A Case for Lifelong Learning
This blog originally published in Printing Impressions
Life is made up of a collection of our experiences. Those experiences are influenced by what we’ve done, where we’ve been, and who we’ve been around. They can be from our direct involvement or from what we’ve read and studied. The challenge we face is having our 20 years of experience not equating to one year of experience repeated 20 times but rather, 20 years of cumulative experiences that have built on each other. I’m reminded of that line, “there are those who make things happen, watch what happened, and wonder what happened.” I can attest to being a part of all of those groups at one time or another, yikes!
So how do you practice lifelong learning while running a business and having a family? It’s not easy, but you need to do it. I’ve written in the past about working on the business as well as in the business, as I’ve seen leaders getting stuck in the “I’m the only one who can do/fix/sell this.” Umm, doesn’t sound scalable or repeatable and certainly won’t allow you the time to learn and to grow. Continued learning can take shape in many ways. Maybe it’s making a time commitment to read from books or publications that will help you get better at something, or maybe it’s joining a peer group that you can meet with and use as an industry-based sounding board. It could be taking a class to learn a new skill or forming a mastermind group with other leaders who are not necessarily from your industry. So many options.
Your team, your culture
Your ability to work at lifelong learning could also be dependent on the team and the culture that you’ve built. Does your business support a learning environment? You can take both your wins and your failures and turn them into learning experiences. Encourage your leadership team to take the initiative to do their jobs and do what’s needed without you asking them or providing a daily list. Sometimes that will mean hiring people that aren’t like you. They may have skills and experiences that you don’t have and will constructively challenge the “this is how we do things here” mentality. When you gather the leadership team, the last thing you need to hear is an echo chamber. If you’re in the middle of every minor decision in your company, you won’t have the time to do anything else.
What to do, next steps
In Roselinda Torres’ October 2013 Ted Talk, What it takes to be a great leader, she talks about three important questions great leaders consider, and I think they run parallel to your goal of lifelong learning. Her three questions are: “Where are you looking to anticipate the next change to your business model or your life?”; “What is the diversity measure of your personal and professional stakeholder network?”; and finally, “Are you courageous enough to abandon a practice that has made you successful in the past?”. Without a commitment to continual learning, it becomes much more difficult to seriously answer those questions. Hopefully this post gives you something to think about. Good luck in your journey and have fun.
Mike Philie can help validate what’s working and what may need to change in your business. Changing the trajectory of a business is difficult to do while simultaneously operating the core competencies. Mike provides strategy and insight to owners and CEOs in the Graphic Communications Industry by providing direct and realistic assessments, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach. Learn more at www.philiegroup.com, LinkedIn or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.