When I think about the most successful people that I have met during my working career, they all seem to share one thing in common. Every one of them seems to passionately enjoy the process of learning new skills and will continually challenge themselves to grow and improve their development.
I find that a large number of these people – although at the pinnacle of their game, accept the fact that they still have a lot to learn and actively go out to discover what they are missing. I don’t think I have ever really found any exceptions to that rule. To them, I find that learning isn’t something that is just meant for school or even a means to an end but an on-going process that is part of their fulfilment and happiness both inside and outside of their work.
If you consider yourself to be a leader, ask yourself this question: if lifelong learning and success are linked, is continuous learning really a personal priority to you, as the leader of your business, and, importantly, are you the role model for the people that work within your business ? If the answer is anything but an unequivocal “yes” then you run the risk of losing your best employees and they will start to ponder the idea that perhaps they are not in the best working environment to learn and develop.
The saying, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, but in my opinion, you’re never too senior or old to learn something new. In fact, the best leaders are the ones who are always adding to their knowledge, always reading or always exploring new ways of thinking. Above all, they always seem to make their own development a top priority on their list. It always seems to be these kinds of people that lead top-flight businesses and I don’t think that is much of a coincidence. As I see it if a leader demonstrates his commitment to their own learning, then in most cases the entire company and the people within it will start to do the same and that can only lead to a positive outcome. As a leader, it is your job to inspire people and, continuous learning is imperative, so all succeed.
So what can you do? Challenge yourself with this: continually ask yourself the questions, what did I learn this year, how did I go about doing it and what challenge do I want to tackle next? Also, keep an ear out for other people noticing what you have done and how they view the new developed you. It’s so important to actively demonstrate your commitment to your own career development – that learning is of great importance to you and your career, and that, essentially, the rest of the business should follow suit and demonstrate the same commitment.
Role modeling doesn’t necessarily have to start and end with you. Your managers and directors must demonstrate this philosophy for it to really make a big enough impact throughout the business. However, this may mean that you will need to spearhead a change in mindset. As I have seen in the past, managers have viewed learning and development as a cost, inconvenience or even a waste of time rather than a more long-term investment that is going to serve them and their team for the better. Here are three ideas to help managers really demonstrate lifelong learning in a way that will make their workers sit up and listen and ultimately replicate the behavior.
-Managers need to be more self-aware
Encourage your managers to take a step back and analyse whether or not they are demonstrating their own personal commitment to learning to their team. Is there more they could be doing? When was the last time they got away from the normal work day and attended a training course or attended a conference? Or even spent 20 minutes reading about different ways in which they can inspire their teams to succeed? All of these things add to the accumulation of things that are needed to be committed to your teams learning and development.
-Actions speak louder than words
It’s just not enough for managers to ‘talk the talk and not walk the walk’. And this needs to be made loud and clear from you. We all know the cliché that actions speak louder than words (especially when it comes to being a strong role model), so your managers need to openly demonstrate the importance to their personal lifelong learning no matter how busy they may be. The alternative is frankly an admission to giving up or one that has already achieved perfection.
-Failure is ok, as long as it comes with learning
Innovation and advancements in technology all stem from failure. They say that Thomas Edison did over a thousand experiments until he created the light bulb. But what came from the other 999 experiments? He learned from the mistakes and made the correct alterations until he got that all-important light bulb idea! So in this lifelong learning culture of your business, emphasise the point that failure is absolutely ok.
Why not encourage them to fail fast and take away every learning opportunity from the experience. There was a fantastic interview with Boris Becker many years ago when he had lost yet another game against his nemesis Pete Sampras. When asked how he felt about yet another defeat, he simply replied, “Every time I lose, I am learning how to beat him. And what happened next in the coming months? Becker beat Sampras – many times. He was not failing. He was learning.
So next time you are given the opportunity to learn something new, grasp it with both hands and demonstrate this to your workforce.
For general enquiries:
Tel 01234 244 500
For general enquiries:
Tel 01234 244 500