Join John Ullmen for an in-depth discussion in this video Keep learning, part of Executive Leadership.
- According to research by Korn Ferry, a leading global executive search and consulting firm, with hundreds of thousands of executives accessed, and thousands of CEOs placed the number one predictor of executive success, number one is learning agility. Which they summarize as, the ability to know what to do when you can’t know what to do. Successful executives need to learn at an extra level of challenge and velocity. I call it the executive learning cycle. It’s one, the drive to challenge one’s self in the face of uncertainty, ambiguity, and anxiety.
Two, to learn quickly from those experiences, and then three, promptly apply the learning to new challenges. Here’s how to do it. One, learn from experience, challenging experiences. Take on initiatives that stretch you. Test your limits, broaden your knowledge, and expand your perspective. Look for opportunities outside your current work role too, such as advisory boards or community service projects. It’s why senior executives routinely serve on boards of directors of other firms.
Two, learn from anyone. Innovators really get this, and you should too. The artist Jack Nichols said, “Every person I work with knows something better than me. “My job is to listen long enough to find it and use it.” When you cross paths with people don’t leave without learning something, maybe even about yourself. I coached a company general council, we’ll call Ben, who had a defining moment earlier in his career when he worked at a law firm. He was trying to make partner, and to show his work ethic he was always last to leave the office.
One night a janitor said, “Can I talk to you?” Ben said, “Sure.” The janitor said, “You’ve got to change your priorities. “You’re here late every night.” He pointed to a picture on his desk of Ben’s son and asked, “How often do you see your kid?” Ben shook his head said, “Not enough,” and changed jobs. It was priceless advice that rescued him as a parent, a spouse and a leader. Three, learn at multiple levels. John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning “are indispensable to each other.” A good way to ensure you’re learning what you need for the next level of responsibility is to keep learning beyond your current role.
You can learn about your business unit or function, your organization, your customers or clients, your industry, the competitive landscape, trends and technology, the economy, social changes, international affairs, government policies, and leadership skills best practices and other leader’s successes. Finally, do yourself a favor and learn from other leader’s failures too. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Learn from other people’s mistakes, “you can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” Four, set learning priorities and implement learning plans.
Try this question, for you to succeed as a leader, what’s the most important thing for you to learn next? The most important thing. Establish a focused number one learning priority, and create a plan. You can do it on a six month or 12 month cycle, whichever is best for you. Here’s an example, years ago I spoke with Kevin Sharer while he was still CEO of Amgen, the giant pharmaceutical firm. He said, “I’ve got to listen better. “I’ve got to give people more space.” He had a plan, in fact he started it on the day it was announced he would become CEO.
He sent a note to over 100 Amgen leaders to schedule one to one meetings with each of them. He said, “He was there to listen,” and offered five questions as a starting point. “What are the five most important things about “Amgen we should be sure to preserve and why? “What are the top three things we need to change and why? “What do you most hope I do? “What are you most concerned I might do? “What advice do you have for me?” After the meetings he shared what he learned with the entire company through listening memos, and he maintained a variety of other listening routines and practices for himself going forward.
Now that’s the kind of plan I want you to have. Powered by the passion to learn that distinguishes the best leaders, such as Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group. Asked about what keeps him driving for success he said, “My biggest motivation, to keep challenging myself. “Every day I’m learning something new.” For all executive leaders that’s great advice every day.
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- Understanding the four disciplines of executive leadership
- Thinking strategically
- Creating shared purpose
- Inspiring confidence—even under pressure
- Motivating and communicating
- Establishing priorities and focus
- Leading change
- Developing yourself<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.