Businesses are pivoting, technology is changing rapidly, and today’s customers demand their products and services faster, better, cheaper, and often more customized than ever before. If you are to move forward in your career, you need adapt to these ever-evolving demands. This means a change in mindset – a commitment to become an active, lifelong learner. Unsure of where to start? By taking an organized, strategic approach to your learning, you can make it more effective and manageable.
A good place to start your learning journey is to recognize your own personal learning style. How do YOU learn best? Are you a reader? Your local library is an amazing resource – with books on most business topics – and you can find articles, whitepapers and e-newsletters online. Or do you work better with interactive learning sources, such as webinars, educational videos and e-learning? Again, a quick search online will turn up resources on most topics.
Once you know HOW you prefer to learn, take the time to decide WHAT you plan to learn. Analyse what you are good at, and make note of any gaps in your skills, listing the key areas you think you need to develop.
As a learning strategist, one skillset I have noticed is in high demand is soft, or people skills. Communication, patience, flexibility and resiliency are just some of the basics. Once mastered, you can move on to the skills needed to coach and build your staff – including hybrid staff – such as leadership, problem solving, teamwork, time management and delegation.
Don’t forget your hard skills as well. You will need to master each new level of technology added in your organization.
Are you a good negotiator? Can you both present your ideas, while vocalizing the organization’s needs and how you are able to advance that agenda? Do you know how to build influence in your organization? How strong is your business acumen? Do you understand the vision, values of your organization, who your competitors are, who your top clients are? If not, get busy finding these things out. These skills are essential to becoming an asset to your organization, and you need to be aware of how they help drive success.
Clients have asked me, “How do I keep up when my organization offers limited training and development?” My answer is, “Prioritize.” Take your list and decide which topics and information you most need to pursue, put them into a sequence based on importance, then schedule some realistic time each week to work through the list. Do you have two hours a week to spare? Can you find an extra hour each weekend to study one of the areas you enjoy learning about? Do you need to find a mentor? Maybe it’s time to share your concerns with your boss and see what other options are available within the organization. Show that you have a learning plan and are looking for help.
Finally, make time for some self-reflection. Ask yourself, “Is what I’m learning helping to move me forward as a leader? What could I have done better today, or this week? What have I learned today that will help me tomorrow?”
The best way to become an adaptive leader is to be an active learner.
Wishing you success on your learning journey.
Dale Wilcox is co-owner of WATMEC. Dale is a respected board member, former volunteer of the year, and inaugural Chair of the Canadian Society for Training and Development.