I am in the middle of what I call rapid learning mode. This happens to me from time to time. There is a certain field of study I have been interested in for many years now, and I have been exposed to some new concepts that I am digging in to. When I am in this mode, I am very focused.
That is both good and bad.
I am focused, which is good, but I get easily irritated at others when they try to get my attention and steer me to do other things — like dishes or laundry or homework — which is not fair to them. The good part is that as I get older and wiser, I can see this more easily and work toward compassion versus frustration. This kind of rapid learning, where there is a strong desire to absorb and understand a lot of complex information in a short period of time, can have a real impact on the environment around you. When this happens at home, it also happens at work.
As a leader, it is important to value learning — we must, or in a few years we will be ill equipped to deal with the world we live in. What role does learning play in your culture at work? What can we do as leaders to give learning some prioritization amongst the operational commitments we juggle?
Healthcare is a very regulated industry. Over the last several years, that regulation has increased exponentially. There is so much to learn regarding these regulations that you could literally sit and read lengthy government legal documents all week long. To be honest, nothing thrills me less. This is what I call necessary learning. I need to know these regulations, but find it very boring.
On the other hand, I really enjoy learning more about leadership. Hearing about what successful leaders do fuels me, especially the ones who maximize productivity by building great workplace cultures. I call this hungry learning. This reading is exciting to me and it thrills me to do this all the time; it never gets old or boring. The way I respond to these two types of learning is the same way the team responds. Of course, individuals differ — there may be some who find legal documents and regulation exciting. But when I put it out there that it’s boring or drab, the people who like it tend to keep it to themselves in fear of being ostracized. Understanding this is foundation, and something we have covered many times at Cultureinfusion.com — as the leader goes, so goes the team. Now that we understand that, we can focus our efforts on balancing necessary learning and hungry learning — not just with ourselves, but with the whole team. We do this through what we call ‘lunch and learn time.’
Everyone eats lunch; well, almost everyone. The lunch hour is a sacred hour in our environment. It is the hour in which relationships are both discovered and deepened. Relationship building is a core value and we honor that time by not scheduling meetings in that hour of the day. Not everyone uses it that way, but we want the opportunity to be there for everyone. That is a great time to schedule a lunch and learn event.
Start with a hungry topic as I described above; one that gets you fired up. Find a book relating to that topic, and hold a good old-fashioned Oprah book club meeting once a week for two or three weeks or so to go over major points in the book. Open the invitation to everyone, whether they are in your department or not. This exercise will put an important emphasis on learning as a part of your culture.
Eventually you will be able to mix in some learning objectives that are less than exciting, the necessary learning. Over time, the culture of learning will become engrained in your organization. This will position you for growth into a new world that continues to rapidly change. If learning is embraced and lead, the team will respond. We have been doing this for a few years now, sometimes with great success and sometimes muddling through, but we remain committed to learning. This is a great opportunity for middle managers. Task them to lead these and participate with them if you are a senior leader. Show them support and watch them grow before your eyes.