HBR: Good Leaders Are Good Learners

Are you setting learning goals? Is your company helping you identify your learning opportunities? Below is a blog from the Harvard Business Review by Susan J. Ashford, Peter Heslin, Lauren Keating:

Good Leaders Are Good Learners

Although organizations spend more than $24 billion annually on leadership development, many leaders who have attended leadership programs struggle to implement what they’ve learned. It’s not because the programs are bad but because leadership is best learned from experience.

Still, simply being an experienced leader doesn’t elevate a person’s skills. Like most of us, leaders often go through their experiences somewhat mindlessly, accomplishing tasks but learning little about themselves and their impact.

Our research on leadership development shows that leaders who are in learning mode develop stronger leadership skills than their peers.

Building on Susan Ashford and Scott DeRue’s mindful engagement experiential learning cycle, we found that leaders who exhibit a growth mindset diligently work through each of the following three phases of the experiential learning cycle.

First, leaders set challenging learning goals in the form of “I need to learn how to…” For some leaders, the goal might be to become more persuasive or to be more approachable. With a goal in mind, leaders can identify opportunities to make progress toward it. These could include a new project, an international assignment, a job rotation, or simply striving to approach routine encounters in a fundamentally different way.

Next, they find ways to deliberately experiment with alternative strategies. A leader interested in increasing their persuasiveness, for example, might experiment with sitting in a different place or speaking first or last in a critical meeting. Creating and capitalizing on learning opportunities can be bolstered by having a coach or peer provide feedback and act as a sounding board.

Finally, leaders who are in learning mode conduct fearless after-action reviews, determined to glean useful insights from the results of their experimentation. Candidly reflecting on what went well, what did not go so well, and what might work better in future are essential though often neglected initiatives for learning from experience and discerning what to focus on learning next. Understanding these principles is important for organizations not just because it means that leadership development doesn’t have to be expensive, but also because it means that leadership skills can be systematically learned and practiced.

How can leaders enter learning mode? Leaders can construe setbacks as meaning they have not yet developed the required capabilities, rather than them being just not cut out for the task at hand. They can also avoid the trap of constantly seeking out places and tasks to highlight their strengths, as well as feedback that affirms their innate talents and self-esteem. Simply asking themselves, “Am I in learning mode right now?” can be a powerful cue to wholeheartedly focus, or refocus, on their leadership development, as well as their leadership performance, and thereby truly learn from their experiences.

How can organizations help leaders enter and remain in learning mode? Organizational leaders can help rising leaders focus more on being progressively better than they were in the past, rather than on constantly benchmarking themselves against others. They can model construing mistakes as potential learning opportunities rather than as indicators of leadership inadequacy. In hiring and promotion, organizational leaders might give priority to those most likely to grow and develop in a role. Finally, they might conduct an audit of fixed mindset cues in their organization — such as the use of psychometric testing to select the most “innately qualified” high-potential leaders; forced ranking performance appraisals; and winner-take-all reward systems — and tweak them to focus more on developing than diagnosing leadership capabilities.

The bottom line is that by supporting leaders being in learning mode, organizations can develop the capabilities that leaders need to anticipate, respond to, and continually learn from the stream of emerging challenges to organizational prosperity.

HBR: Lifelong Learning Is Good for Your Health, Your Wallet, and Your Social Life

As we age, though, learning isn’t simply about earning degrees or attending storied institutions. Books, online courses, MOOCs, professional development programs, podcasts, and other resources have never been more abundant or accessible, making it easier than ever to make a habit of lifelong learning. Every day, each of us is offered the opportunity to pursue intellectual development in ways that are tailored to our learning style. So why don’t more of us seize that opportunity?  Below is a blog from the Harvard Business Review by John Coleman.

Lifelong Learning Is Good for Your Health, Your Wallet, and Your Social Life

In 2015 Doreetha Daniels received her associate degree in social sciences from College of the Canyons, in Santa Clarita, California. But Daniels wasn’t a typical student: She was 99 years old. In the COC press release about her graduation, Daniels indicated that she wanted to get her degree simply to better herself; her six years of school during that pursuit were a testament to her will, determination, and commitment to learning.

Few of us will pursue college degrees as nonagenarians, or even as mid-career professionals (though recent statistics indicate that increasing numbers of people are pursuing college degrees at advanced ages). Some people never really liked school in the first place, sitting still at a desk for hours on end or suffering through what seemed to be impractical courses. And almost all of us have limits on our time and finances — due to kids, social organizations, work, and more — that make additional formal education impractical or impossible.

As we age, though, learning isn’t simply about earning degrees or attending storied institutions. Books, online courses, MOOCs, professional development programs, podcasts, and other resources have never been more abundant or accessible, making it easier than ever to make a habit of lifelong learning. Every day, each of us is offered the opportunity to pursue intellectual development in ways that are tailored to our learning style.

