When it comes to continuous learning for management, it's easy to eschew it in favour of experience.
"They have so much experience, they used to be a manager at that shop down the road for 20 years before they sold it and took some time out."
They would have some really valuable experience, but could they manage a Tesco Extra superstore?
Is experience enough?
A lot can be said for experience. It's important, of course. Whether for work or life, our experience shapes us, teaches us and helps us know how to respond or make decisions for the future.
But the world changes, and fast. You have to be present and forward-thinking and experience everything that happens around us in the current time. We won’t know everything and everyday is a learning day, right?
What does that mean for us managers and why is putting effort into continuous learning important?
Cast your mind back 18 months
Take yourself to a working day in February 2020. Where were you? What were you doing and how were you doing it?
Maybe you were sat in the office surrounded by your leader and your team, perhaps you were enjoying a working from home day to get your head down and really focus on a particular project or task.
How were you completing that task? Perhaps you had done some research at a local library or had a meeting or a coffee with an expert for some good old face to face conversational knowledge sharing.
What did you do when you moved around between the office and home? Maybe you put your coat and scarf on, nipped to the loo, washed your hands and jumped on transport home with just the usual thoughts we have when we left the workplace and headed home.
Thinking about how our day went, satisfied with the work we had achieved and looking forward to the next day and tasks. Thinking about the faces of who we had seen that day, smile at a funny moment that happened whilst making coffee in the kitchen with your peers.
Now, think about February 2021
How is that remote meeting going?
How are you ensuring your team are really ok? Maybe one of them has been at home alone a lot since the pandemic. Perhaps people are struggling with the latest software rolled out which is now in place, as there was a more efficient way of completing something when we were thrown into lockdown.
Oh god, not more Covid-19 talk, we are so over this now!
Yes, most of us are, but continuous learning fundamentals are the same and as managers, more important to be able to adjust and support our teams. How do you behave if a big change is coming within your organisation? How do you approach this with your team?
Do you think ahead about what challenges this may present you, your team, your customers and your organisation?
How do you ensure you really know any new reports you have hired during the pandemic?
When working remotely, how are you motivating your team and knowing they are there?
The day-to-day importance of continuous learning
It's one of your direct reports. How strange, why couldn’t they just use the Teams chat like normal?
Something must be wrong. Do you feel nervous about taking the call? Do you ignore it and hope they WhatsApp you instead? Or are you comfortable taking the call and knowing whatever it is, you know how to respond to whatever might be happening?
Do you have empathy?
Are you emotionally intelligent?
Do you know how to support this person and are you aware of the related company policy which you may need to confirm now?
You might have experienced what this person is going to say before.
But what if you haven’t?
This is why as managers and leaders, we should seek to understand, almost predict what we might need to know in the future and ensure we know how to deal and work with it.
Continuous learning: where to start?
Try asking yourself these questions to see if you can look at learning something new:
- Are you a good role model?
- Do you know what your company values and behaviours mean?
- Do you turn up for your work with the best attitude?
- What does each member of your team enjoy outside of work?
- Have you spoken to a colleague based in another country?
- Could you list 3 things about everyone in your team that is not related to their work?
- What are your organisation’s long term goals?
- Do you and your team know how you can deliver them?
- Are there any changes predicted in the future of your business area?
- What are the current challenges in your organisation? If change doesn’t happen, what might the outcome be? How can you avoid this from happening?
We might be good at our day-to-day, but what about if this suddenly changed tomorrow?
Here is your next learning opportunity, welcome to the world of resilience.