The Role of Manager Coaching in Learning Transfer (2)

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The Role of Manager Coaching in Learning Transfer – Part 2



In part 1 we looked briefly at the crucial role a manager plays in learning transfer. Part of that role is to encourage and support the delegate as they go about the activities they need to do in order to start using their new learning.

Assuming the manager is bought into the idea that the training course was a good idea in the first place, surely they would have a vested interest in the training course making a difference to the way the people on their team behave?

Then again, if the manager had nothing to do with the decisions made about the course, its content or who gets put on it, anything to do with the course probably seems like extra work. For these managers, it is a distraction from meeting the very real needs of their operational goals. They are quite rightly asking “What’s in it for me?”

So, involve the managers from the beginning. If the manager doesn’t want the course for their team member, it’s all over. Course dismissed. The manager won’t hold themselves or their team accountable for any change. If they aren’t accountable to someone, you are relying on them self-motivating to change. In most cases, in a busy world, this won’t happen. They will need help. The manager needs to be held accountable for holding their team members accountable. Here’s a thought… is developing people part of their job description? Is it an official part of their job? Do you hold people in your organisation accountable for doing their job?

Think about it this way. Good behaviour from the returning delegate is to use their newfound knowledge. Conversely, we should be taking the stand that bad behaviour is not to use their newfound knowledge. So, if the returning delegates are behaving badly, we need to call out that bad behaviour as unacceptable. After all, when we ignore bad behaviour, we are endorsing it, and so the cycle of minimal implementation after training continues. We might also label as bad behaviour the manager doing little or nothing to support the delegate make the changes expected from the course.

The difference between good behaviour and bad behaviour in any organisation is set by the prevailing culture. If the culture accepts ‘bad behaviour’ as normal, it ceases to be bad behaviour and so is difficult or impossible for anyone to call it out.

Examine the culture of your organisation regarding what happens after a training course. Are there any expected consequences if the delegate does nothing with what they learnt on the course? Are there any expected consequences for the manager if they do nothing to support the delegate after a training course?

How can you start shifting the culture to ensure that both managers and delegates ‘behave well’?

I have heard from many managers that they just don’t have time to nursemaid people returning from a training course. To me, this is a classic case of the urgent overshadowing the important. It is a hallmark of good managers that they have regular one-to-one meetings with each member of their team. The time for these one-to-one meetings should already be baked into their schedule, and so when someone returns from a training course, it is this time that can be used to focus on nurturing, supporting, coaching, and mentoring their team member through the process of implementing their new learning in the workflow.

One of the easiest things for a manager to do for a returning delegate is act as a cheerleader.
Encourage them to ask these two questions…
What’s the best thing you have done this week with your new skills?
What’s the next thing you are going to do with them?

The manager needs to be relentless in asking these questions, so the delegate knows they will be asked again and again. And ‘relentless’ in giving praise and encouragement for every act that is heading in the right direction. It is unrealistic to expect perfect execution from the delegate on their return from training any more than you would expect a young child to use a spoon correctly after showing them a video of an expert spoon user.

Here is the link to Part 1 and Part 3 coming soon.


About the author
Paul Matthews is the founder of People Alchemy and expert in workplace learning, especially informal learning, learning transfer, performance consultancy, and how Learning & Development can help achieve business targets. He is the author of his brand-new book “Learning Transfer at Work: How to Ensure Training >> Performance” as well as bestsellers “Informal Learning at Work: How to Boost Performance in Tough Times” and “Capability at Work: How to Solve the Performance Puzzle”. For further information, please visit