Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Live and Learn – A leadership responsibility


I attended the retirement party for a colleague the other day. In his closing comments he provided a quote that I liked, wrote down and wanted to share with you. "Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi) It struck me because so many people approach their careers (and life) in such an opposite manner. As they become older they are less willing to take a risk and attempt to learn new things.

Just think about the number of baby boomers that have not yet engaged in the Web 2.0 world. You can probably count the number of bosses you know that have embraced the technologies now available to improve their skills and communication with their team’s on one hand. Now there is a risk using web 2.0 also. As an executive masters the skill, they isolate themselves from their peers and bosses. They achieve results these others may never understand and this may scare the others. While Ghandi did not contemplate web 2.0, he did understand the endless progression of knowledge.

What ideas do you have for continuously enhancing your skills while not alienating your peers and superiors?

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24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Another good quote "not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers"

Prabhu Sankaran said...

one thing that Boeing employees could do to increase their learning is to take advantage of Boeing Learning together program (LTP). LTP paid 100% for my MBA that I received during Dec'08. I worked on this for the past 2.5 years and I have higher level strategy and finance skills than before. Another resource is Boeing Learning Network, they have hundreds of courses. Last but not the least, there is Boeing Leadership Center where I took TTM, FLL, and PMW - these are some of the ways Boeing employees could increase their skillset without alienating co-workers.

EileenDiane said...

Terrific Ghandi quote. I think that it’s very important to include peers / bosses in your quest for continual learning, whether it be Web 2.0 or advanced degrees, etc. I recently completed by MBA (and will be taking Project Management courses next month) and would always make it a point to discuss the classes and readings. I also think that my enthusiasm for the MBA program (and now project management classes) causes some people to think about taking classes. I think that enthusiasm plus empathy can go far in spreading the word about web 2.0 to those not willing to take the plunge (or at least baby steps).

Prabhu Sankaran said...

Boeing also paid for me to attend a 5-day bootcamp at Global Knowledge to receive my ITIL-Foundations certification, and the company also paid for me to get my Certified Manager (CM) certification. ITIL is a popular British IT service management framework that is getting embraced in US rapidly. CM is a recognized certification in Aerospace industry. It is offered by the National Management association (NMA) in collaboration with Institute of certified Professional Managers (ICPM). I already had my PMP that I acquired at my own expense before joining Boeing full-time. Bottomline, these days I doubt if there are many companies that are willing to invest in their employees as much as Boeing does. it is up to the individuals to take advantage of opportunities and it is also the responsibilities of resource managers to open the eyes of their resources to these wonderful avenues.

Klint C. Kendrick, MBA SPHR said...

It seems to me that using the skills as a lever rather than a wedge is the key. Sometimes individuals will use credentials to browbeat or even bully others into agreeing with their points of view. This drives a wedge between parties and can create the resentment and isolation you talk about.

A leader, on the other hand, would use those skills to generate additional success, which still requires the ability to work together. Whether the skill is web proficiency, exemplary public speaking, or masterful use of an excel spreadsheet, it seems that other people must still be involved in using that skill to accomplish the greatest good for everybody.

John Rives, MBA said...

"John, One has to read, explore, listen to all around,and then reflect upon what one has learned and heard. Reflection will then develop into discovery through critical thinking coupled with a courious itch to drill down deeper and also share these discoveries. Sharing should not be about alienating others, but to spark conversations and debates that further enhance the learning process as well as develop your relationships deeper. John"

Donald Fish said...

"In your victories and defeats be gracious it is a sign of your character, strength and ability to perservere that people respect. Keep relationships with your former peers and don't just move on."

Edith Hamilton said...

"John, Thanks for sharing the quote. It is great! I was challenged by someone to think about work as building bridges. My job is to build bridges, between teams, function activities, people. In order to do that you have to keep learning and also feel comfortable in various environments. I think for me it is just, never getting too comfortable, being curious and having a strong consultant focus. While my goal is not to alienate, I don't let others stop me from learning."

Nato Derpo said...

"John, very good quote and I also believe leaders need to continuously learn new things. One way to keep from alienating oneself from peers and superiors is to keep in mind and remember to share what you learn with others, either as a consultant or as a mentor. In this way, people will see the leader as someone who is thinking and caring not only about himself but others -- i.e., the boss, colleagues, subordinates, and the team."

Carolann Jacobs said...

"How does learning new things alienate co-workers and peers?"

Prabhu Sankaran said...

I think one response to the question "How does learning new things alienate co-workers and peers?" could be that co-workers might get insecure when they see someone getting ahead, be it with new training or license/certifications. I think the burden would be on the person that is getting ahead to demonstrate that the team also stands to benefit out of the learning.

