Modeling and Observational Learning in Teams

Modeling and Observational Learning in Teams

Modeling and observational learning are essential ingredients for social learning in teams. When the team members are inspired, have positive role models, and improve their self-efficacy, they are more likely to embrace learning and new experiences. Not only will social learning improve, you are likely to see an improvement in morale and productivity in the team as well.

Inspired by Leaders

Leadership inspires much of the company’s culture, for better or worse. There is an obligation to inspire others to perform well. The best way to accomplish this is to lead by example. When team members see specific behaviors and ideals modeled for them, they understand what is expected of their behavior. Modeling behavior also generates respect for leadership.

Ways to Inspire:

  • Present a positive attitude
  • Communicate clearly and openly
  • Avoid bias and preconceived ideas
  • Recognize and reward achievements
  • Encourage questions, and answer them

Related: Leadership Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Boosting Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy is the personal belief that one is capable of reaching a goal. This belief motivates learning and improves self-esteem. People with high self-efficacy are more likely to take action and achieve success. People with low self-efficacy are more likely to fail. While much of self-efficacy is personal perception, there are ways to boost it in others, and observation is a useful way in boosting self-efficacy. When you see someone else perform a task, you are motivated to try the task yourself. Team members are more likely to try something new the more that they see modeled. As they succeed in learning, their self-efficacy will improve.

Peer Role Models

Peer role models provide informal modeling and observational learning. Like any other role models, peer role models ought to exhibit traits and actions that should be repeated. Mentoring programs may be peer modeling programs, but peer modeling does not have to be an official work relationship. Peer modeling occurs anytime when one peer learns from another. Peers may provide a point of view that leaders cannot. Peers are effective at modeling:

  • Tasks
  • Ethics
  • Communication

Generating Engagement

Learning is not possible without engagement, and if team members are truly not engaged in the learning process, nothing will engage them. There are, however, ways to generate and improve upon engagement that already exists:


  • Rewards: Create an environment that encourages learning with intrinsic and extrinsic rewards.
  • Opportunities: Provide opportunities to grow and learn.
  • Tools: Provide the tools that people need.
  • Respect: Maintain a culture of respect.


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