Cultivating a learning attitude in self and others is critical and on-going.
Within self, others, and organizations, such an attitude must arise and be reinforced.
Many times I have said to staff, colleagues, and managers, “I am a student of my own job.”
Many shrink from such a confession fearing that it reveals weakness. Is not the manager/leader supposed to know? Well, yes, the manager is supposed to know, but they are supposed to know this:
- What (they think) they know,
- That they don’t know everything,
- Of the things not known, which are most critical to know now, and
- How to go about beginning to fill those knowledge gaps.
Take this test: Of all the things that can be known at this moment, how much do you know?
I take this test frequently and get the same results: almost nothing.
What? I know almost nothing? Am I not educated? Experienced? Even expert at some things?
And still I know almost nothing, but this does not diminish in the least what I do know. It does, however, help to prevent me from making several serious mistakes: (1) thinking that I know something when I don’t, and (2) forgetting that I do not know what I do not know.
As a leader of myself and others, I continue to cultivate the ability to say “I don’t know,” “I am learning,” “I am a student.”
I am comfortable expressing and modeling this attitude with staff and co-workers because I am confident of the benefits:
- An open, accepting, flexible, and humble mind
- Curiosity that drives a desire for discovery
- Confidence, developed over time and with repeated application, of my ability to learn
- Equanimity so that, when confronted with a knowledge gap, my energies are rapidly and effectively directed toward learning and not wasted in fear, doubt, and worry.
For today, try adopting the learner’s attitude that you are a student of your own job. You will have to remind yourself if such an attitude is not habituated. Say it to yourself. See if you believe it. What are the implications? What opens up to you when you adopt this attitude?
If you have a trusting relationship with an employee or colleague, see if a moment arises in a future conversation when you could say something like, “I am a student of my own job,” “I don’t know,” or “Let’s find out.”
How do you feel? What was the response? What new dimensions of conversation and interaction did it open up?
See if you can have a conversation, however brief, about the importance of learning on the job. Talk about learning. Help to create a supportive and reinforcing environment that encourages, recognizes, and rewards learning behaviors.
These are the first steps toward awakening a learning mind within self, others, and an organization. Left to chance, such an attitude might arise, but chance is not thought leadership. With intention, frequent reinforcement, and great care, a ubiquitous learning attitude can begin to take root and grow. And, if rooted, to deepen; if growing, to broaden its reach.
Today, I am a student of my own job. Learning.
Let me know how it goes for you.