Learning to Learn

Kia ora Koutou mā

Kei te pēhea koutou? How are you all?
Why is it that Learning often has the perception of being "something extra to do"?

1. Recent insights
· I’ve enjoyed some interesting discussions during leadership development programmes where leaders have started to recognize the need for them to unlearn and evolve their leadership style; they are noticing that their status quo style is not as relevant as it used to be – but are unsure how to re-focus and maintain their learning – they’ve got out of the learning habit!

· During recent Talent development focus groups, it was fascinating to hear the mindsets of people spanning different tenure. Experienced people/leaders had forgotten how to learn! They were more focused on doing the doing and struggled with how they could plan their learning and/or how to help others to learn, verse people who were fairly new or junior to the role who proactively set time aside to learn, they looked for everyday opportunities and were craving feedback.

· Finally, from my personal perspective I’ve always enjoyed learning by seeking out ways to build and update current skills. However, earlier this year I’ve gone right back into the stretch zone and committed to learn Te reo Māori (hence my introduction practice!) – I too have found it a real challenge to unlearn what I already know about language and feel comfortable with being uncomfortable about not knowing. It’s also challenged me to look at creating new learning habits.
2. So, what are some simple and practical suggestions that could make a difference?
What if we approached learning as an ongoing skill set to maintain, not just something we do on a need to learn basis?
For yourself:
  • Learning takes radical responsibility

  • Ultimately, you’re always the benefactor of learning – you get out what effort you put in

  • Look for and recognise daily opportunities to learn

  • Be curious – there’s always something you don’t know, enjoy looking at things through fresh eyes

  • “Practice doesn’t make perfect – it just makes permanent”

  • Build a habit of reflection – what have you learnt today? how are you tracking? What could you do more of? this prevents the status quo becoming permanent (unconscious competence).

  • Ask for feedback

  • Celebrate your progress!

  • Be realistic

  • You can’t retain everything you learn in one go – make a commitment to focus on 1 thing that will move the dial and keep going until it becomes 2nd nature, then go back and choose another

  • Make head space

  • Remove distractions, take 5 mins of mindfulness before you start anything new

  • Take every opportunity to practice

  • In conversations, at home, as an intro to an email! or as part of your day-to-day responsibilities?

  • Make learning fun and visible

  • Put up images or post-it notes to keep learning front of mind, use screen savers and tell someone what you’re trying to work on to help hold yourself accountable

Leading and supporting others
  • Learning needs to be an expectation

  • Include development as part of everyday conversations

  • Be interested and ask what your people are learning – it doesn’t have to be about a formal programme – what have they learnt on a daily/weekly basis/on a project

  • Model learning as important

  • Make it the norm

  • Share your learning focus, reflections, and mistakes

  • Show your ongoing support

  • Ask what they enjoy and want to do more of

  • Look for opportunities to provide realistic challenge and stretch for your people eg. Allow them to take the lead in a meeting? Speaking to new clients?

  • Proactively follow up and give feedback

  • Give permission and learner safety

  • Create time and space for learning – it shouldn’t be just “a nice to do if you can fit it in”.

  • Allow them to learn at their own style and pace

  • Back them if they fail

If we can all choose 1 or 2 of these tips and make them a habit, then perhaps it will shift the dial slightly for learning to become an ongoing experience and not a one off time-consuming burden.

3. Just for fun!

Proof that’s there’s always something you don’t know – after owning my toaster for “a considerable” number of years, I’ve only just realised that what I thought were decorative black circles on the front, actually have a practical purpose to create leverage! Who knew…well apparently not my husband!! (And yes – that is a Te reo post-it behind!)

Mā te wā