Learn Knowingly

Do you take the time for your own development?

Why is it that the more senior you become, the less time you have for your own development?

Is it really time, or is it that the opportunity to learn in a way that suits the senior leader isn’t available?

Could it be true that the more senior you are, the less important personal development becomes, or is it that you feel you can’t be seen to be taking training because you are senior and should ‘know everything’?

“I don’t have the time” is something I hear fairly regularly, not just from clients but friends and associates too. I’ve noticed they all have something in common: they are typically senior leaders, directors or business owners.

You can imagine that I started to ask around, conducting my own personal survey of my clients and my network, and what became apparent is that none of my original questions were correct, although, to some degree, there are elements of each depending on the person.

For instance, a friend of mine who is Head of Clinical Services for a hospital was absolutely clear that she felt she couldn’t show any sense of fallibility to her staff, given the critical decisions she has to make. This makes attending in-house training difficult for her. However, she did say that she does a lot of reflective practice.

I started to research the challenge statement further.

Are these people really not learning anything new?

Or is it that they don’t notice what they learn on a daily basis?

With so many organisations adopting the 70:20:10 model, learning 70% on the job, 20% through people, 10% formal learning, and a general agreement that this is commonplace, there is a risk that without the right learning support systems in place, people aren’t noticing and knowingly learning on the job or from other people.

In which case, that’s up to 90% of their opportunities for learning being wasted!

So, if you don’t notice what you learn every day, you won’t know what those important gaps are. The gaps tell you what formal personal development you need, to help you perform at the peak of your potential.

Isn’t this Study, of ‘Plan, Do, Study, Act’ in action for ourselves?

What do you do to make the most of the opportunity to learn every day?

When I asked this of my coaching client, she happily admitted that this is not on her radar. It hadn’t occurred to her to think about what she does in terms of what she learns.

Not knowingly, anyway.

We agreed to brainstorm the options that would help her notice what she learns in her everyday work.

My client’s plan:

  • Create time to reflect on the events of the week – plan a weekly slot for this
  • Find an easy way to make notes every day – make notes on a mobile as events happen?
  • Theme concepts of learning – ideas, emotions, knowledge, attitudes, values
  • Ask questions at the time, of self and the team involved – what is the learning from this? What might we do differently?
  • Learn from other people’s reflections – invite the team to a regular reflection session, agree on principles to make sure this is a safe environment, and make it short and voluntary
  • Seek personal feedback from peers and mentors – use open questions, what went well, what could I do differently, what would you have done?

There are a number of formal models for this which are well-established. Whichever method you choose, the aim is the same:

“A process for developing deeper learning from the everyday situation or experience, which helps you to identify your own strengths and weaknesses, and plan your learning needs for continuous personal improvement.”

This client has made a conscious decision to learn knowingly in her daily work, to improve herself, and has established a method to achieve this.

Does your organisation support you with tools or a method for continuous learning?

If so, how effective is it?

What do you do to make the most of the opportunity to learn every day?


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