In the constant flow of new information leaders need to keep afloat and keep up with new trends, skills, or potential threats.

If we imagine our information storage capacity as a tank – this tank is overflowing! Dealing with this is tiring! And yet we need to continue learning.

Learning is keeping our brains active and adaptive.

The power of continuous learning

Learning is the second nature of modern leaders and is a fundamental part of their professional journey.

Leadership is not static; it requires adapting to new trends, technologies, and challenges. By committing to lifelong learning, leaders can stay ahead of the curve, broaden their knowledge base, and acquire the skills necessary to lead effectively.

Continuous learning allows leaders to stay relevant and improve the decision-making process.

Barriers to Learning for Leaders

Despite the importance of continuous learning, leaders often encounter obstacles that block their progress. The three most common ones I encounter in my practice are:

  • Not making it a Priority. Setting learning as a low priority and focusing on fixing other things rather than leading and growing.
  • Time. This comes in everything nowadays. The perception that we need a lot of time to focus on learning is putting people off instead of them focusing on how to fit it into the time they already have.
  • Information Overload. The abundance of information available is overwhelming, making it difficult to identify relevant and high-quality resources. Critical thinking is crucial here!

How to Start?

If you want to include more learning in your work the first step will be to set your priorities based on current and future needs or interests. See the trends in your line of work, where the industry is heading, and what you will need to lead better in the future.

Then think about how much time you have available and how much time you will need. Learning should not come as a burden but as a time for yourself.

What type of learning do you need? Is it structured and formal? Or it can be flexible, creative, and less structured?

Identify your learning style. What type of learning is ideal for you? We all have preferred styles of learning. Some like reading, others listening or watching and the last one will be those who like to jump and try it then and there.

An easy way to discover your preferred learning style is by taking the following test, which pertains to your approach when faced with a self-assembling purchase of furniture.

If you acquire a furniture item that requires assembly at home, do you:

a. Dive into the packaging and attempt to put the item together without consulting the instructions?

b. Thoroughly read all the instructions before embarking on the assembly process.

c. Hand the instructions to someone else for them to read aloud to you, or read them aloud yourself?

If you are leaning more towards option A you are learning by doing and you are very kinaesthetic. If you go for B, you are someone on the visual side and prefer to learn by reading or watching. Option C means that you have a more auditory learning style and will learn well when you listen. Usually, we have a mixture of styles but there is always one that is our preferred one.

I prefer to learn in small chunks with easy-to-digest content rather to go for something big and way too structured. This concept is known as Microlearning which involves consuming small, bite-sized pieces of information at a time.

Now this is working well for me, but it does not exclude me from jumping on a more structured and academic programme one day.

8 Tips for bite-size learning that can be included in your everyday life:

  1. Utilise commute time. Podcasts & Audio Books when driving or stuck in traffic can be a nice way to spend your time. I listen to podcasts even when I go to the gym sometimes. Select something that you like, and it is easy to follow. My choice is a podcast of around 30 minutes maximum.
  1. Peer learning. Engage in collaborative learning opportunities with peers or colleagues. These could be learning circles, book clubs, or discussion groups where you can explore and exchange ideas, share insights, and collectively learn from each other’s experiences.
  1. Mentoring and coaching. Finding a mentor or coach can be a great way to accelerate your learning and development. They can provide you with valuable insights, share their experiences, and offer advice tailored to your specific needs and goals.
  1. Self-reflection. How are you applying the new knowledge? Create a regular reflective practice. Reflect on what you have learned and how you can apply it to your work. Reflective practice enables deeper understanding and integration of knowledge, enhancing the value of your learning experiences.
  1. Search for Infographics. Infographics are a great way to visualise information and make it easier to understand. They’re also a good way to learn about a topic in a short amount of time.
  1. Quizzes and Assessments: Interactive quizzes or assessments that test knowledge and provide immediate feedback. These can be used as bite-sized learning activities to reinforce key concepts.
  1. Social Media Posts: Short educational posts or threads on LinkedIn that offer bite-sized information, tips, or quotes related to a specific topic.
  1. AI: Everyone speaks about AI and Chat GPT now. Google have their Bard as well. You can use AI to summarise content for you, create questions around topics and give ideas on how to apply the new knowledge. Don’t forget – AI, like you, is learning every day so make sure that you wear your critical thinking hat and don’t trust everything 100%…for now.

Bonus tip: Think about what you need to unlearn! Unlearning is not about completely erasing the past but about updating your knowledge, beliefs, and behaviours to align with your new reality and needs. It will open space for new learning and requires an element of letting go. Make an inventory of your skills and see what is relevant and be open to challenge some of your unconscious biases.

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