Learning how to learn.

Simon Sinek recently said, “the best leaders don’t consider themselves experts, they consider themselves students.”  I have learned more in the past year than in any year of my life.  This amazing learning journey has fueled a personal leadership transformation.  Why?  After deep reflection, it became apparent that true professional development requires vision, self-awareness, discipline and courage.  

My learning context.  Coaching is a leadership superpower.  In my experience, COO’s coach up to half of their time, often without being conscious of it.  My transformation began when I realized, with the help of my coach, that I needed to deepen my coaching capability.  I sought out the coaching version of yoga teacher training and found what I was looking for at Royal Roads University.

Vision clarifies the objective.  Leaders need a development plan.  In my case, I set a vision for how I wanted to show up in service of my team as a coach.  Your learning vision sets a true north star for your learning journey.  What coaching superpower would you like to have that you don’t have now?  The answer to this question unlocks the rest of the learning process.

Self-awareness establishes the starting point.  Time to get real with yourself.  Now that you have a vision, you need to establish your starting point.  I used my daily meditation practice to reflect on my strengths and challenges.  I also sought feedback from mentors and my coach.  Significant personal foundation work helped me clarify the gap between my current reality and my vision.  This process takes significant energy and honesty.

Disciplined practice drives the learning deep.  We take training but ‘do’ development.  In explaining why most leadership training fails to improve performance, Mike Myatt said it perfectly: “training is something leaders dread and will try and avoid, whereas they will embrace and look forward to development.”  Disciplined practice is where things take off.

Meaningful transformation comes through repeated application of what we learn, in service of our team and within our organization’s context.  To put the lessons from my coaching program into practice I did 180 coaching sessions in six months.  That volume of consistent repetition drives the learning deep.  Similar to a daily yoga practice, the benefits become cumulative.   What level of practice discipline do you need to turn learning into transformation?

Courage and vulnerability create learning opportunities.  My five-year-old son recently got a new bike.  It is much bigger than his old one.  He rides it with the confidence of knowing he is capable, blended with the trepidation of expecting a few crashes.  That takes courage.  

Leaders might think of this when deploying new skills.  It takes courage to admit there is a requirement to learn and then be open to receiving the teachings.  It takes courage to deploy new skills before they are fully baked.  You know you are going to crash a few times.  In my journey, I found that some of the most profound learning moments came soon after I felt vulnerable but pressed forward.  Whether it was asking a coaching question I was hesitant to ask or sitting in silence with an emotional coachee instead of trying to ‘fix it’ immediately.  What can you do to generate the courage to debut your new skills?

It’s time for the next learning journey.  Global change and industry disruption happen one personal transformation at a time.  Following this process led to the development of leadership capabilities I never expected to have.  What will it take for you to set a learning vision and move toward your true potential?


(originally posted at ChiefYogaOfficer.com)

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