This is the 5th in a series of 6 articles on the attitude adjustments I had to make when I became a manager. With little management training and only a few managers to use for examples, my early management experiences were frustrating and demoralizing. I was drained, stressed and exhausted all the time. It seemed like everything was wrong.
Often in the workplace, a common solution to problems is to offer more training. “We need to train our people,” someone might say. Many think training is the answer to many problems, but in reality learning is key.
Growing up, I liked school early. It was an opportunity to learn new things and apply them. However later, it became a place that enforced conformity. By college, I felt like all they wanted me to learn was what they thought. Once I realized all they wanted me to do was tell them the answers they wanted to hear, I finished my degree and exited.
Years later in management, I realized teaching someone wasn’t the point. When we “teach” someone, the energy and the action come from outside them. Energy injected into an organization from the outside or from the top of the org chart eventually drains. It is scarce. In college I wanted to learn less than I wanted people to appreciate what I knew. That attitude created new challenges for me in the work world too.
But when I hit the wall in my first management position, my misery sent me searching. I didn’t have time for training, but I had to find a solution. I’ve never been much of a sit-and-listen learner anyway, so my advanced degrees (all informal) have all come from the school of hard knocks.
First through my personal experience and later in various management roles, I realized learning follows energy. Whether from pain or possibility, learners are those who bring their own energy to the process. New leaders, those responsible for their influence, were anxious to learn and expand their influence. They brought energy for learning and for improvement into the organization.
Their energy surpassed mine. I no longer needed to provide the energy to run the organization, the team provided the energy both to operate and to improve.
Anyone can learn. Often we think the ability to learn is age related, but the ability to learn comes from realizing some of what we don’t know. When an individual understands new knowledge enables them to reach personally valuable goals, they bring the energy to learn. Often our teammates want to learn anything they believe moves them toward their ideal future, while our organizations only reimburse or reward learning that empowers the organization’s ideal future. The gap between the two creates tension.
Training happens when energized trainers share what they have learned. But learning happens when energized learners pursue new knowledge. Training may or may not create energy and growth. But learning always creates growth and produces more energy than it consumes. I have a coworker who is teaching another older coworker to home-brew beer. Interest in a subject becomes the source of energy. Learning happens when we channel our energy to achieve our goals.
Do you catch yourself bringing all of the energy for someone on your team to learn something new? If so, learning won’t happen. Teaching seldom sticks, unless the student becomes a learner. Invest your energy to elevate learning and to provide opportunities for your team members to bring their own energy. Reward learning and watch it grow.
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