By Linda DeLuca, Executive Coach – Continuous learning increases your professional value, engages your brain, and enriches your personal life. Most importantly, it strengthens your leadership impact. It’s the leverage you need to be a Fearless Leader.
Go to your bookshelf and pull out one of your dusty college textbooks. Flip through the pages and consider: Is the information still current? Now think about how your industry has changed since you began your career? What about the styles and expectations of the people on your team? How have they changed? How are your competitors moving forward? Are you keeping up?
Continuous learning is essential for any leader to stay relevant, valuable, and effective.
Continuous Learning Obstacles
As with any project, learning is a fairly straightforward process: set a goal, create a plan, execute the plan. So why is it so difficult? It’s usually not due to a lack of desire. Rather, it’s a lack of time, uncertainty about what to learn, or a lack of accountability.
Lack of Time
Manage your time like you manage your money—carefully and with a balanced portfolio. Your financial portfolio is a mix of investments with short and long term focus; your time should be invested similarly. You focus part of the day on important business results-focused activities. It’s just as critical to schedule regular time for your professional development. Even 15 minutes a day can make a difference. You could:
- Listen to audiobooks on your commute.
- Attend a lunch and learn each month.
- Block quiet time on your calendar every morning for continuous learning activities.
The best investment of your learning time will provide you with leverage in achieving your organizational and business goals.
Uncertainty About What to Learn
Unlike university, leadership level continuous learning doesn’t come with a pre-defined curricula. It’s up to you to determine your learning journey. Where do you begin determining your personalized professional development curricula? Get started by:
- Take stock of your current competency portfolio with a self-assessment tool like DiSC.
- Identify gaps between your current competencies and those needed to achieve your business and professional goals both now and in the future.
- Get feedback from multiple perceptives with a 360 review.
Effective leaders know who they are and what they value. The continually review their behaviors to ensure alignment and make the necessary corrections, no matter how challenging.
Lack of Accountability
Accountability increases the chance of successfully achieving any goal. Without the commitment and identified consequences, it’s too easy to allow continuous learning goals fall on the priority list. Several ways to incorporate accountability into your professional development program include:
- Make continuous learning goals part of the organization’s formal performance review process.
- Engage an accountability partner within your organization.
- Engage an executive coach to facilitate both the design and execution of your continuous learning program.
Effective leaders balance their focus between organizational goals, business goals, and professional development goals. Developing the habit of continuous learning will help you stay on track toward success and give you the leverage of the Fearless Leader.