Posted by Paul Simkins
After 25 plus years developing and facilitating training for clients in a wide variety of industries large and small, a consistent theme I see is that there is a lot of management and very little real leadership going on.
This phenomenon was no more apparent than in the area of organizational learning.
Commitment to Learning
A commitment to learning initiatives from leadership becomes clear through their commitment to the process of learning and growing people. You can readily spot the ones that throw dollars to paint the picture of developing staff and the ones who are truly committed to it. The attitude is reflected in the leadership which is then also reflected in the attitude of the learners.
Part of the failure is in the ability of the leaders to see that direct connection between leading and learning on its many levels.
U.S. President John F. Kennedy planned to point to this in the speech that he never gave. In his notes from the speech he planned to deliver in Dallas the day he was shot, President Kennedy notes had in pure, blunt words:
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”
The organizations that survive and, more to the point, thrive in today’s economy will be the ones who are fully committed to learning on all levels.
Business size is immaterial.
Number of employees is irrelevant.
Industry is meaningless.
Survival and growth for the organization can only be sustained where there is a consistent commitment to continual growth for every member of the organization.
And that flows from executive level on down.
Okay, but what are some REAL benefits to executive level leading of learning within an organization? With a background in training and development, I was naturally curious and spent some time looking at what some world-wide leaders had to say about this.
From that, here are just 5 ways you realize benefits by leading the learning organization.
Five Benefits of Leading the Learning
1) Communication of Vision
As a leader, sharing the vision with your team is critical. John Maxwell, in his book 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, states that the leader is a steward of the vision and as such must both communicate and model the picture of the vision. When learning initiatives reinforce vision both through communication and equipping, then you also empower employees to behave consistent with that vision.
2) Competitive Advantage
Jack Welch said this:
“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.”
Newer, more efficient ways of doing things are discovered that helps save money and increase effectiveness.
3) Superior Performance
When team members, including executives and management, have been properly equipped they can perform extraordinarily.
Value takes on many meanings here. Like #1 above, communicating organizational values is an important part of developing people and building consistency and effectiveness.
“Learning initiatives provide one way to pass values along; especially when leaders participate in the same learning initiatives as everyone else.”
In addition, there is adding and receiving value. C-level commitment to learning adds value to employees and provides them with the mindset and tools to add value back to the organization.
Learning initiatives initiated by, promoted by, and participated in by organizational leaders provides real connections with management and employees, as well as connections with the external environment. In addition, it helps to connect what they learn with personal and organizational goals. Trust builds. Participation on all levels in the welfare of the organization becomes possible.
Loyalty no longer is a term we use to refer to the way things used to be.
We work harder for those we care about and those who care about us. The learning organization provides the opportunities for establishing human connections that can communicate the care and respect. Better relationships lead to better productivity.
The Big Leadership Learning Challenge
The challenge comes when resources meet our desires in this direction and where the commitment on the part of C-level leadership becomes the linchpin.
Commitment to the process means when budgets are trimmed, learning initiatives that emphasize equipping employees for their work are maintained on some level. Without that, instead of the learning organization we have the failing organization.