Monday, September 19, 2011

Nine Ways to Access the World's Best Leadership Resource!

Photo by Tela Chhe

Many emerging leaders and managers don't take advantage of one of their best, most effective, and readily available learning resources. Lacking this resource, many never will increase their influence.

Recently, I posted about the vital role a focus on results plays in effective teams. Staying focused on results requires leaders and managers to regularly evaluate both the environment (external conditions) and processes (internal conditions) impacting their teams. This learning is a key responsibility of leaders and managers.

You may have heard the old saying that "leaders are learners". I might modify it slightly in keeping with the theme of this blog: Effective leaders and managers incorporate learning into everything they do.

Even so, ongoing learning is a challenge for many of us. If it is not given regular attention, learning easily takes a back seat to today's urgent issues. It is easy, and sometimes accurate, to claim as so many do - "I don't have time to read or take a class."

I suggest that one way to overcome these obstacles is take advantage of the most effective textbook or classroom you will ever have. The good news is that you have complete and ready access to this resource. This amazing resource?


Or more specifically, your experiences.

Leaders and managers can increase their competence and credibility by intentionally soaking up all the lessons available in their own experiences. There are many ways to do this:

1. With every project or activity your team does, automatically include a review. What worked? What didn't? Do we know why things worked or didn't work? What would we do differently next time? I think of this as institutionalizing learning. Make learning unavoidable!

2. Mentors and coaches. I've never met anyone who couldn't benefit from having one more mentors to help them make sense of their experience. Sometimes the lessons in our life are not immediately obvious to us. So get help!

3. Make it safe for people tell you the truth. I discussed this topic in a 6 Ways Not to Walk Naked Down the Street. Ensure you know the truth.

4. Apply what you learn. Our life is the best laboratory we have. When you learn a new leadership or management concept from a book, a seminar, a blog, your own reflection, or a mentor - apply it! Too often we hear a great concept, put it in our mental "great concept file" and never use it.

5. When you don't know, ask. I frequently observe newer leaders experience a conversation they did not understand, but fail to ask questions because they don't want to "look dumb". Ultimately, we all have to learn. If someone thinks you're dumb for asking questions...they're the one lacking intelligence.

6. Spend time with effective leaders (in real life - not television or movies). If you can, watch them in action. Think about how you would handle the same situation.

7. Make it automatic. Blogs like this one allow you to subscribe via email and automatically receive material you can apply. You look at email every day - does what you're reading have a ready application to a situation in your life?

8. Take time for reflection. Yes, this one includes the word "time". There simply is no way to learn and incorporate knowledge into your mind and habits without giving your body time to absorb it. This is a principle in every area of life.

9. Be patient. Learning takes time. Increasing the pressure on yourself to be "perfect" will only prevent you from learning what life has to teach you here in this moment.

How do you ensure you learn all your own life has to teach you?

David M. Dye

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Twitter: @davidmdye
David shares twenty years experience teaching, coaching, leading, and managing in youth service, education advocacy, city governance, and faith-based nonprofits. He currently serves as Chief Operating Officer for Colorado UpLift and enjoys helping others discover and realize their own potential.

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