Encouraging an adventurous spirit

Recently a new member of our marketing team me asked about my vision for her new role, what we expected of her, and what skills she needed to develop.

Her questions set me thinking about education beyond school and university. For me, this was essential as I made the switch from bench scientist to marketing. This meant learning about totally different industry sectors with all their jargon. As well as gaining a very different set of skills, including most recently leadership and strategic planning.

As I teenager I was very fortunate to be part of a sail training organisation, the Ocean Youth Club. There’s one thing that Colin, our sea dog skipper said that still sticks in my mind. The day I stop learning is the day I stop sailing; it would be dangerous to continue”. Wise words indeed . . . .

I believe that if we want to transform our companies to ensure ongoing success and resilience we need to encourage a culture of continuous personal and organisational learning. With the way the world of work has changed – technology, disruption, flexible working, portfolio careers etc, an individual’s willingness to keep learning is even more important than when today’s business leaders started out 15–25 years ago, for them and businesses.

So as business leaders how can we create this culture of learning?

  • Shift our own mindsets, and lead by example – keep developing and acquiring new capabilities ourselves. We can then expand this by being generous in sharing what we’ve learnt e.g. I try to share tips from our business mentor and how I’ll be applying these in the workplace.
  • Make curiosity one of your recruitment criteria. Foster open-mindedness when it comes to what form their learning takes. There are so many options beyond classroom training e.g. Online training such as Lynda.com.
  • Put people in the driving seat of their development – make it personal to each team member. Also give people time for learning, to go to conferences, take an OU course, spend time with 1-2-1 coaches.
  • Make it safe for people to try something new. Where possible, fail forward and encourage all levels to see failure as an opportunity to learn how to be better another time.
  • Introduce activities that create opportunities and an atmosphere for growth while still connecting with colleagues – lunch-time walking/running clubs, lunches, film evenings, meditation sessions and book clubs all support learning and personal growth.

As business leaders, it’s worth us remembering there is plenty of evidence that increasingly people are only likely to stay with a company for more than a few months if they feel valued and are developing new skills.