Are you a learning machine? And how do you view learning – as a separate act, integrated into your job, or both?
For many leaders, learning is inseparable from performance:
- Reid Hoffman, a venture capitalist and co-founder of LinkedIn, describes Brian Chesky of Airbnb as a “learning machine,” whose growth and learning mindset helped him build teams and lead Airbnb through some major setbacks.
- Oprah embodies learning: “You must feed your mind with reading material, thoughts, and ideas that open you to new possibilities.”
- Even when Bill Gates was at Microsoft’s helm, he scheduled yearly “think weeks,” retreating to a cabin with a box of books.
- Julie Sweet, CEO of IT for Accenture, says “When I think about my career, one of the really important factors has been that I am a learner”. She goes on to say that embracing learning is fundamental.
You’ve likely seen the diverse experiences of successful leaders pointing to a pattern – it’s not a specific type of knowledge that leads to success; it’s having the willingness to learn in the first place.
Would you agree that prioritizing learning seems to be a common thread that sets influential leaders apart? We think so…and the data backs us up. Check out a quick overview from our CEO Sally Thornton in this month’s video clip from her keynote at Running Remote and read on for a deeper dive.
How Learning Activities “Stick”
Learning activities (like workshops) in the enterprise are effective when our teams can absorb and activate the content in their actual work (that is, actually feel it in their body versus just read it or listen to it in their head).
For example, we supported an AI team that wanted an updated take on improving the quality of their recruiting. They engaged one of our L&D consultants to build a fresh workshop based on the art + science of DEI recruiting and, most importantly, how to actually seed behavior change based on current research about the brain’s ability to retain knowledge.
The workshop included relatable interactive elements to help participants make the leap from passive learning to behavior change (and avoided eye rolls from the cookie-cutter, predictable exercises we’ve all run across before.)
Learning That Saves Everyone Time
What if you feel pressed for time?
Perhaps a more nuanced strategy is to consider how to integrate learning into your actual job vs. a separate thing to do *on top* of your job. When work is about learning in action, people often experience a jolt that energizes creativity.
For example, when design thinking became a methodology that People leaders wanted to understand and apply, we created WorkLab to teach not only the Stanford d.School principles, but to put them into action with the priorities that already existed for our clients. In this way, WorkLab wasn’t “extra” work, but an accelerator for how to make the existing work have more effective outcomes while saving time.
In Forshay’s evolution as a firm, we often see co-creation with our clients as our best source of learning. We don’t enter the room thinking we have all the answers – rather, we come with skills and knowledge and equally importantly with well-learned questions for what gets to the right answer for that client.
For example, we recently consulted with a VC client to hire a role they titled “Chief People Officer.” It’s a common title, and can encompass a wide range of skills, so we asked a lot of questions. After a few discussions of how we’ve seen this role perform across our clients, we landed on how success at this company was ultimately about recruiting strong talent for the VC’s portfolio clients. We suggested we modify the job description and use the title “Head of Talent,” and that clarity helped all sides quickly fill the role with exactly the skills needed. By pausing and asking a lot of questions up front, we all actually saved time with a faster close. This is part of our secret sauce. Go a little slower up front with a learner’s mindset, and you can get a faster and higher-quality outcome.
Learning from our clients has also helped *us* grow. Many years ago, Pixar taught us a lesson. Their HR team suggested that we expand from interim-only HR roles into Executive Search. Why? They said we really learned their culture, and that was key to them, so it would be win/win if we expanded.
For those who dream of a time ATM where we can just withdraw a few more hours in the day, consider adding a learning intention to what’s on your plate. Airbnb’s Brian Chesky talks about taking a bit of time to be intentional, saying, “To get in front of the game… I bet you it’s less work. It’s 10 times as much work to clean something up than to try and get in front of it in the first place.”
Ready to save time? And keep learning, in an integrated, effective way? We’ve got your back to make it come together. Ping us to be a sounding board to explore (and execute on) making it the year of integrated, effective, time-saving work that matters!