Leadership development: Take control of your learning

January 4, 2017 by Wally Bock

Debra Cohen’s post on the SHRM blog suggests “3 Reasons to Become a Self-Directed Learner.” Here’s the opening.

“Attending conferences, seminars and training activities is usually a fun and rich experience. Sometimes you learn a lot at these events, and sometimes you primarily enhance your professional network. But in today’s fast-paced business environment, where staying competitive and being recognized for your leadership and proficiency in HR is critical, many of us need to turn inward for motivation and direction in building behaviors for success. Why become a self-directed learner?”

Ms Cohen has written a book, Developing Proficiency in HR: 7 Self-directed Activities for HR Professionals, and this post is aimed at HR leaders. But let’s step back for a wider view and consider self-directed learning as part of leadership development for all leaders.

Leadership development is your responsibility

Your company probably has a leadership development program. They’re a resource, but ultimately, you’re the person responsible for your own leadership development. The choice is simple. You can take control of your own learning or you can let others make the choices for you. They might not see the opportunities that you do.

Karla was an engineer, and a very fine one. When she surveyed her company and her industry, she noticed that the engineers who succeeded at something besides engineering usually had sales experience in some form. When the company wouldn’t offer her sales training, she decided to learn the craft herself.

She read about sales and got a little training. Mostly, she talked to salespeople. She convinced her boss that she’d be a better engineer if she went on a few calls with the company’s salespeople. Then, she turned every call into a learning opportunity.

Soon, she was sharing what she learned from customers at product development meetings. That led to a developmental assignment on a team that was creating a new product. Today she leads product development teams where she gets to use her engineering skills and what she calls her “sales-like experience.”

Leadership development your way

If you want to get the best possible leadership development experience, take control. Learn, experiment, try things. You’ll probably wind up in a place that no formal program could prepare you for.

Wally Bock is a coach, a writer and President of Three Star Leadership.

Posted in Leadership Development

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