Section 3.4 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Talent Strategy and Management. Section H reads, “Skill in communicating the value of lifelong learning and professional development.”
In this brief article, I will share my thoughts on the importance of lifelong learning.
The Role of Learning
From the moment of our birth, and perhaps even before, we are learning how to obtain more of the things that are important to us and how to avoid the things that would hurt us. The same logic holds when we are at work.
Role of Learning at Work
The more we know about how to do our work and how to deal well with people of all types, the more successful we will be at work.
Learning is a journey that never ends. Just as we continue to learn in our personal lives up until we take our last breath, so we need to learn every day at work.
Learning from our Mistakes
An excellent way to learn how to be better is to reflect on the times where things did not go as we had hoped. We learn far more from our mistakes than we do when things are going well. Do not consider a negative situation as a failure; rather think of it as an opportunity to learn something.
In the military, they use the technique of the “After-Action Review.” This method focuses on what happened and how they reacted to it for the purpose of learning how to do better in the future.
The system relies on an objective non-judgmental description of what happened along with a constructive brainstorm of possible alternatives for the future.
We should all do an after-action review whenever something did not work out the way we wanted it to. These reviews can be done in private or in a group setting.
Simply write down what happened and what we did. Then brainstorm ideas for possible different action in the future that would have the potential for a better outcome.
This method does not take a lot of time, but it does allow for continuous learning to occur. Of course, there is a more formal approach to learning that should go on in parallel with the after-action reviews.
Each person needs to have a personal plan for developing his or her skills over time. One’s supervisor generally reviews the plan, since the opportunity to learn something new usually involves some resources. As you pick up new skills, your performance improves, and you become a more valuable employee to your organization.
Sometimes the learning will take the form of cross training. I have written on the benefits of cross training in another article. I call it the Miracle Cure. Cross training is less expensive and less disruptive than classroom training. There are also many side benefits to cross training, such as improved teamwork.
Avoid a Narrow Definition of Learning
Many people view learning as the ability to take formal courses. That is learning, for sure, but we must recognize that learning is a continuous process that goes on as long as we are awake and breathing.
Keep your focus on the things you are doing to improve yourself at all times. Also, help other people see how they grow, even when things are not going well at the moment.
Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.