While learning seems to be a pretty straight-forward thing, there is much more to it when we look behind the scenes.
How many of you had made plans in the past to learn something, or take time to read, or take an eLearning module that was not mandatory by the organisation? But never did.
Learning takes time, reflection and focus.
The ability to learn, as many leading institutes and researchers say, is one of the most important skill of the future. HBR even goes as far as saying that it’s the most sustainable source of competitive advantage – to learn faster than competition does.
How can learning be a source of competitive advantage? Think about dealing with disruption – if we have a learning and growth mindset, we see opportunities in disruption and change. Think about the speed of business – how quickly can we react of we continuously learn? Think about the ever-changing rules of your industry – can you be a thought leader with a growth mindset that continuously develops? Think about digitisation, customer experiences and so on…
Of course, not all members in your teams take this as a positive opportunity – there is resistance, for example of high performers, who feel they already know everything and lack some of that humility. There may be resistance within older or more traditional management styles.
The kind of learning we talk about isn’t only the formal class room learning, or the sit-back-and-relax learning when taking time out to go through an eLearning or a Youtube channel. Fighting the resistance against doing things differently, experimenting with new approaches, looking for growth opportunities and thereby always gathering new and advanced capabilities – thats the complete picture of learning.
And that’s not easy:
We almost become a rookie over and over again, a novice. Someone who has to admit “I don’t know.”
How does that feel to start over again?
Exactly, we may feel vulnerable and if we know one thing: vulnerability in the business world is not good – we are being taught this from the very beginning. Knowledge is power.
Those leaders who create a learning culture and are great role models for learning have a number of approaches in common:
Only these in combination create the ultimate mindset of learning.
CONTINUOUS DRIVE AND DISCIPLINE
Many people say drive or discipline is something we have or we don’t – something we cannot change or learn to adopt, let alone be taught by others. In reality, we can manage drive, we can influence how we approach situations, change or even disruption. We can choose when we give up on something, and how much further we want to go in our lives. If we create the right mindset, source of motivation and skills to make it easy. Think about the last time you were confronted with a system or process change and your first reaction was negative. While it seems an automatic reaction, in reality you have the choice how to react and whether you are motivated enough to push through and find the opportunity in it.
I’ve been a trainer and speaker for almost 20 years and, as you can imagine, there isn’t much I haven’t seen or done in a class room or auditorium. With experience, I always thought I’m pretty awesome, my calendar is full for 6 months, and I was super comfortable. Until I realised I’ve developed so many people out there over the years, except myself.
A few years ago, I realised that there are many facilitators out there who are super experienced (and super expensive) but they do the same things over and over again; successfully, but no development. I didn’t want to belong to that group, so I booked myself into an advanced public speaking workshop. I experienced something I never had before: the trainer pushed us over the limit – physically and emotionally. I saw an entirely new dimension of giving my best.
So much for self-awareness. Take a step back and challenge your abilities.
Honest, who enjoys feeling vulnerable? Imagine you finally made it, when you got it right and you’re at the peak of your performance, do you really go back to the drawing board? It’s so much easier to work in the filed where we know everything.
Even though organisations implement “Learning through Failure” initiatives where people use failure or missed targets as coaching opportunities, where people are relived of their fear of making a mistake. Even in those organisations, our human nature still tells us to succeed and failure is bad. We work from our strengths and avoid ambiguous situations.
Humility means being OK with being vulnerable and embracing the learning phases to feel the improvement every day.
As children, we have an unlimited appetite for information and skills. WE question everything and constantly want to know more; we explore, we are hungry for knowledge. Think about your children, your nephews or nieces, your neighbor’s kids: don’t we always admire their eternal curiosity and interest in everything they see? Great learners retain this trait from their childhood and bring it alive in their adult lives. Every day. No question is stupid enough and no topic is unimportant enough not to ask about it.
Tolerance does not mean we let everything go, or don’t care. But by valuing diversity – not only in cultures and personalities but also in viewpoints, opinions and approaches automatically makes great learners open to develop a growth mindset. But that’s not the end of it – being open is only the first step and must be followed by discipline and rigorous execution.
Being the role model to our environment, teams and constituency isn’t easy but adopting a growth mindset and thereby building a learning culture is a powerful way to keep ahead of your competitors.