Lifelong Learning: 3 Steps to Grow Your Learning Skillset

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In our Core Leadership Competencies series, we’ve previously considered the proficiencies of emotional intelligence, time management, and resilience. This month we’re going to look at the skill of lifelong learning and the value this skill brings to leaders and their teams.

Truth be told, lifelong learning is a skill set more than a discrete skill.

People who are lifelong learners typically are characterized by a variety of valuable traits that keep them learning over a lifetime. Some of these include traits that might be considered inherent personality traits, such as:

  • Insatiable curiosity
  • Adaptability
  • Open-mindedness

However, even if these traits don’t come naturally, they can be cultivated through:

  • Self-awareness
  • Practice
  • Persistence
  • Self-discipline
  • Growth mindset.
In other words, even if you don’t have the Learner theme in your Top 5 CliftonStrengths, you can learn to be a life-learner!

We all come into this world as babies wired to be learners. In fact, research over the past several decades has revealed that infants have an innate capacity and inclination to learn everything from language to number sense to “intuitive physics.”

But as we graduated from the formal educational environment and settled into adult routines and responsibilities, many of us have forgotten that we are wired to be learners and have fallen out of love with the process.

Here are 3 steps to remembering that you’re a lifelong learner and encouraging the teams you lead to do that same.

Lifelong Learning Step #1: Cultivate a growth mindset. 

A growth mindset is the essential foundation because it is the belief that you can evolve through effort and persistence. It’s the acknowledgement that your knowledge and skills are not innate and fixed, but they are malleable. 

Lifelong Learning Step #2: Be wrong.

Actually, being wrong is the easy part. But are you willing to admit to yourself and others that you are wrong?

A growth mindset enables you to turn frustration into fuel for growth. A failed project becomes an opportunity to iterate; disappointing results become an invitation to get curious about the root cause and other approaches.

As a leader, being willing to be wrong sends the message to your team that this is a safe place to learn through mistakes and to allow setbacks to fuel growth. 

Lifelong Learning Step #3: Be curious.

We live in a world that is constantly changing. Technology, in particular, has evolved exponentially over the last century. More than ever before, we interact daily with devices and systems in our immediate environment with little to no understanding of how they work. The resulting specialization of knowledge can dampen curiosity: “I don’t need to know because I’ll just take this device to the expert if it breaks.”

While specialization of knowledge has its advantages, the loss of curiosity can stand in the way of lifelong learning. But we can choose to be like a sponge, hungry to understand the why and the how behind our everyday experience.

In the workplace, this curiosity is crucial to iteration and improvement. The deeper your curiosity, the wider a perspective you can cultivate and the less likely it is that you will overlook a solution staring you in the face. 

Truly, the more you cultivate a growth mindset, willingness to be wrong, and curiosity, the better prepared you are to thrive as a leader in today’s ever-changing work environments.

Through your example, you’ll also be on your way to develop teams that are eager to learn from mistakes, adaptable in the face of change, and resilient under stress.

If you’re looking to cultivate a lifelong learning skill set for yourself or your team, check out some of our resources or reach out to Traci for individual or group coaching. 

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