I recently listened to a leader describe a difficult employee who always said “well, that’s the way we’ve always done it”. You’ve heard it, but what happened next may surprise you… that same leader then told me she wasn’t sure about changing the training format because… “well, you know we’ve never done more than 1 live program a year and I’m not sure that’s something we want to change.” Hmmm…sounds a lot like “that’s the way we’ve always done it”. And whether it’s said about learning or leading, that phrase will keep you stuck and failing to make progress.
The simple truth is employees become mirrors of a leader’s philosophy. In this case, it was about training. In all cases, it’s about learning. Are you the leader who is always learning new ways, new information, and new approaches to the same old problem? Are you the leader always looking to better your own approach, knowledge or skill set? Or are you the leader who prefers to keep (and complain about) the same problems day after day? Either way, the following guidelines will help you become, model, and remain a learning leader who then paves the way for employees to do the same. (not to mention helps you become a better leader in the process!)
Identify Key Nuggets of Need
Even leaders have blind spots, as well as areas they know there needs to be growth. To continue to learn and enhance your skills, decide what area you’ll focus on first and try not to attempt them all at once. Perhaps you have a good grasp of essential leadership skills such as communication, conflict, coaching, and performance, but need to develop the skill of bragging about yourself or managing up. Good sources for where to start first might be your last performance appraisal or the areas that give you the greatest struggle. Pay close to attention to the things you put off the most as those are usually clues to areas that deserve your attention first.
Dedicate the Time
Learning is not an event, but a process. Some leaders choose to learn their leadership skills through experience, time, or what I like to call trial and error, but there are other ways to acquire wise guidance and valuable wisdom. Read books ; download articles; scan Linked In leadership groups (Linked 2 Lead or Lead with Giants are great choices!); or even create your own Flipboard on your phone with topics of interest to you. Spend time daily scanning your favorite sources for industry trends, economic advice, communication guidance, and leadership tips. Daily small steps is one way to make great long term leadership learning progress.
Make it a Habit
Much as a manager might encourage the employee habit of putting a customer first or treating each other with mutual respect, the best managers lead themselves to develop lifelong learning habits. With nuggets of focus identified and time set aside, making learning a habit becomes easy and something you look forward to when starting your day. Just like that exercise program, this part of learning might not be easy, but daily learning is the fastest way to become a more effective leader.
Carve Out the Budget
Just this week I’ve trained leaders in three different courses. They were great live training courses and each client made specific efforts to carve out the budget because they felt their management teams were worth it. Finding the moola, as one client calls it, is not always easy and not having it one year, does NOT make you “bad boss of the year”. It does mean you may need to get creative and continue the learning for you and the team with a hybrid of training methods. Online learning and webinars are less expensive. Live courses typically are the highest investment and self-study books and audio programs are certainly the cheapest. The key is to determine what you can afford or begin building your case for training for you and the team, which means you may have to budget for more.
When a leader is learning, employees will often learn from you and if you want them to get better, putting the priority on your own learning is one of the most powerful things you can do.
I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!