The Pathway Academy

Why a learning culture is so important, and how to determine if you really have one

As children, we can be incredibly inconvenient to those around us – it’s just reality.

  1. We have many needs that we need others to fulfil.
  2. We do “stupid” things a lot.
  3. We make a mess, and are clumsy.
  4. We may be deliberately difficult and awkward, especially in the pursuit of what we want.
  5. We are not rational yet.
  6. We can be impulsive and relatively self-serving.
  7. We can be utterly impatient – our needs are immediate.

Our parents can often find this, well, difficult and relentless.

As a consequence, they may end up resorting to shouting, being angry, telling us to go away, being intolerant and awkward themselves, withdrawing and communicating with harsh tones:

“how dare you do what!”

“what the hell are you doing”

“don’t be so stupid, you stupid girl”

“I wish you would just stop being so silly

and on, and on.

And as relentless as it is for them it can be for us too – over time we begin to associate our inconvenience with the harsh tones or anger – that we interpret as emotional withdrawal and rejection – which hurts.

These “stressors” build over time and we can become defensive and angry ourselves as a way to protect ourselves – or – we end up desperately needing the approval of others, afraid of that rejection that hurt so much – to name a few responses.

Zoom forward a number of years and we enter the workplace.

That hurt hasn’t gone away.

It’s just been cleverly cloaked, pushed down, suppressed, forgotten (for now) – whatever.

But it shows up in our behaviours.

A learning culture isn’t just about being open to some feedback at your one-to-one – it’s about us building a conscious, understanding, emotionally aware, psychologically safe environment.

It’s about having frank and candid conversations – and about learning how to do that in a way that is sensitive to any triggers people may well have from these early association between feedback and pain.

And here is the thing…

We really can be sensitive to that earlier pain – we can hear that critical parent – even when there isn’t one – and so we must learn to communicate in a way that correctly frames the discussion so that our intentions are not misinterpreted.

And boy – can our intentions be misinterpreted.

Communication can be a key tool in the pursuit of re-wiring the association between feedback and pain.

And THAT can be vital to ones mental and emotional health.

Believe it or not, we can make a tremendous difference to wellbeing, simply by changing the way in which we communicate.

If you are not doing this then it’s likely you may not yet be creating the kind of healthy, accountable environment that you are hoping to do – and – it’s likely you may not yet have a true learning culture or haven’t yet understood what that will take to make it happen.

So – communication is vital, creating that learning culture is vital, and both need to be considered not just ways to improve performance, but important ways to improve wellbeing.

If you want to really discover whether you have a true, psychologically safe, learning culture – go look at the quality of the conversations. Are frank and candid conversations happening? Are people getting defensive?

Any defensive traits just point to those early associations with pain – and if managers are avoiding the conversations they should be having because they are afraid of that defensive response – it just means they haven’t yet build up a solid enough understanding about people, emotional awareness, and communication – and without that – not much will likely change and there does not yet exist a psychologically safe, learning cultre.