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The Ultimate Business Survival Skill – Purposeful Learning

5. Reflect, consolidate, and commit.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  We’ve all heard that bit of sound-bite wisdom. It is only partially true. For some difficult circumstance to make us stronger requires us to learn from it.  Not everyone does.

My wife is a crisis counselor.  You would think that a crisis would be a one-off event.  Once resolved, the person in the crisis would rise up stronger and more capable than before.  Alas, not true.  The same people find themselves in one crisis after another.  They resolved the crises but never learned – they never changed their behavior. They continued to do the same things that brought on the crisis in the first place.

For some adverse experiences to make us stronger, we must be active participants in the learning process.  That means pausing and reflecting on the experience – asking ourselves “What did we do to contribute to this?”  And then writing down the answers.  Once we have clearly identified our behavior, we then commit to changing that behavior so that we can learn from the experience and become stronger.

“What doesn’t kills us makes us stronger – if we learn and grow from it.”

6. Include your employees, your family, and those you influence.

If you find yourself in a position of influence – an influential professional, an entrepreneur, or executive, then there are those around you who look to you for leadership.  One of the greatest leadership strategies in today’s rapidly changing environment is to initiate purposeful learning among those you influence.

There is a large body of content available on ‘creating a learning organization.”  Peter Senge’s classic book, The Fifth Discipline, provides the foundation for corporate strategic initiatives around the idea of a learning organization.

If you find yourself in this position, here are three tactics to begin the process.

To instill Purposeful, Self-Directed Learning in your people

1. Wipe the slate clean.

Imagine that you have written the history of your company or your career on a blackboard.  You have every decision, every strategy, every success, and every failure noted in detail.  The sum of this experience provides the rationale for why and how you do everything that you now do.

Now, take a wet towel, and wipe the board clean.  Erase the past.  As you do so, you eliminate the unspoken acceptance of the way things are and replace it with the new understanding that things may not be the way they should be.  Just because something is, doesn’t mean it should be.  The reason you started doing something may no longer exist.  Remember, with a world turning over more or less completely every two to three years, any decision or procedure which had its roots in a situation that is three or more years old may not be justified today.

This little exercise provides a mental image for a change in thinking that needs to take place if you’re going to become a learning organization.  You must begin to think about things that you do, not on the basis of the past (three or more years ago), but rather on the basis of the present and the future.

It’s a way of eliminating one of the biggest barriers to learning and changing.  That barrier is the mental obstacles that we put in our own way.  Here’s an example.  One of my clients was frustrated with his continuing inability to motivate his sales force.  He spent much of his mental energy and financial resources attempting to get his force of largely independent agents to spend more time with his product.  Yet he never thought about going to market in ways other than through his traditional methods.  When we broke down that barrier of relying on the past and wiped the slate clean, we discovered a marketing method that holds tremendous potential for his business.  However, it took a change in thinking, a thought process that wasn’t tied to his past to look at the situation on the basis of the present and the future rather than the past.

That principle can be applied in every area of your business, from something so fundamental and important as your method of reaching your customers, to something as mundane as the way you answer the phone or fill out a receiving document.

2. Give purposeful learning a strategic emphasis.

Build in the need to become a learning organization in the most fundamental building blocks of your business.

Write it into your mission statement.  Get the board to pass a resolution advocating it.  Display your commitment to it predominantly in your personnel manual.

Talk about it at your employee meetings.  Make it an agenda item for your executive meetings.  Articulate it as an initiative in your strategic planning sessions.

And, begin to model learning behavior yourself.

3. Make purposeful, self-directed learning a part of everyone’s job description.

Begin to create learning expectations for yourself and all your employees.  Talk about their need to learn and grow.  Include it as an item on every job description.

Then encourage, develop, and support learning opportunities throughout your organization.  Here’s what some things other organizations have done:

1. Require every employee to attend a certain number of seminars, internet-based courses, or other learning events per year.

2. Reward the effective application of learning.

In other words, when someone finds an effective way to change things, reward them.  One of my clients holds a monthly employee meeting, where the employee who has made the biggest positive change in the way things are done is rewarded with a $150.00 cash bonus.

Begin to implement these strategies, and you’ll take the first steps to transform your organization into a learning organization.

You’ll begin the process of mastering the ultimate success skill for the new economy.

How effective are you at the most important competency of our age?

Download a free copy of the Purposeful Learning Self-Assessment.

Dave Kahlehttp://www.davekahle.com/wordpressblogs/dave-kahle/
YOUR business can be much more than just a money-making enterprise. Helping you achieve that potential is Dave Kahle’s passion. He has been helping business grow for 30 years. The author of The Good Book on Business, he’s written 12 other books, which have been published in eight languages and distributed around the world, and has presented in 47 states and 11 countries. He has personally and contractually worked with over 459 companies, and touched thousands of others through his seminars, speaking engagements, and webinars. You’ll find him challenging your paradigms and prompting you to think more deeply.

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