Have you ever heard the phrase, “do as I say, not as I do”? Just like the parent who smokes but tells their child they shouldn’t do it, organizations struggle with leaders failing to walk the talk, creating confusion, mixed messages, and frustration.
When we look from the outside at something as obvious as this, something not associated with us, it’s easy to get on the judgment wagon and point out how ridiculous it is. Yet, so many of us do the same thing. One of the biggest areas I see this in is learning.
One of the first human development authors who had a big impact on me was Steven Covey. I liked him primarily because he was principle-focused, and didn’t believe in, or promote, quick fixes. He seemed always to get to the core of the matter and build from there.
Of the many things he wrote about, there is one concept that embedded itself in my mind and has become a foundation for how I approach establishing a strong culture in any organization I work with. It came from this quote: “there are certain things that are fundamental to human fulfillment. The essence of these is captured in the phrase ‘to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy.’ The need to live is our physical need for such things as food, clothing, shelter, economical well-being, health. The need to love is our social need to relate to other people, to belong, to love and to be loved. The need to learn is our mental need to develop and to grow. And the need to leave a legacy is our spiritual need to have a sense of meaning, purpose, personal congruence, and contribution.”
While lots has been said about live, love and legacy, “to learn” seems to get the least amount of attention.
In the workplace, research highlights that employees (particularly millennials growing into management roles as we speak) place the desire for professional growth and for making an impact in the organization (or the world at large) high on their list of factors affecting their level of workplace engagement—higher, in fact, than salary/benefits.
When you consider the data, prioritizing learning in organizational cultures becomes a win-win situation. Employees who feel that their employer prioritizes their professional and personal development are more engaged—resulting in increased motivation, desire to solve problems creatively, and better performance overall.
So, how do you create a culture of learning? And how do you convince your clients that creating a learning culture will have a positive impact on their bottom line?
I believe it starts with you, and encouraging the leaders you work with to “walk the talk.”
Talk openly with your clients about how you are pursuing learning and professional development opportunities as part of the ongoing strategy for your consulting practice. Help them see the benefits of having conversations with their teams about their professional development aspirations, and then figure out opportunities to help them achieve those goals. Most importantly, travel the path of continual learning in your own personal development, and be actively engaged in the development of others.
As with most things, learning in the workplace succeeds when it is role-modelled from the top down. People are inspired when they see leaders they respect on the path of continual learning. They feel valued when time is taken, with sincere interest, to help them personally identify gaps and outline growth opportunities. When that growth is achieved, you will be able to identify new opportunities, and the cycle continues.
It’s one of the comments we hear often from consultants who have clients using our platform—everyone gets involved in the discussion, team members feel heard, and see their leaders take interest in learning as an important part of their work. Team leaders can’t get away with saying “do as I say, not as I do,” because they are part of the conversation. Everyone participates in the conversation, everyone identifies a goal, everyone is accountable to someone, and all are growing, together. When you consider the data on employee engagement as a result of direct communication with their peers and managers, the platform becomes an easy sell to clients—we are able to demonstrate business impact, increase engagement, and deliver insights into the health of a culture.
Just as teams look to their leaders, clients will look to you. Set the bar high for creating learning cultures, and I have no doubt the results will follow.