When you’re a kid, being ready for a new school year means new shoes, new notebooks, and hoping you like your new teacher. But what does being ready to learn mean for an adult? For all the investment you or your company makes in leader development, whether or not you are ready to learn is an often overlooked factor. Yet, whether or not you are developmentally ready is one of the most important predictors of a successful learning investment.
Being developmentally ready is not just about our stage of professional or personal growth. It’s about intention. As a coach and trainer I’m often dealing with busy, over-extended adults with a lot on their plates. It’s hard to make time for learning when you’re coping with multiple roles and multiple pressures. But it’s even more of a challenge when, on top of that, you’re already an expert. If you’re a leader, you’re there because of your expertise. The more expertise and rank we have, the less we are in the role of learner. We need to be deliberate about our learning.
For these reasons, it’s important to ask yourself, are you ready:
- To look within? Leadership and personal development is a process of identity development. The focus is not just on new ideas or new skills but on you – how you think, perceive, behave, and feel. You are going to focus on things you haven’t previously explored or experienced. Knowing about things is easy. But reflecting on behavior, actions, and emotions and how they influence those around us isn’t easy or comfortable.
- To make yourself important? You can’t just dial in your participation when you are the main event. When the learning is about you, you need to be there. We’re busy; we have multiple obligations, and it’s easy to let ourselves be pulled in a million different directions, to succumb to the sense that we’re indispensable, and needed to respond to life’s emergencies. But you need to make space and time for learning. It just won’t happen without you really, truly being present.
- To learn experientially? Learning how to respond, react and bring new insights into unfamiliar settings requires practice. Knowing about something is not the same as knowing how to do something, in real time, under pressure, and on the spot. Some things you just can’t talk about; you have to just do. Again and again. We just can’t do what we haven’t experienced.
- To be a rookie? The older, more experienced, and more expert we get, the harder it is to be a beginner again. But to learn things about ourselves we haven’t known before, we need to re-learn how to be a newbie. We have to deliberately dislocate ourselves from the expert role and open up to feeling de-skilled, even just a little bit. And this takes a conscious commitment because no one likes feeling at the bottom of a learning curve. We have to remember there’s a good outcome awaiting us.
What do you do to make the most of your learning? What makes you ready to learn?