In the middle of my junior year of high school, my family moved from West Virginia to Ohio. Due to more stringent driver’s education requirements in Ohio, had a choice: enroll in driving school or forfeit my license. Unwilling to part with my new-found freedom, loathe to exchange my car keys for a bus pass, I signed up for the next session of driver’s ed.
When people are forced to attend required training for work in an area they are already familiar with, or to attend meetings that they can’t easily identify the value of, they experience a range of thoughts and emotions. Though the driver’s ed example goes back many years, I have returned to those feelings on the job countless times. Then and now, these been-there/done-that situations make me feel bored and impatient. I want others to know that I don’t need to be there. I think I am above it all. While I may project a professional image, inside I have regressed to a pouty, eye-rolling sixteen year old version of myself.
As leaders, we may find ourselves in situations where we struggle with attitudes of superiority. After all, we are in charge. We don’t need to be taught: our job is to teach and lead others. However, those of us who are most successful will overcome these thoughts to adopt an openness to learning.
A sure sign that we don’t know it all: thinking we know it all. My resentment about driver’s ed seems silly to me now. Twenty years later, I still struggle with parallel parking. I am still not an expert driver. If we are honest with ourselves, we realize that our pride causes us to miss opportunities to expand our knowledge or sharpen our skills.
There is always something to learn. People who are interested and willing to learn can glean helpful information anywhere, even from a class re-taken or a book re-read. We can also learn from people both younger and less experienced than ourselves.
Great leaders model a love of lifelong learning. A love of learning is contagious. Just as children are more successful in school if their parents are involved in their education, leaders’ active participation increases the effectiveness of the training. Leaders who show enthusiasm about learning opportunities infuse their teams with excitement.
If you are intentional, training experiences with your team can result in more than just increased technical knowledge. The same is true in the workplace. As a leader, you may have team members who attend a workshop or inservice unwillingly. Yet, they usually make the most of it relationally, catching up with colleagues in other departments or networking with new contacts. As you plan training experiences, optimize this dynamic and include plenty of group discussion and interaction.
Times of staff training and development are useful. Important information is disseminated and assimilated. Beyond that, these times away from daily deadlines and routines provide an opportunity to deepen working relationships. Take advantage of these times to observe your staff. Listen their ideas and ask questions. As you get to know people in a different environment, you may gain knowledge far more valuable than anything listed on the day’s agenda.
What attitude do you display regarding meetings, training, and inservices? Do you work with someone who knows it all? Begin today to think about how you can increase your team’s excitement for continued learning. If you have had success in this area, please share your ideas with us in the comments.
This post was originally published at Mountain State University Leadertalk and is republished here with permission.