Carolann said...

John,
I was being a little facetious.

The fact of the matter is people don't like to see other people out-improving them. It implicitly makes them wrong which makes them uncomfortable.

The underlying discussion might be around how to create or move to an environment where he can be authentic instead of having to be someone else in order not to rock the boat. It must be very frustrating to be surrounded by "b" players all day.

Carolann

John DuCharme said...

"The best solution for preventing alienation with peers and supervisors is communication. Ghandi would probably agree that knowledge is most effective when it is shared with others. With that in mind, I would recommend open lines of communication and sharing of best practicies. Corporations with cultures of open communication will be able to thrive in the Web 2.0 world, by empowering employees, managers, and executives to leverage technology to improve, not impede, communication."

Larry LACY said...

"I am always open to learn. I could not be a good trainer if I did not look at life this way. When I was a MDC, I became known at a problem solver. Whenever an issue arose regarding procurement tasks in communicating better with engineering, I was called upon. This was good training for me later starting a business as a trainer and offering assessments to fix communication problems. I think Corporate America has contributed to individuals not always learning. Corporate America does push education and continuing ed. however, most do not want the individual to be self thinkers. If one wants individuals to be "curious" and want to learn, it must instilled from the top down."

Ken Schuster said...

"Mr. Bishop, For me, Live and Learn is a human function and is only a part of the leadership concept. Each day all of us that reach the end of the day have lived many different experiences but few of us choose to exercise the learning part and even when we do we are selective. Because our global society has reached the point of caring for us too the level that it does, even the concept of survival of the fittest seldom applies. Being older then you but having children that have not reached the teen years I am happily enjoying a learning life. This learning is further necessitated by raising teenage daughter (;>) but not quite as happy as with the preteen boys. Why bring this into your "business" oriented topic? If we do not LEARN to LIVE at the personal level we cannot take it forward into the professional life. If I do not understand the basics of raising a family, which goes back to caveman skills then how can I understand or appreciate what is involved with leading others anywhere else. You state "You can probably count the number of bosses you know that have embraced the technologies now available...on one hand...As an executive masters the skill, they isolate themselves from their peers and bosses" and I disagree. For me the easy example is IBM. Neither Lou nor Sam understand, and Lou seldom appreciated, the technology that they (more then any group of us) have at their finger tips. But are they able to communicate well and effectively with others? YES, because they both work with the KISS principle. Technology is a means of making THINGS happen not leading people. The mastering of technology can change how we communicate but does not in itself make us better communicators or leaders (My eight year old has mastered texting and I have no idea what it says). Let's go back to IBM and remember that Sam was a college football lineman and not one known for leading the team. BUT Sam learned and lives showing that he knows how to choice a team that he knows how to listen to, how to support those he sends into the play and how to reward (even without big AIG type $$$ bonuses) when they produce for the TEAM (read company) not just their unit or individual unit. Some have called him "the IBM cheerleader" and that may be his greatest asset. He does not have to be the "hero" of the company nor have the spotlight on just him (as Lou tended to do) to lead. Who was the greater leader Patton, MacArthur or Eisenhower ? Answer that and tie it back to your comments about leadership and technology (;>) Live and Learn? just one ? or neither ? ... My wife wonders because I take the time to respond to comments such as yours; engage in a business that helps corporate leaders understand a major income producer (www.LinkedIn.com/in/kenschusterschuster) that they only view through a narrow spyglass; mentor young people in scounting programs and then follow religiously the communications at [beowulf.org] which I struggle to understand but usually appreciate (Today they are discussing Go computing vs the human brain ) Live and Learn and Leadership For some connected, for a few concepts to study but for most words to be mentioned as though we had an understand of their meaning but no idea how to implement. Send me a note about what you want to do with your bsuiness life and I may have two contacts for you.

Rebecca Lacy said...

"That really smart guy who posted before me and I developed a Leadership 360. One of the elements that we include in it is the commitment to life-long learning. Without this core value, individuals cease being effective leaders. If you are not open to learning, and possess that curiosity that Larry mentioned, you will also not be open to creative ideas offered by constituents. If you sit on the couch all the time and never get any exercise, your body becomes increasingly inflexible. If you don't exercise your brain, the same thing happens. Perhaps the frightening things to many people about learning, though, is that suggests...gulp...change."

Lon Blumenthal said...

