September 25, 2017

How just about everything can be seen as a process of learning

The attendees gather – pleasantries here, a joke there, a side issue being dealt with over in the corner; teas and coffees organized. The person chairing opens proceedings and the participants settle down to the business of the meeting. It’s taken for granted everyone knows what they need to know to do their job; to ensure a successful outcome to the meeting; and that they won’t need to change or grow in the process. Great. We can concentrate on what everyone needs to do.

A totally normal experience: How we usually approach a meeting, is it not, even a difficult one?

But wait a second…

Maybe the situation’s not like that at all. Maybe to get to an outcome, at least one person needs to learn something significant, either about the problem, or about themselves – how they relate to other people perhaps. After all, if everybody knew what they needed to know, would the meeting be needed in the first place? If our people knew how to do something, they would surely have done it already. When something’s not happening, chances are it’s because they don’t really know how, whatever they might claim.

We have a paradox…

Stakeholders and others at large expect us to know everything we need to know to do our job, so admitting we are open to learning could be dangerous. So we act as if we know all we need to know. We feel we’re expected to. And yet most of us grow in our roles every day. If we only today know what we need to know, what does that say about yesterday?

To take a different course, you might like to try this…

Whenever you’re faced with a challenging situation, instead of focusing, as is usual, on what everyone needs to do, consider instead what they need to learn, and how you might stimulate that growth.

Many situations make sense when looked at as a process of learning and sometimes that’s the best way to manage them, even if that’s not their overt purpose. Cause the learning to happen and the doing will often take care of itself.