How Leaders Can Use Peer Learning to Supercharge Their Teams
If you’re a leader, think about the information and wisdom that’s shared across your team.
Then, step back and remember this is merely the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to what your people know that could be useful to each other.
The most effective teams are able to tap into the strengths of individuals and leverage them to drive towards a collective vision - growth, a new market, increased efficiency, a product launch or some other clearly defined objective. In the face of big goals and bigger unknowns, it’s critical to foster a culture where team members are constantly teaching and learning from each other.
People are the biggest assets that a company has, and peer learning is one of the most leveraged tools a leader can use to drive a team forward and create lasting organizational change. Here are just a few of its positive effects:
Empowering your team members and making everyone feel they have something to contribute
Understanding what your team members are great at and learning how they do it
Aligning your team around key vision and values
Improving collaboration and breaking down silos
Engaging the team and always having something to look forward to, especially in remote or hybrid environments
In most organizations, however, members don’t share what they know. Why is this?
People don’t have enough time to prepare learning materials.
There’s no structured platform to share the information.
They don’t want to step up without permission or prompting.
Practicing a skill doesn’t mean someone is able to effectively teach it.
Most of all, the challenge is around confidence and self-awareness. The majority of people- even those with extensive experience - will often say things like “I don’t know what I have to offer.”
As a leader, how can you overcome these barriers to create a culture of continuous peer learning?
At LeadersAtlas, we help leaders identify and unleash their team members’ “superpowers”, through easy and enriching programs that lead to better business results. Here are a few things we’ve learned about how to do this:
1) Create context for people to share their superpowers
An individual’s superpower lies at the intersection of three areas:
Knowledge: What are they good at, either through natural talent or skills built over time?
Passion: What are they excited about to share with others?
Expertise: What is valuable for their peers to know, in the context of the group’s shared goals?
Superpowers are diverse. They can be technical skills or “soft” skills - anything that helps an employee achieve success in their role. At LeadersAtlas, for example, one of our team members’ superpowers is visual communication. Another is great at creating magical customer experiences. Someone else has a gift for systems and processes.
Start by asking team members about their knowledge, passion, and expertise. If folks have trouble coming up with answers, have them ask their peers or managers (including you) for observations and insights.
2) Begin building a habit of superpower sharing
Carve out time outside of team meetings that is specifically dedicated to superpower sharing. This is especially important in remote or hybrid environments, where employees need more reasons to come together and interact. With our clients, we’ve found that one hour every other week is a good sweet spot.
It’s giving folks a chance to shine and be seen as experts, perhaps for the first time in their careers. Their superpowers help define them and give them strength, confidence, and conviction. It’s helping team members become closer, engage in mutual learning, and develop greater appreciation for each other.
3) Make it easy for team members to share
For team members who know what and how they want to share, let them run wild. Others might need more support.
What makes it easy to share?
Make sure everyone knows what the team’s goals are, so they can see where their skills contribute to achieving them.
Help your team members connect their powers to the impact they can have on the team’s success.
Highlight practical examples of times that your team member used their skill to achieve great results.
Don’t require perfection from the presenter.
The specific format is up to you. LeadersAtlas typically takes employees’ superpowers and turns them into interactive workshops or roundtable discussions. For leaders, we suggest asking your team members which formats they prefer and which ones are most effective in achieving the desired learning outcomes.
4) Collect data and use to optimize future peer learning
Why wait for the annual employee engagement survey to see how your team is doing? If you regularly convene your team, you can continuously collect information on energy and engagement levels.
LeadersAtlas designs bespoke surveys that measure what leaders are most interested in learning about their teams. Are team members progressing in their careers? Are they engaged with the company? Do people feel they can do their best work?
These data points can inform your future peer learning - what topics you focus on, which conversations you facilitate, and which people you engage (both within and outside of your immediate team).
Great leaders help their teams flourish by discovering people’s skills and applying them to shared challenges on the way to worthwhile goals.
Beyond the immediate impact of learning, it can be transformational to turn team members into teachers for the benefit of the group. Peer learning creates a feeling of possibility that helps people bring more of their talents and mastery to work.
What LeadersAtlas stands for?
LeadersAtlas has a mission to charge Asabiyyah, the nuclear force that holds groups together, on behalf of leaders working for noble causes, for your team to share talent, band together, and realize a vision of excellence through peer led forums.
We Believe everyone has superpowers that can improve the performance of their teams and organizations
By celebrating these practices, sharing knowledge and teaching skills, team members bond, come to respect each other's excellence and seek more excellence themselves. It is our mission to help you maximize your team’s potential.