One of the strongest value propositions a leader can give to an employee is the ability for that individual to perpetually grow in all dimensions. Obvious dimensions include professionally as well as personally, but do not overlook the importance of financial, mental, and spiritual growth as well. In nature, plants either grow or decompose; they do not stay the same. In an organization, nourishment is supplied by the broad term of training, but a more accurate term is learning. What is being done within your organization to foster learning, growth, and new perspectives each week?
It is important to point out that even with access and exposure to new tools and resources, not every employee is going to be open to learning. Unfortunately, organizations will always have “prisoners” in their camp or perhaps perpetual self-absorbed individuals who already think they know everything. This is a fact of life!
Therefore, our focus in this article will be on the core of your office or team that is open to learning and being mentored if properly challenged. Here is the key: defy the old adage of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it”. If you limit yourself to that belief, you are limited by your current capabilities. Where you, your team, your organization is at this present moment is as far as you will go. Think of all the innovations that came about because someone was creative and resourceful enough to take something that worked well and make it just that much better. Keyless entry for vehicles, wireless mouses for computers, and the iPhone are just a few examples of modernizations that would have not been created had their inventors been okay with the status quo. Have the same outlook on your own business – constantly evaluate what’s not working, and even with what is working, be constantly open to how to make it just a little more effective, or innovative, or differentiated.
Where to Begin
A good step is to create a one year learning plan for yourself and everyone at your organization. It should cover all dimensions of one’s life and have elements that can be measured quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily. To summarize this continual learning process, conceptualize two things – one is where you are today –your achievement. Two is where you could be – your potential.
Even if it’s only 30 minutes per week dedicated to learning and development, that 30 minutes begins to build a bridge to get you from your current achievement all the way over to your future potential. To use an example, one of the most renowned pieces of sculpture in the world is Michelangelo’s statue of David. When Michelangelo was asked how he created the magnificent statue David from a block of stone, he replied that he did not create David from the stone; rather he saw David in the stone and merely chipped away at the unneeded pieces until David emerged. We are the same way – underneath all the things we currently know and do, lays an undiscovered statue in each of us. Like Michelangelo chipping away at the stone, you devoting time each week to ongoing development or fostering a learning environment with your team will begin to uncover the statue underneath. Like the unveiling of David, this does not happen overnight. It takes patience, dedication, and commitment to build a bridge from current achievement to underlying potential.
There are numerous resources available to augment a continual learning process. Initially, poll your staff to solicit feedback in which area or areas they feel the greatest needs exist. You may find group energy surrounds subjects such as personal development, public speaking, leadership skills, technological training, or financial planning. Remember that once the desired issues have been raised, the internal team does not necessarily need to be the only solution to deliver content; the old saying that “you cannot be a prophet in your own land” comes to mind! Consider seeking outside experts to speak on the subjects in which they are proficient. Creating a comprehensive year-long learning plan for an entire organization can be just as influential as empowering each employee to construct a personal learning plan.