leadership learning

Leadership Learning

Don’t you find that leadership learning at work is a very hit and miss affair? Some leaders seem to embrace new experiences and grow from them. Others seem inflexible and less predisposed to learn anything new.

In changing times, embracing new learning is important for leader’s own growth. Fostering greater adaptability in their colleagues is critical as well.

The key to changing this is about broadening and improving our reflective learning approaches. As already mentioned there are implications for a lack of reflective learning at work. Fundamentally, if people react in a default manner and do not reflect at the time or afterwards then they do not learn. Consequently, they do not change any of their behaviors.

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A common habit of leaders and managers is that they don’t use others enough to help their learning. Much of this hit-and-miss learning is private and isn’t communicated or shared with others. This reduces the chance of other people’s perspectives helping to refine and deepen the learning. It also reduces the benefits of the learning being available to others

With too little “checking” with others on the quality and relevance of the learning, we can as easily be learning the wrongs things.

We can as easily come to the conclusion we don’t need to change or do anything differently as concluding we need to change our behaviours. <Sorry, not sure what is trying to be communicated with this sentence above.   Please confirm with author> This is called defensive reasoning and it is a particularly common barrier to learning with managers, leaders and technical experts.

Coming to terms with change in the workplace is difficult

So what are the best ways to that we can deepen our learning, gain more insights? How do we overcome our natural tendencies for defensive reasoning?

The simple answer is that we provide ourselves and others the opportunities to think about and scrutinise our own learning.

Neuroscientists call this metacognition. We think about our thinking (do reflective learning) and hold it up to the light to be considered. This is quite different from ruminating on issues.

Once you understand this, you can build in opportunities to systemise thinking about thinking. This takes place during your learning and development experiences.

Remember leadership training, or learning that does not encourage reflection does not promote any leadership behaviour change.

If you develop the good habits of leadership learning and reviewing your learning you can expect these five huge benefits:

  1. Accelerate your own learning
  2. Create additional insights and learning’s with others in your workplace
  3. Develop your self-awareness of your behaviour and its impacts on others.
  4. Develop your learning flexibility and ability to take on change
  5. Become a better leader

To be an effective leader you have to be an effective learner. We are all responsible for our own learning. We also have the means to deepen and accelerate our own learning if we choose to.

You can read more about Mantles approach to leadership learning here.

It doesn’t need to take a lot of time, but it does need a bit of focus to develop good learning habits. Here are three practical ways to foster better learning habits right now.

1. Question Others
Help others deepen and make their learning at least as twice as more effective by asking them questions. Here are some examples that we have put together over the years.

  • What did you do?
  • What was the impact?
  • What would you do differently with the benefit of hindsight?
  • How can you put this insight into practice?
  • What exactly will you do and by when?
  • Are you happy to talk about how it went when you have completed this action?

We are not saying that these are the only questions you can use. You might have better ones!

We can tell you that it has been our experience, over the years that questions like these works really well. Especially if you want to encourage a learning review in others.

2. Questioning Others and Team Discussions
This is a more ambitious and communal learning review. It can be held regularly, at the end of notable pieces of work or after specific feedback. There are three steps to this process.

a. Discuss the benefits of a communal learning review and get the team to buy into the process
b. Ask each team member to prepare three bits of information:
i. A recent work experience (good or bad)
ii. Their conclusions or lessons learned
iii. Their plan to do something better as a result
c. Have the meeting and share time evenly between the team members. Challenge any sloppy thinking, offer additional perspectives and look for stretch.

Talking about the learning with others clarifies the learning, can lead to deeper insights and shares the learning benefits around.

3. Questioning yourself
This is about reflecting on your own thinking and behavior. Essentially, this is a personal learning review. You can do this by yourself (and we recommend you do) but it is more powerful if you get someone else involved. Here are two terrific ways in which you can do this.

a. Learning Buddy/thought partner
This is a four – step process:
i. You find a trusted friend or colleague who can see the benefits of being in a learning partnership
ii. You reflect on an experience, write down your conclusions and thoughts. Then note down possible actions
iii. Create a safe and informal opportunity to share your thinking with your learning buddy. You look to add more value to your own and your buddy’s learnings.
iv. Write down how you are going to put these ideas into practice and set a time for your next meeting.

b. Executive Coach
This is a similar process however you are in a partnership with trained professionals who will use coaching questions to encourage you to think and reflect on your experiences. This happens until you achieve a number of insights.

A good Executive Coach will then help you think through the impact of your learning and insights on other aspects of your professional and personal life.

They will also help you design actions that will have positive impacts on you, your team and organisation.

Using an Executive Coach also provides:
i. A systemised meeting in which to do the thinking , (useful in acutely busy working environments)
ii. A methodology and route map to follow
iii. A trusted thinking partner
iv. Some accountability for your implementation of actions

If you are interested in exploring the possibility of an Executive Coach talk to us. We can supply you with a number of professionally trained and certified Executive Coaches to choose from.