When Learning is a Priority, there's always Time

Being a Consistent Learner Helps Ace Mentorship Skills

The hierarchical ladder may end, but the learning never stops

A crucial part of human development is working to improve oneself throughout life. A long-term process that needs to be sustained over time, self-development gradually builds confidence to tackle new tasks, set higher benchmarks, learn new skills and ultimately touch new heights. When moving up the hierarchical ladder, many executives become absorbed in their set roles, and in problem-solving and damage control tasks. In such a context one often forgets that every task, role and designation – right from an intern’s to a leader’s – needs continuous sharpening.

From making major organization-level decisions and acting as the single point of communication between the board of directors and corporate operations, to managing overall operations and essentially being the brand ambassador of the company – leaders have various complex tasks at hand on a daily basis. This is when learning takes a back seat. The key here is to incorporate learning into the daily or weekly routine. The options are numerous. One could listen to audio books while driving to and from work, catch up on some reading during lunch, incorporate a short training video into the schedule every day, or even arrange a small discussion with the team to present a new idea or concept each week or month. There are many top executives who take out a few hours on the weekend to catch up with other senior leaders from the industry and have an insightful discussion on trends and new developments. Often trying to learn individually can become challenging especially when it involves putting aside time. With a group of people, all encouraging, uplifting and teaching each other, there is higher motivation to ensure that learning takes place.

For a leader to be successful and ace mentorship skills, a culture of learning needs to be instilled within the organization as well as in the personal life. One should constantly be aware of the signs of complacency. The driving forces to avoid stagnant leadership are to set new benchmarks every step of the way. Every time an executive begins to feel that work is going into auto-pilot, she or he should expand the role, learn a new skill, or even mentor another apprentice. One important aspect to consider here is that each person learns differently from another. Some read, some listen, and some absorb from others, while some learn in short spurts and others prefer long-term learning programmes. When stuck in a rut, it is best for leaders to opt for a concept of subject they are most interested in. There may be certain skills or concepts that one needs to learn simply to set a base and create awareness. However, these may not trigger enough interest to help a person out of the void of complacency. On the other hand, a topic of absolute interest and passion to the person will draw them out of the rut and enable them to start on the learning path, so they can eventually learn anything from what they are passionate about to what they only have to learn as part of the industry.

Whether it is picking up new languages, keeping up to date with the newest of softwares and tools, or undergoing periodic leadership training and executive coaching, there is a plethora of learning options for those at the top.

The importance of learning is not restricted to those starting their careers. It is a process that every individual must embrace. Perhaps understandably, as long as there is a higher role or designation to reach, professionals are motivated to continue learning. However, on reaching the top, a common misconception is that the learning is complete and no longer necessary. Leading a team is as much of a skill as carrying out operational functions or administrative functions, and just like these processes, leadership needs consistent sharpening and honing. Education is ultimately the means to human development, and the culture of continuous learning when embraced by leaders will have a wonderfully impactful trickle-down effect on the rest of the organization.