Every successful leader I have worked with is a learner. They know there is a lot they don’t know and are curious. The challenge is that running a company is a lot of work and there is usually no time for reading or attending classes so most of the learning is “on the job” or the “school of hard knocks.” So why must we always learn through failures and not make time for learning up front? The answer is usually that we’re moving so fast, we think it’s just easier to fix it if we screw up then to take time to investigate up front. Additionally, we get annoyed with the analytical types that have to look at everything five ways to Sunday before making a move. Unfortunately, the consequence of this is we spend so much time cleaning up, instead of moving forward.
I wrote my book “Putting Together the Entrepreneurial Puzzle,” because every client I had at the time, (including myself), had a stack of unread books on their desk or nightstand. I made it short, just the basics, so it could be read on a plane ride, and still people didn’t make time for it! So what’s the solution for the busy executive? Learning goals. Just as you would identify development goals for your team, you need to identify some for yourself. What’s an area of your business that you need more information on to make better decisions? What’s a new technology that might impact your business? What is the future of your industry? What has your staff repeatedly told you to get better at?
If any of these resonate with you, it’s time to pick a goal. Figure out how you like to learn – articles, books, books on tape, lectures, podcasts, classes, mentors or groups – and identify at least one way per quarter you can learn something new about the area you identified. This means that you will have had 4 formal learning experiences throughout the year to advance your knowledge set. It’s not hard, it doesn’t take a ton of time and you’ll feel good when you accomplish it. The best part is, your employees will see that you take learning seriously and might do so for themselves as well.
I’ll leave you with two quotes, “A leader who stops learning, will not be leading anyone for very long.” – Anonymous and my favorite from Albert Einstein, “You will not be able to solve the problem with the same level of thinking you used to create it!”