Learning is powerful. As leaders, it is imperative that we continue to grow and learn. However, we frequently find it too easy to start coasting when we have made it to that dream job, or to completely disconnect when we are in a job that no longer satisfies us. We stop thinking about our own growth, and the growth of others. We seem to get caught in the day to day operations of our jobs, without keeping an eye on continuing growth and development. When we start to back away from learning and our own personal growth, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment, and ultimately creating a box for ourselves and our employees. However, we can keep our minds and our focus sharp by focusing on truly learning and growing as individuals and leaders. Here are five ways to embrace learning:
- Learn a new skill: There is something about learning a new skill that increases your confidence, and puts a little more pep in your step. When you learn a new skill, whether it be learning to code so you know what your tech department is doing, or learning to play the piano, you are encouraging your brain to develop new connections, through a process called myelination. As we become more comfortable performing the tasks associated with the skill, you are optimizing your brain’s capacity through myelination. Ultimately, this will make you more innovative and engaged because your brain is learning to think outside of its old “box” or thought processes and increase thought speed through myelination. As you are learning your new skill, remember to practice frequently, ask for feedback, and also focus on the quality of your practice.
- Keep up to date with the latest trends in your field: This one is pretty self explanatory. Most leaders are members of at least one professional organization, and those organizations publish research articles each month. Keep reading them. It is too easy to just quickly delete the email, or to place the journal in a stack on your bookcase. Block out time to read at least one article a week. Setting a designated time to read will help you to turn reading into a habit. If you find it a little too easy to delete those email articles, print them out and place them in a location where you will be encouraged to read them. This will help you to stay up to date on what is going on in your field, and it will also help you to continue to grow as a leader.
- Conduct Research: When you first started out, you had to do research pretty regularly in order to complete your tasks. Now, you know a fair amount, but you can always learn more and go deeper. Do some research on how to grow an organization. Start looking for trends, and dig deeper to do some statistical analysis to see if your hunches are having the desired ROI. This also ties back into keeping up to date with the latest trends. When you come across an article or concept that you find interesting, start doing research into other points of view on the subject. Has it been successful in other organizations? Do you see it playing out in your life? What are other experts saying? Continuing to go deeper into your research allows you to expand your critical thinking skills, and build capacity to ask the questions and develop goals for growth.
- Go back to school: When you are in school you are part of a cohort that is focused on consuming as much information as possible. These cohorts form a network that support us as we grow throughout our careers, and the skills that we gain are invaluable to guiding us on our career path. Some people love the feeling of being a student in a formal educational setting. They find the work rewarding and it motivates them to continue learning and being the best in their field, or even expanding their horizons into new career paths. If you are struggling with how to move out of your box, and you remember thriving in the educational environment, look at opportunities to go back to school. Maybe you want to pursue an advanced degree, or maybe you would like to earn a certificate that strengthens your credentials and helps guide your career to greater heights. Look for learning opportunities that motivate you and strengthen you as an innovative leader that creates opportunities for his or herself, as well as opportunities for the entire organization.
- Join a mastermind group: A mastermind group is a concept developed by Napoleon Hill. It is basically a peer-to-peer mentoring group that helps you navigate through challenges using the collective intelligence and learning of the group. When involved in a mastermind group, you are working with people who can help you see the forest through the trees. They will help you define how you want to learn and grow, and then hold you accountable to those goals. Everyone who comes to a mastermind group comes with a unique skill and educational background. The educational strength of this group is immeasurable. The support of the group makes your networking, development, and educational journey more fun. You are not in your struggle alone. There are people who are able to help you, and the beautiful thing is that you have skills that you are able to offer to help them as well.
As leaders it is imperative that we explore how to learn, and how to change. We have so many opportunities to learn from our environment, our employees, our mentors, our peers, and literature. Many people believe that after a certain age, it is impossible to learn something new, when we are truly open to learning at any point in our lives. The more we focus on learning, the more open our brains are to accepting new information, learning new skills, and increasing thinking speed. I encourage you to find new and innovative ways to learn and grow in your career and in your life.