certification, here’s the quick story.  

    I was running a people skills workshop in a large global corporation.  The first workshop was for the leaders.  As we started to dig into certain people skills issues one of them said — “my people are certified in people skills.  We already follow the best practices.” Grip, grip, grip. He was resistant to change. He justified it by gripping onto the simplified definition of best practice noted above. He squelched learning.

A fuller definition of best practice (Source: WhatIs.Com) disagrees with this resistance and hints at a more successful approach:

A commitment to using the best practices in any field is a commitment to using all the knowledge and technology at one’s disposal to ensure success.

Success in my field, professional people skills, requires ongoing learning and adaptation. If we use certification, best practices, and proven ways to squelch learning, they become silent killers of success.

Leaders, it is worth asking yourselves: What message am I giving my teams about best practices and certification? Do my teams see it as an end goal or a starting point? Are my teams using best practices and certification to shut out information and resist change?

Your messages to them can overcome the misuse of best practices. Encourage the use of all the knowledge at your disposal to innovate and ensure success. Give your teams and your organization one of the greatest gifts you can — success through learning, innovation, and action. This is the truly the best practice.

One sure way to encourage this:

    Regularly ask them – How can we improve? What is all the information we have at our disposal to innovate and do better? What is different about this situation and how do we reach success?

    End each week with: What have we learned and innovated this week?

How are you encouraging innovation and learning? This blog is a learning zone! I welcome your insights in the comments field below.

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

©2010-2012 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please first email info@katenasser.com for terms of use. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on customer service & experience, teamwork, employee engagement, and leading change. Kate turns interaction obstacles into business success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

8 Responses to “Leaders, Best Practices Squelch Learning”

  1. Kate, You’ve articulated the distinction very clearly. For many of us, the willingness to admit that what we were doing isn’t “best” seems to be one of the bigger obstacles.

    For me, many times I receive that like “I was wrong” when in fact, I just didn’t have as much knowledge. More knowledge should always prompt us to change our behavior to align with the knowledge. If we can focus more on expanding what we know, adapting what we do becomes less complicated and more rewarding.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Mike,
      Your last sentence “If we can focus more on expanding what we know, adapting what we do becomes less complicated and more rewarding.” — adds a wonderful dimension to this discussion. Knowledge not only expands our possibilities; it also makes adaptation easier!

      Nicely said. Thanks for your insight.

  2. Alan Berkson says:

    Kate, I like your extended definition. Too often best practices is used as a template rather than a buffet, forcing businesses into processes and standards that may not be appropriate or effective.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Alan,
      Although I cannot take credit for the extended definition (Source: WhatIs.Com) — I do think it balances (as Tristan says) so that people don’t get stuck in the false security of “best” practices. Many thanks for your comment!

  3. Hi Kate,

    I think you’ve hit on a key topic: balance is crucial in any arena. There are many chaotic businesses that would benefit from a robust analysis and then application of structured best practices. However, there are just as many business who are paralyzed by red tape and don’t empower their people to use good judgement.

    The wise brand avoids all extremes. Excellent reminder!


    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Tristan,
      In your reply, you truly defined the purpose of “best practice” — to bring order to chaotic businesses (the bad type of chaos not the good). I wish along the way they had used a phrase other than “best practices” to label it. It feeds change resistance and even leaders have come to believe that it is the end goal. If the primary focus is on best practices — it is not leadership. It is management of the day to day.

      You do need both — as you say — to balance.

      I wish all leaders in 2011 the courage to tip the balance just a bit to always keep their businesses moving forward without crashing to the ground.

  4. Geoff Snyder says:

    Hey Kate,

    We must continue learning in order to grow as people, both personally and professionally. I remember hear somebody say “Somebody that calls them self an ‘expert’ is just somebody who has stopped learning.”

    When I first heard this I wasn’t exactly sure if they knew what they said or if I just wasn’t catching on to the message.

    Now, when I hear somebody refer to themselves as an ‘expert’, I will ask them what makes them say that and why. If I don’t hear keywords like: “continuing education” or “researching” or “ongoing development” – I usually will just note to myself that they are one person who has spent some devoted time in that field and feel comfortable with what they do on a daily basis.

    “…today’s world requires initiative, innovation, and learning.”
    ABSOLUTELY! without these three key items, our lives are less productive and even more difficult to help share with others. I really like the emphasis you put on this.

    Thank you for sharing this with us… much appreciated.


    • Kate Nasser says:

      Interesting that you paralleled the phrase “expert” in the same light. Never really focused on that before and I agree. If any current knowledge blocks our desire to learn — then innovation suffers.

      Thanks for your perspective and I hope your 2011 is a great one filled with learning and inspiration!

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