An analyst at an outsourcing company, Alex, noticed that any time he suggested an improvement, his colleagues resisted, and questioned him. The issue at hand: he had been assuming that his colleagues understood what the problems were. So, he only shared what needed to be done. But, his communication style needed revisiting. “I was given feedback a few times that I was too opinionated,” he said.
Alex started reading about how to persuade people effectively, and joined a public speaking program. He learned how to connect with stakeholders and present ideas compellingly. With his new skill in tow, he tried a different approach: he created a process map and pointed to the root causes of issues. This helped his audience understand where they could make changes and how exactly he could help. Today, Alex’s colleagues are more accepting of his ideas, and collaborate with him to implement them.
Alex’s story is a classic case of learning agility – the capacity for rapid, continuous learning from experience. Since he was good at making connections across experiences, he let go of approaches that weren’t useful. Alex built crucial new skills that aided his success. David Peterson, Director of Leadership at Google believes, “Staying within your comfort zone is a good way to prepare for today, but it’s a terrible way to prepare for tomorrow.”
To help you craft your future better, here are some questions we urge you to ask.
- How ready am I to develop this skill? For learning to pay off, assess the relevance of the new skill you want, with respect to your career path and your current capabilities. The Six Sigma training you desire is great. But how does it impact the next level of your job? It may help to learn coaching or mentoring instead! Also, take into account the kind of investment you need to make, in terms of time and effort. According to psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson, “It’s not like going to the pharmacy and getting a prescription filled.”
- What can I do differently to change the outcome? This is a trial and error approach. It involves questioning the status quo and challenging long-held assumptions, with the goal of discovering new ways of doing things. However, having new experiences does not guarantee learning. Look for feedback and actively process information to grasp the situation. In fact, research suggests that strong self-awareness was the single highest predictor of success across C-suite roles.
- Can I teach someone else? When it comes to sharing our knowledge, we often think we need to know ‘enough’ to share with others. But, if you want to learn well, teach others as much as you can. It’s called the Protégé effect, which shows that cognition is a two-way street. Studies show students who teach their study material to others perform better on tests, than kids learning for the sake of learning. It’s also a great way to build empathy!
It may seem like an uphill journey, when you consider the many nuances of learning. But, the scales will soon tilt in your favour. Take the leap now.