"Great post! People who think in the present all the time focusing on the status quo have very little interest or energy to learn and change and improve. Others who are not stuck in the status quo but have interest and energy to learn and change and improve generally have had a mentor or coach who has cared about them enough to see in them what they themselves have not, and challenged or motivated or inspired them to take the next step, set a stretch goal, take a risk they would not have taken, and reap the rewards of new experiences, new insights they otherwise would not have had. As they internalize this growth process, they are able to move forward themselves as the mentor/coach steps more into the background. There are many processes, exercises, practices that leaders/coaches/mentors can use to begin this process. I am writing a book on this very subject right now. The key capability is leading people and teams through change. The demand for this capability far outstrips the supply."

Andrea Allen said...

"I'm not sure; I think that on one hand people are just not comfortable with learning new things. I think some of the things Boeing is doing is wonderful i.e. InSite, however there’s only a limited amount of people who are utilizing it. But I think that that type of technology is aimed at the millennial’s who thrive on different social networking platforms and trying to figure them out. We need to gradually get the boomers engaged in technology but at the same time remember that the boomer generation is more of a "hands on" generation where the next two generations have grown up in the computer age, while the boomers grew up in the industrial age, and I think that's we have to start."

Diane Erale said...

"I agree that new technology is difficult to embrace at times and sometimes that is because of the time element. I actually love to learn new things but have even found myself reverting to the old way of doing something simply because I knew I could do it and do it quickly. While I think there are some who totally resist any type of new application, technology, or even process, the underlying cause may not be as apparent as it seems. It can be time or it can be that the tool is so robust (complicated) that learning it is almost like working towards a new degree. And then there is the issue of having too many tools. More streamlined use of the tools is something I would like to see. If we have multiple ways of doing something, and/or muliple places to post documents or create shared drives, that seems to fragment the organization, rather than build or foster communication. Even at only the program level, I believe we could benefit from cleaning house a little and having fewer tools that often do the same thing."

Avi Deul said...

"It's a wonderful sentence. It leads us to talk about mutual responsibility. One - that of the managers - to push, help and exciting their employees to learn. To let them do it. Second, the self responsibilities of any person to learn and to get new knowledge. In my workplace we established a special indoor learning program, with the vision of enabling everyone learns. Our training centre is very significant and everyone in the company can join the different programs we have."

Naomi Caietti said...

"John: Nice quote. I also like "Be the Change you Want to see in the World". Ghandi. As a leader, you define your own goals and objectives to lay the foundation and roadmap for your own personal growth and development. It may align with your organizations' goals or it might be a personal goal. Be mindful of your coworkers and influence on others however, each of us may choose a different path to lead or follow so as a leader you must take calculated risks and lead with integrity under your own vision. Join our discussions in the Leadership GIG on gantthead.com.

Schon said...

"It is certainly a difficult task. The question of depth vs breath of knowledge plagues me daily; especially now as I look for a new job. It seems, especially in my vocation, that the ability to learn a subject is less important than how well you know it; as if companies are saying "we don't expect you to learn anything or grow while you're here; we can't afford it". It seems peers and managers want only to excel in those subjects their authorities deem are most important. Supply and demand which applies pressure to the market and makes professionals prefer depth of what they know over breath. I say to those employers, managers and peers look beyond the surface and instead look for those who have an appetite for the unknown. Look for values as an indicator for the exceptional; not just for skills you need right now. IMHO, the best way to avoid alienation is to find common values and motivations to share which can lay the seed and spread like a wild fire if cultivated correctly. Success will depend significantly on whether individuals can let go their foolish pride and embrace change. If they can't, alienation maybe best as growth vs. stagnation can infect in either direction!"

John Bishop said...

Good discussion thread. I think many learned from this activity.

I like the "bridge" reference. Goos reminder.

John

Adam-Taras M. Brunets said...

"I can call myself a representative of the so-called millennials, the Internet Generation, and should admit that traditional way of doing business is not the most appealing neither for me nor my pierce. The simplest example is preference of e-mail vs. phone or in-person conversation. We love cyber space and build our life around it. Web 2.0 is no longer a concept but reality and in my opinion, it is particularly important for Boeing, in order to avoid escapes of knowledge and skills that have been generated by boomers throughout the years, not only to encourage use of inSite, blogs, and wikis across the enterprise but to make it mandatory and to have metrics that would track it. With additional training, use of social networking should become a standard practice. Milennials arrive in the workplace with a new way of communication and higher expectations than any generation before them, and they’re so well connected that, if an employer doesn’t match those expectations, they can tell thousands of their cohorts with one click of the mouse. Only companies and leaders that recognize the differentiator in their people and are able to adopt their communication styles would emerge as winners."

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