Want to be a Good Leader? Learn to learn.

Want to be a good leader? Learn to learn.Want To Be a Good Leader?  Learn to Learn.

EXPOSE  |  Disciplined, Defunct, or Derailed?

“Research shows that leaders who think and act from the same assumptions and behavioral repertoires they’ve used for years are prone to stagnate, under perform, or derail… To sustain success, you must develop learning agility.” – Monique Valcour

EXPLORE  |  How Do You Approach Learning?

While Monique is talking in terms of our careers, it is probably best asked of all areas of our lives: Are you disciplined, defunct or on your way to being derailed?

I realize those are pretty dramatic terms, but as you consider where you are in your life, or your career, or even your relationships, which of those words best describes where you’re at?  The difference between being disciplined (with learning/growing) as opposed to being defunct or derailed may have a lot to do with how we approach learning.  There’s gaining more knowledge by reading or squeezing in another webinar, and then there’s really observing and examining our experiences.  This is more about the latter.

Valcour identifies what may be a new phrase to some: learning agility.  I’ve not heard learning described this way before, but it is very intriguing:

“Learning agility is the capacity for rapid, continuous learning from experience. Agile learners are good at making connections across experiences, and they’re able to let go of perspectives or approaches that are no longer useful.”

Considering this approach to learning, it should not just be confined to our careers, but becomes a necessity in our roles as leaders.

Good news: we’re all leaders. Bad news: we’re all leaders.  I wonder if half the battle is just accepting that fact.  We’re all influencers and motivators of good, or bad.  No two ways about it.  But the choice is ours.

In order to be a good leader, we will also need to commit to being a good learner.

EXECUTE  |  How To Develop Learning Agility

How bad do you want to grow?

Valcour points out that is where it needs to start. We have to want it. And not that we just desire to learn, but that we enjoy the process. So much so, that we “don’t get defensive and we’re willing to take risks.” Do you desire it that much?

That may be the first barrier to overcome.

This is about reading life, not about reading books.

As I mentioned above, there is the need we have to educate ourselves through books, webinars, etc., but this is about experiences.  Developing learning agility “also involves being open to new experiences, people, and information… and, learning to recognize and change automatic routines.”

Do you like new things?

I don’t always.  But that could be a problem.  “…many leaders miss out on key learning opportunities because they avoid questioning themselves or intentionally moving outside of their comfort zone.”

Here is a quick overview of Monique’s 4 ways to become a better learner:

1. Get feedback.  You may not need to take it as far as a coach, but get an honest person to provide perspective and help with blind spots.  “As research on growth mindset by psychologist Carol Dweck has found, if you hold the view that there is always more to learn and embrace the process of wading into unfamiliar waters, you can free your thinking, dissolve your fear of failure, and power your success.”

2. Experiment with new approaches or behaviors.  To explore this from a couple of different angles, Monique suggests: “…asking yourself questions such as “What’s one thing I could do to change the outcome of the situation?” and “What will I do differently in the future?” You can also conduct thought experiments, unearthing possibilities from trying out a different point of view.”

3. Look for connections across seemingly unrelated areas.  This is a good argument for taking the lessons learned from life, work, relationship experiences can be of even greater benefit.  Developing learning agility is maximized when we “choose a domain you have expertise in but that’s unrelated to your work and ask yourself how you might apply that knowledge to your current challenge.”

4. Make time for reflection.  I’m seeing this come up more and more.  Something recently I read pegged Warren Buffet as someone who spends more time thinking than doing.  Here’s how to put ‘doing less’ to work for us: “A growing body of research shows that systematically reflecting on work experiences boosts learning significantly. To ensure continuous progress, get into the habit of asking yourself questions like “What have I learned from this experience?” and “What turned out differently than I expected?”

A little discipline toward this could not only go a long way to keep us from being defunct or derailed, it can also mean that our leadership will remain impactful.

Bonus article: As you venture into developing your learning agility, this list provides a very good cross section of approaches to stimulate your thinking and learning.

[Original article: 4 ways to become a better learner]

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