Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Is Your Workplace a Learning Environment?

Leadership and learning are indispensible of one another.” - John F. Kennedy

As a leadership coach and workplace learning professional, of course I heartily agree with President Kennedy’s quote. I wouldn’t do what I do if I didn’t love learning and helping others’ learn. In fact one of my top four personal values is learning/teaching. I put them together as one value because they reinforce each other and to me, are just two sides of the same coin.

John Maxwell says in his book Leadership Gold, “If you want to lead you must learn. If you want to continue to lead, you must continue to learn.” He states that in his experience people fall into one of three categories:

The Challenge Zone: “I attempt to do what I haven’t done before."
The Comfort Zone: “I do what I already know I can do.”
The Coasting Zone: “I don’t even do what I’ve done before.”

As babies, we all start out in the challenge zone. But there comes a time in our lives when we no longer have to continue to try new things. That’s when people subconsciously decide which zone they will live in. Those who choose to remain in the comfort or coasting zones miss out on discovering and sharing things with others. They lose a part of themselves which they never truly get to know.

Smart leaders hire those who enjoy the challenge zone because they know those are the kind of people who help a company excel.  To keep these valuable employees working at their best, leaders must foster a learning and growth environment where employees feel comfortable offering new ideas, discussing new concepts and challenging each other. Interactions in such a culture spark the company’s growth as well as the individual's. Dynamic work environments like those often buck the status quo, and successfully so. One current example is which has, to Wall Street's chagrin, eschewed short-term profits for long-term success.  (Read more about that here.)

As a leader, you understand the value of continuous learning and the benefits it provides you, your employees and your organization. How do you ensure that your working environment is fostering growth and learning for your employees?

Maxwell says you can identify a growth environment because the following ten things are in place:

1. Others are ahead of you.
2. You are continually challenged.
3. Your focus is forward.
4. The atmosphere is affirming.
5. You are often out of your comfort zone.
6. You wake up excited.
7. Failure is not your enemy.
8. Others are growing.
9. People desire change.
10. Growth is modeled and expected.

How does your organization rate? If you can confidently say you foster those characteristics in your office, then you probably have a top-notch team and others who are lining up at your door to work there.

Out of their comfort zone and being challenged!

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