Energize Learners: Open Doors, Break Through Walls, Let The Future
The following help-wanted advertisement appeared in The
Economist, March 15, 1997, one of the world's leading business
If you are keen to move into an environment where you can play
a strategic international role, pushing out the boundaries of
learning development, consider this . . . We provide leading edge
solutions to many of the world's largest institutions . . . Our
continued growth is based on an unmatched knowledge of customers'
business needs - and the ability to create solutions to meet them.
It's an environment that encourages the desire to grow knowledge
and give of our best. And that's where you'll be chartered to
realize that aim . . . You will help us maximize the business
advantage we gain from the finest minds we employ.
Interested in working for an organization providing this kind
of environment? Of course. Isn't everyone? Headhunters tell us
that their most frequently requested (and most difficult to fill)
recruiting assignments are for "Learning Leaders." Truth is, "learning
leaders" are as scarce as capital letter leaders.
Be The Chief Learning Officer
It all begins with you. As the Phoenix leader you cast a long
shadow. Be certain that you cast a long learning shadow! Set the
gold standard that expects learning to be a major part of everyone's
job by making it a major part of yours. Demonstrate your commitment
to learning in every way possible.
There are No "Learning Organizations" Just "Learning Individuals."
- We've all read lots about "learning organizations." In truth,
there's no such entity as a "learning organization." Organizations
don't learn. People learn. You can have a collection of learners
in an organization, but you can't have a collection of organizations
that learn. Since organizations don't learn, the question is,
"How can you help people learn?"
Are You Serious About Getting Top Returns? Invest in Learning
As the Chief Learning Officer ask yourself, "Are we investing
sufficiently in learning to generate the growth and return we
need?" We know there's a correlation between investments in learning
and shareholder returns. We discovered that investments in training
and development were the single best predictor of shareholder
return, three to five years down the road. Do you want to pick
the future top performing stocks? Choose those that invest the
most in training and development. Allan Greenspan, Chairman of
the Federal Reserve, agrees, "Human skills are subject to obsolescence
at a rate perhaps unprecedented in American history." Even more
apropos were these words from the March 1996 editorial page of
Money: "Investors should stop chasing after companies that are
saving money by laying off workers and start switching to firms
that spend money training their employees." Those organizations
that invest in learning will be tomorrow's winners.
Learning is Much More Than Training - It's also Coaching
Learning is much, much more than training. Learning is not about
sitting in a classroom and listening to a lecture (no matter how
entertaining). The best learning occurs on the job between a coach/mentor,
and a person with a burning desire to master a specific skill,
behavior or thought process. So, the best learning takes place
on sales calls, over coffee, in the hallway. Make learning part
and parcel of every job assignment - every day.
Full Speed Ahead: Be the Coach/Vehicle for Other People's Learning
"Coach" is an old French word meaning "a vehicle to transport
people from one place to another." In organizations, a coach helps
a person move from one capability or emotional/psychological/
physical "place" to another - from one skill/performance level
to another. Coaches perform a very valuable function: they help
people grow. Whether it's in a family, a friendship, a neighborhood,
a business or a church, great leaders are great coaches that help
ordinary people do extraordinary things. Yesterday's leader asked
how he or she could best exploit and mine the employee's abilities
for the organization's gain. Today's coach asks, "How can I help
this person learn to become more valuable to himself/herself --
as well as all of us?"
Encourage HighER Performance: Keep Raising the Bar
Imagine a first-time runner that shows up to run the mile in four
minutes. Can anybody do that on the first try? Of course not.
It takes lots of grueling practice, followed by more grueling
practice, followed by even more grueling practice. The first time
you run the mile you're lucky to do it in 24 minutes. A good coach
doesn't beat the runner up for running the mile in 24 minutes.
The good coach sets the initial bar at 20 minutes, then 15 minutes,
then 10 minutes and so on: continually raising the bar in incremental
steps until the runner reaches the world class standard of less
than four minutes. Incremental steps are the only way to achieve
world class standards. So the coach keeps raising the bar, keeps
reinforcing current achievement and, as the chief learning officer,
keeps creating situations where the individual can be challenged
to learn and grow.
Make Learning a Part of Everything You Do
Build in learning as a part of every activity. Integrate work and learning. As Phoenix Leaders help everyone do it.
Start every meeting by agreeing on the learning from that meeting.
Take time at the end of every meeting to check whether everyone has accomplished their learning purposes.
Ask the question in every conversation, "What did you learn from that activity and how are you going to apply it?"
Keep the focus on learning. In doing so, you'll find you are also focusing on the real business value of every meeting and activity.
How do we do that?
We take notes - in a notebook, a laptop or
a spiral bound paper tablet.
We keep a journal. We write down
what we're learning.
We're voracious "tearer-uppers"of newspapers,
journals and magazines, clipping articles that pertain to our
professional and personal lives. We share those clipped "gems"
with others to stimulate their continuous learning.
Accentuate the learning dimension in every task, every meeting
-- with every person you know.
Work and learning are simultaneous, continuous loop activities.
The coach intervenes to make certain that the learning is capitalized
on and applied on the job. In fact, successful Phoenix leaders
create an environment where learning is expected as part of the
Learning begins with you. Start today by completing the following:
Use the following form to have Jim Belasco and Jerre Stead help you internalize these principles.