You are a learning leader. Leading your team. Responsible for so many things. And you feel your personal growth stagnates. You lack time to learn new concepts, methodologies, tools, learning approaches, all the acronyms ... Yet, you want to be a role model, you want to be capable to talk to your team, your customers, your audience. You want to promote learning in the whole organization. You want to become the one who brings new concepts into the company. You want people follow your curiosity. You want them to say: "If the leader learns, why would not I?"
Here are some tips that can help you to learn within your daily work. The tips are grouped into structured (“protected time”) and non-structured (“flexible time”) parts.
Protected time for learning
- Take some morning time to read articles, respond to social media discussions, and follow conversations in a professional association you are a member of. I developed a habit to pick an interesting article (4-6 minute read, while drinking my coffee), to comment (so that I am a part of a follow-up discussion), or start a conversation. I limit this routine to 15-30 minutes. I sometimes forward great articles to my team.
- Attend webinars once a week (one hour). I am from Europe, so most of the (US-based) webinars I attend are in my evening time. I listen and summarize (in a written form), not only for myself but to share the thoughts with my team. Summarizing helps me encode what I learn. Sharing with my team sparks additional ideas. When I say on our team meetings: "Last night I was listening to that webinar and learned …" I increase the probability they will do the same next time. Don't you do the same when returning from conferences? If you are a true learner, you know that the best memorization happens through summarizing and sharing.
- Schedule some time for the programs you are enrolled in (1-2 hours a week). Take some training—possibly some “light-weight” yet ongoing program. Such an approach ensures you learn continuously and are not alone—you get the motivation from the schedule, assignments, weekly quizzes, from your peers, and (optional) mentors.
- Schedule “lessons learned” meetings with your team as a part of every larger project. Reflect on what you have done or been using successfully, what you have learned from wrong approaches, and also briefly reflect on trends—in the sense of what can be used next time to improve the solution. The “lessons learned” meetings are the best opportunities to learn together, collaboratively.
Flexibility and inventiveness in learning
- Learn on the job through asking a question more, trying an option more, or clicking one link more. As a leader you can (collaboratively!) learn, even during meetings, and co-grow with your team. Not only does that show curiosity, you also demonstrate a learning attitude. I use regular meetings (especially 1:1) to always try something new, test an additional feature of software, play with a concept... all integrated into regular work while considering the available time. With such an approach several people learn at the same time, which is a great synergy. Do not only expect someone else will help you learn, but vice-versa as well. Simply by asking additional questions and providing some insights, you can generate "weird" ideas in your team and learn more.
- Grab an opportunity for some “learning snippets” (for example, watch a YouTube video, do some “googling”—even during a meeting such as when you hear some unknown acronym). It won`t take more than two-to-five minutes. Document what you learn. Write a key message in your notebook or in a file. Discuss with your team.
- Save some links and read/watch the content when you get some time (a canceled meeting, waiting for a meeting, waiting in a queue for some appointment).
- And last but not least: Buy books and read them! Their subscriptions do not expire, you see them all the time (they should lie on your desk [or on the tablet], thus creating some kind of "peer pressure"). You can open books at any time. Again, document (better than just highlighting) key findings. Add your own ideas and thoughts. And discuss with your team.
As a learning leader, you have structured and unstructured time, dispersed throughout your daily routine, available for you to grow. It does not require too much time but does require your persistence.
And do not only look for the content in your specialized area. Often you will get great inspiration and ideas outside your business. Learn from them!
From the editor
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