Learning is a process involving nurturing, inspiring, and self-discovering.
Learning is a voluntary act. We all choose what we learn, even when life and experience provide learning, not everyone takes it in. For example, as a corporate trainer and coach, I know what I am training is good stuff. I wouldn’t teach it if I didn’t believe it to be true. I also know it works because I “walk the talk”, so I neither need to be convinced of that, nor do I need to convince anyone else. That’s not my role nor is it my focus. Rather, my role is to create the learning space and extend the invitation. I am committed to creating spaces that inspire connection and allow others to open up so that learning automatically happens. It’s as much about the experience as it is about the content.
This learning space allows people to engage with me, and each other. The most dynamic moments are when people are connecting. This is when the learning is being exchanged all around. Those are powerful moments. I try to notice and acknowledge those moments as well in order to inspire participants to find learning moments in other situations as well. This can be recreated anywhere at anytime.
When I first started in the field of adult learning and education, I felt it was my job to “teach” people something. If participants didn’t learn something then it was my fault. I’d look at evaluations and question every rating that was below exceptional. When I received “constructive” feedback or worse, got a negative review, I’d sulk over that until time washed the sting of it away. Even though I intellectually know that feedback is an important learning tool, I don’t always take it well. The emotional side of me sometimes gets defensive, this was especially true in my younger days as a trainer.
I am very good at my job. What makes me good at what I do is not so much what I know, as what I am committed to, and my ability to foster an environment of invitation, not compliance. Think back to some of your learning experiences. Which ones stand out as transformative? Which ones are memorable? Mine are when I felt engaged in the process and the teacher in the learning space was passionate about the topic. Those are the moments I remember most.
My company’s tagline, “Inspiring lifelong learning”, is perfect for me because it is what I strive to do every day. I love to learn and I’m naturally curious so it’s easy for me to do that for others. I tend to my own development as well as facilitating the development of others.
The turning point in my career came when I realized that what I needed to do was to create a learning space that was free of judgment, so people would be willing to share in a way that allowed them to “open up”, literally and figuratively, to what I was there to teach them. More importantly, I invite people to learn.
I don’t only practice this in my work, but also in my life as a parent. I nurtured my children’s natural sense of curiosity when they were small, and consequently, they’re both self-directed learners. They engage in the process and get more from it. Because of this, I’ve never had to force either one to do homework or change behaviors in school. I believe it is because I inspired and encouraged them to love learning for the outcome– knowledge– and to enjoy the process of discovery. The rest came naturally.
The same is true in a manager-employee relationship, or a mentor-mentee. Foster the qualities that produce the outcomes you want: high standards, a certain level of performance, productivity–whatever the desired outcome is, work to foster a natural state. Frame it as an invitation not a mandate. One way to do this is to demonstrate it yourself. If you are not open about your own process, you will be less successful in sharing the process with others.