In child development, self-regulation is one of those “grand pooh-bahs” of behavioural and attitudinal development: teaching a child to learn and choose behaviours, strategies, environments, etc. that will help her or him to achieve a predetermined goal. (Unfortunately, some people think this means letting their children act like a little demon in the supermarket (or at home) till they learn it’s not the right thing to do. Without instruction or guidance, this is a good way to encourage psychopathy.) Teaching, modelling and managing the development of self-regulation is a must for responsible parenting.
Oddly enough, the development and deployment of self-regulation is also an issue for adults and the workplace. Self-regulation in adult environments consists of the same elements: Choosing strategies, behaviours and adapting environments in order to achieve a goal.
Barry Zimmerman has conducted a lot of research over several decades on self-regulation as a function of expertise. Zimmerman and Campillo (in “The nature of problem solving”), in their analysis of self-regulation in experts characterised the process as Forethought; Performance; Self-Reflection. Another way to conceptualise this self-regulation is through 3 Ps:
You can add a 4th P – Perception (of the initial need) – for a complete picture, if you like.
Now examine your goal and/or your team’s goal: How are you and they Planning for specific strategies, techniques and outcomes? Perform the planned behaviours and strategies. Perfect the strategies and techniques through review, analysis and practise.
Expertise studies demonstrate time and again that experts continue through this self-regulatory cycle so that they drill down to more finely developed and articulated technique as they develop their skill. Whereas a novice leader may say, “I will motivate my team”, an expert may say, “I will use socratic questioning at a period of team vulnerability in order to elicit and reinforce the individuals’ motivations, which I will then shape into a team goal orientation.” The point is, you have to become further skilled.
High performing individuals know that they need models, exemplars, coaches, mentors who can help them to learn what they don’t know and to improve – even to observe their performance in order to articulate salient facts about their performance. So building observational and modelling capacity into your functioning is very important.
Of course, part of the problem with teams is that “while the cat is away, the mice will play.” Unproductive behaviours and attitudes are “disinhibited” without the drive of a leader seeking to make results happen. And, let’s be honest, we all do it by ourselves at one time or another – we let down our drive and focus.
There are, concurrently, two related but important qualities to consider that make all the difference to your self-regulated performance. They are:
- Motivation and
Both are functions of individual drive, ethos, values, development, environment and more. Without them, you have process but no passion. Passion drives action towards achieving superior performance and outcomes.
The next time you’re teaching your kids how to regulate their own behaviour, think about how you should be developing some more self-regulation for yourself or your team.