So why don’t more of us seize that opportunity? We know it’s worth the time, and yet we find it so hard to make the time. The next time you’re tempted to put learning on the back burner, remember a few points:

Educational investments are an economic imperative. The links between formal education and lifetime earnings are well-studied and substantial. In 2015 Christopher Tamborini, ChangHwan Kim, and Arthur Sakamoto found that, controlling for other factors, men and women can expect to earn $655,000 and $445,000 more, respectively, during their careers with a bachelor’s degree than with a high school degree, and graduate degrees yield further gains. Outside of universities, ongoing learning and skill development is essential to surviving economic and technological disruption. The Economist recently detailed the ways in which our rapidly shifting professional landscape — the disruptive power of automation, the increasing number of jobs requiring expertise in coding — necessitates that workers focus continually on mastering new technologies and skills. In 2014 a CBRE report estimated that 50% of jobs would be redundant by 2025 due to technological innovation. Even if that figure proves to be exaggerated, it’s intuitively true that the economic landscape of 2017 is evolving more rapidly than in the past. Trends including AI, robotics, and offshoring mean constant shifts in the nature of work. And navigating this ever-changing landscape requires continual learning and personal growth.

Learning is positive for health. As I’ve noted previously, reading, even for short periods of time, can dramatically reduce your stress levels. A recent report in Neurology noted that while cognitive activity can’t change the biology of Alzheimer’s, learning activities can help delay symptoms, preserving people’s quality of life. Other research indicates that learning to play a new instrument can offset cognitive decline, and learning difficult new skills in older age is associated with improved memory.

What’s more, while the causation is inconclusive, there’s a well-studied relationship between longevity and education. A 2006 paper by David Cutler and Adriana Lleras-Muney found that “the better educated have healthier behaviors along virtually every margin, although some of these behaviors may also reflect differential access to care.” Their research suggests that a year of formal education can add more than half a year to a person’s life span. Perhaps Doreetha Daniels, at 99, knows something many of us have missed.

Being open and curious has profound personal and professional benefits. While few studies validate this observation, I’ve noticed in my own interactions that those who dedicate themselves to learning and who exhibit curiosity are almost always happier and more socially and professionally engaging than those who don’t. I have a friend, Duncan, for example, who is almost universally admired by people he interacts with. There are many reasons for this admiration, but chief among them are his plainly exhibited intellectual curiosity and his ability to touch, if only briefly, on almost any topic of interest to others and to speak deeply on those he knows best. Think of the best conversationalist you know. Do they ask good questions? Are they well-informed? Now picture the colleague you most respect for their professional acumen. Do they seem literate, open-minded, and intellectually vibrant? Perhaps your experiences will differ, but if you’re like me, I suspect those you admire most, both personally and professionally, are those who seem most dedicated to learning and growth.

Our capacity for learning is a cornerstone of human flourishing and motivation. We are uniquely endowed with the capacity for learning, creation, and intellectual advancement. Have you ever sat in a quiet place and finished a great novel in one sitting? Do you remember the fulfillment you felt when you last settled into a difficult task — whether a math problem or a foreign language course — and found yourself making breakthrough progress? Have you ever worked with a team of friends or colleagues to master difficult material or create something new? These experiences can be electrifying. And even if education had no impact on health, prosperity, or social standing, it would be entirely worthwhile as an expression of what makes every person so special and unique.

The reasons to continue learning are many, and the weight of the evidence would indicate that lifelong learning isn’t simply an economic imperative but a social, emotional, and physical one as well. We live in an age of abundant opportunity for learning and development. Capturing that opportunity — maintaining our curiosity and intellectual humility — can be one of life’s most rewarding pursuits.

Harvey Mackay: The 7 Cs of Success

Below is a blog post from Harvey Mackay . Mackay’s Moral: Some people succeed because they are destined to, but most people because they are determined to.

The 7 Cs of Success

On the road to success, you may take a few detours, hit some roadblocks and arrive at a different place than you’d planned. I’m still on my journey, and I’m offering you my map for smooth sailing, traveling the Seven Cs of Success.

Clarity: 80 percent of success comes from being clear about who you are, what you believe in and what you want. But you must remain committed to what you want and make sure those around you understand what you’re hoping to accomplish.

A young mathematician was commissioned during wartime as captain of a submarine. Eager to impress his crew and to stress how important it is to strictly observe all safety procedures, the young captain called them all together for a meeting. His instructions went like this:

“I have developed a simple method that you would all do well to learn. Every day, count the number of times the submarine has dived since you boarded. Add to this the number of times it has surfaced. If the sum you arrive at is not an even number—don’t open the hatches.”

Competence: You can’t climb to the next rung on the ladder until you are excellent at what you do now.

Just remember two more things: 1) The person who knows “how” will always have a job, and 2) the person who knows “why” will always be the boss.

