Do you love to learn new things?
Does your organization have a high commitment to learning?
When the annual awards are announced in your region, has your company been recognized as one of the best places to work?
If you answered, yes, yes and yes, then congrats…you are most definitely committed to learning and to taking great care of your people, nicely done!
But I have one more question for you:
Do you implement, fully, what you have learned?
Over the past three decades as an entrepreneurial leader, I have built multiple businesses, and watched hundreds of my peers build theirs, having a front row seat with my participation in Vistage and EO (Entrepreneurs Organization). We have shared best practices and lessons learned to help each other grow. I have witnessed entrepreneurial leadership at its absolute best, especially during the most challenging of times like we find ourselves in today.
When it comes to learning though, I have seen mixed results, concluding that not all learning is created equal. The reality is I see three quite different learning models in companies.
The Reactive Organization
This company is quite committed to learning but employs a “theme of the month” style. The entrepreneurial leader of the Reactive Organization always has his or her eyes and ears open, listening to what has worked in other companies. When they find something they really like, they quickly implement the new learning in their own organization. But…since they are always on the look out for great ideas, they tend to implement quickly, and then stop, and then implement something new. Ultimately, the cycle repeats itself. The employees of this type know they just need to wait the leader out long enough for them to change the program, so nothing ever gets fully implemented. Start. Stop. Start. Stop.
The Learning organization
This company is highly committed to learning (learning from the best), always looking to add to the “culture of learning” they have created. The employees of this type know that the entrepreneurial leader has their best interests at heart when they are making their decisions as to what’s next for the hungry learners. The more the better. This organization is different than the reactive organization; the leader will ensure they are not switching themes every month, but rather they are committed to seeing the learning through to the end, prior to starting the next set of learning. On the outside looking in, the learning organization is a great place to work, but the one risk is that they tend to focus on learning too much, and not enough on implementing fully what they have learned. Learning is the priority and focus. Implementing…sometimes not so much.
The Action Organization
This company takes the best of both the reactive and learning organizations and puts fewer and more focused-learning programs into place. They ensure they maintain the discipline to act on their learning to get an ROI (return on investment) from their learning. The leader of this type is always listening to his or her peers as to what is working for them (similar to the reactive leader) and is committed to learning at a high level (similar to the learning leader). However, they differ in that they proactively select the learning programs that will benefit the company the most, aligning the learning with the overall strategies and goals of the business, to ensure that the time and investment they make on their learning is the most effective it can be. Whereas the learning organization is committed to lifelong “quantity learning,” the Action organization is committed to lifelong “quality (and quantity) action learning.”
So, how do you learn today, and what changes would you like to implement in the future?