Constraints: 80 percent of all obstacles to success come from within. Find out what is constraining you or your company and deal with it.

The Gallup Organization conducted a survey on why quality is difficult to achieve. The greatest percentage listed: financial constraints. Often our lives and careers are shaped by kind of surroundings we place ourselves in and the challenges we give ourselves.

Consider, for example, the farmer who won a blue ribbon at the county fair. His prize entry? A huge radish the exact shape and size of a quart milk bottle. Asked how he got the radish to look just like a quart milk bottle, the farmer replied, “It was easy. I got the seed growing and then put it into the milk bottle. It had nowhere else to go.”

Concentration: The ability to focus on one thing single-mindedly and see it through until it’s done is critical to success.

Great athletes are known for their concentration and focus. As golf great Ben Hogan once stood over a crucial putt, a loud train whistle suddenly blared in the distance. After he had sunk the putt, someone asked Hogan if the train whistle had bothered him.

“What whistle?” Hogan replied.

And let’s not forget Yankee great and America’s favorite philosopher Yogi Berra, who said “You can’t think and hit the ball at the same time.

Creativity: Be open to ideas from many sources. Surround yourself with creative people. Creativity needs to be exercised like a muscle: If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.

Studies indicate that, between ages 5 and 17, there is an extreme drop in the creativity level in both male and female students. As you grow older, your creativity level decreases proportionally. The good news is that this trend is reversible, as long as you keep challenging yourself. Consider Grandma Moses, who didn’t start painting until age 80 and went on to produce more than 1,500 works of art.

Courage: Most in demand and least in supply, courage is the willingness to do the things you know are right. Courage, contrary to popular belief, is not the absence of fear. Courage is having the heart to act in spite of fear. Don’t be afraid to use it.

Continuous learning: Set aside some time every day, every week and every month to improve yourself. To stay miles ahead of the competition, read trade publications or books, or listen to business CDs during your commute to and from work. Go back to school and take additional classes, or join groups or organizations… Whatever it may be, just never stop learning.

Mentors and Protégés

In the Building Supply industry are there mentorship programs? Is it a Family member? Does your lumber yard have any mentors or mentees? Below are some tips from Managers as Mentors: Building Partnerships for Learning by Chip R. Bell, Marshall Goldsmith.

Quick Tips for Mentors and ProtégésManager as Mentors

Mentoring on the run requires a few quick tips just to keep the edge honed and the skills sharp. The following quick tips are focused both on the mentor and the protégé. Remember, success comes through a partnership. Mentors need ideas for their side of the relationship just as much as protégés need ideas on the other side.

Tips for Being a Great Protégé

•             Select a mentor who can help you be the best you can be, not one you think can help you get a promotion.

•             Remember, you can sometimes learn more from people who are different than from people who are “just like you.”

•             Get crystal clear on your goals and expectations for a mentoring relationship.

•             Communicate your goals and expectations in your first meeting

•             Mentoring is about learning, not looking good in front of your mentor. Be yourself and be willing to take risks and experiment with new skills and ideas.

•             When your mentor gives you advice or feedback, work hard to hear it as a gift. Just because it may be painful does not mean it is not beneficial.

•             If your mentoring relationship is not working like you hoped it would, clearly communicate your concerns to your mentor.

•             Great mentoring relationships take two people-a partnership. Look in the mirror before you conclude a poor mentoring relationship is all about your mentor.

•             Mentoring relationships are designed to be temporary. When you have met your mentoring goals, be willing to let the relationship end.

Tips for Being a Great Mentor

•             Mentoring is about establishing a partnership that helps your protégé learn. It is not about your being an expert or the authority.

•             Great mentors foster discovery, they don’t instruct; thought-provoking questions are much more powerful than smart answers.

•             Your protégé will learn more if you create a relationship that is safe and comfortable. Be authentic, open, and sincere.

•             Your rank or position is your greatest liability-act more like a friend than a boss.

•             Great listening comes from genuine curiosity and obvious attentiveness.

•             Give feedback with a strong focus on the future, not a heavy rehash of the past.

•             Mentoring is not just about what you say in a mentoring session; it is also about how you support your protégé after the session. Focus on helping your protégé transfer learning back to the workplace.

•             If your mentoring relationship is not working like you hoped it would, clearly communicate your concerns to your protégé.

•             Mentoring relationships are designed to be temporary. When your protégé has met his or her mentoring goals, be willing to let the relationship end.

How To Sharpen Your Problem Solving Skills

Below is a blog post from John Morgan. How are your problems solving skills?

How To Sharpen Your Problem Solving Skills Problem Solving Skills

Every single successful person I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting is highly skilled in problem solving. Your creativity in solving your problems is an essential factor in determining your level of success.

Depending on how big the challenges are that come your way, there’s a certain level of panic that kicks in. This is a problem because panic leads to a closed mind. An open mind is critical to creative problem solving.

So how can you improve your problem solving skills?

I’m so glad you asked, otherwise this post would have been awkward.

You have to change your approach to solving problems. Forget about how you’ve done it in the past. Wrap your mind around a new paradigm that will instantly change your results…

Stop looking for the right answer and start looking for the right question.

What are some different ways you can look at the problem you face? Don’t ask a close minded question that won’t lead to a strong outcome. For example, why is this happening to me? is NOT a question that will solve whatever problem you’re facing.

Instead, ask questions such as what can I gain from this? or how can I use this to my advantage?

When you start asking yourself different questions, you immediately start thinking of different answers. The more questions you can ask the better. Multiple questions from different perspectives will cause you to create solutions you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

The best part of this is that the questions you ask yourself do not have to be complex. In fact, the more simple the better. Write down a problem you’re facing in your life or your business.

Then list out some simple questions that will cause you to think of this issue from a new perspective.

Here’s some examples right off the top of my head:

– What is the problem?
– What assumptions am I making about this?
– How can I get more information about this?
– How will I know it’s no longer a problem?
– What will happen if I ignore it?
– How can I improve because of this?
– What are the good things about this problem?
– Is it really a problem?
– Who can help me solve it?
– Why is this important?

Those are simple questions that can get you started. I’d love to see what questions you come up with! (You can let me know in the comments below). Remember to ask yourself questions that force you to look at the issue from a different perspective.

Instead of focusing on the right answer, focus on the right questions. We too often spend time looking for the right answer to the wrong question.

Every Day Is A School Day

What new things have you learned today or this past week? Below is a blog post from  Manage Better Now.

Every Day Is A School Day

Continuous Learning Steps

That may seem like an odd title for this time of the year.  Most kids are getting out of school and looking forward to a summer of relaxation, but I am not a kid and I certainly do not get the summer off (although I really like the concept).  Not only do I not get the summer off, but I view everyday as a school day and so should you.

As a child, school was just a formal mechanism to ensure that we learned all of the basic things that we needed to (writing, reading, and arithmetic) to survive and hopefully thrive in the world.  As an adult, the mechanisms to educate ourselves are not quite as formal.  No one is going to force us to learn new things.  In fact, you could probably work the same entry-level job for 40-50 years and go home every night and get in a solid four or five hours of television if you so desired.  No one is going to force you to continue to educate yourself.

I am willing to bet that you are not the type of person that will be satisfied with a dead-end job and living vicariously through your television.  You welcome the chance to learn new things as it frequently leads to new opportunities.  So what new things are you going to learn today?

I know I tend to get caught up in my day-to-day activities and I frequently forget that I need to pursue other learning opportunities.  I forget to treat every day like a school day.  It was so much easier when education and self-improvement were forced upon me.  Now it takes planning, discipline and a little initiative.  Sometimes it is hard to find that initiative.   I am tired after working.  I don’t want to take a class or even read a book, but then I remind myself if it were easy then everyone would do it and I would not be special.  I want to be special.  I want to be better than most.  Dare I say I want to be the best at anything I chose to do.  To be the best requires planning, discipline and a little initiative (sound familiar?).  To be the best requires that you treat every day like a school day.

If you are content being one of the masses then please enjoy this evening’s episode of Real Housewives, but if you require a little more from life then I ask again:

What new things are you going to learn today?

Two kinds of schooling(Seth Godin)

Two kinds of schooling

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2010/07/two-kinds-of-schooling.html

Type 1. You can take a class where you learn technique, facts and procedures.

Type 2. You can take a class where you learn to see, learn to lead and learn to solve interesting problems.

The first type of teaching isn’t particularly difficult to do, and it’s something most of us are trained to absorb. The first type of schooling can even be accomplished with self-discipline and a Dummies book. The first type of class is important but not scarce.

The second kind, on the other hand, is where all real success comes from. It’s really tricky to find and train people to do this sort of teaching, and anytime you can find some of it, you should grab it.

The sad thing is that we often conflate the two. We think we’re hiring someone to do the second type, a once in a lifetime teacher, someone who will change the outlook of stellar students. But then we give them rules and procedures and feedback that turn them into a type 1 teacher.

Even worse, we often pay as if we’re getting the scarce and valuable type 2 teachers but we end up hiring and managing type 1 teachers.

I spend a lot of time in colleges and other teaching institutions. Over and over I see the same thing–organizations that have painted themselves into a corner, keeping themselves busy but refusing to do the difficult work of teaching people to see. The dean of one college was so stuck in his type-1ness that he couldn’t even bring himself to participate in a session run by a gifted type 2 teacher.

Is there anything more important to you and your organization (or your kids or your town) than figuring out how to obtain and share the wisdom that real teaching can deliver?