THE HUMAN LEARNING,
AND GROWTH PROCESS
The beginning stage of individual desire for tangible and ongoing self-improvement and growth is generally accompanied by being wide open to possibility, the rush of positivity, and sense of faith that we can definitely attain our learning goals. For some it arises from a yearning to escape or transcend some sort of pain and a sense inside that there must be something more or better than what exists in our present situation.
However, this initial state of openness can make us vulnerable to influences that can thwart our resolve to do what is actually the often challenging and “messy” work of both individual and collective growth and change. These influences come from within and without in the forms of deeply ingrained patterns of self-sabotaging thoughts and belief systems, as well as by those who actually feel threatened by the notion of us not being who they expect and want us to be. This occurs on individual, group, familial, cultural, political, societal, institutional, and organizational levels, and because of the deep human need for acceptance, survival, and to belong, it can be easier to stay stuck in the status quo even if we are miserable, and to often justify compromising our values and integrity in the process. Support and encouragement are essential if we are to make it past these obstacles.
There’s so much focus on organizational change management – but what about employee change management and the anxiety that accompanies breaking out of an old status quo – even if it’s intended to improve human performance and productivity? If employees are only seen, treated, and valued as serving the organization’s needs and goals – what about theirs? It’s simply common sense that poorly or unaddressed workplace stress, unrealistic performance and productivity pressure, lack of trust and psychological safety, and an unhealthy/“toxic” leadership, management and overall workplace culture simply won’t motivate workers to bring their best to their job – or want to stay. On top of that, numerous risks are generated that cost organizations on multiple levels.
Obstacles, Challenges, and Realities
The above is compounded when we have one set of chosen behaviors for our personal lives, and a required one for our professional lives, which can be in direct opposition with our core values and the internal conflicts that inevitably arise.
Also, if stating our intentions, sheer willpower, or New Year’s resolutions on their own actually worked, none of us would have behavioral vices or baggage. Putting it simply: if human learning, growth, and transformation was easy, our workplaces and families would not be dysfunctional, and the world would be an entirely different place than it is now.
Unfortunately, we are living within an instant gratification, entitlement-and-self-oriented, short attention span culture. The fact of the matter though is that to develop the Skillsets and Mindsets that foster lasting personal and professional learning and development, personal growth and change, and sustainable behavioral habit change requires choosing to put in the time and doing the work necessary to attain them - and not attempting to devise clever ways to make it happen cheaper and faster and cross off items on a training “to do” list and make it fit into a tight L&D budget, and a projected ROI, and meet the expectations of learner experience, outcomes, and evaluation criteria.
Training is Something, but Learning is Everything
Many workplace skills trainings fall short of their intended learning outcomes, and student feedback is often that “the training didn’t work” - when the reality is the design and delivery is simply not created for actual learning, but to merely “check off a box.” In too many cases, the blame is placed upon the learner, which often happens in trainings or workshops wherein the student is expected to attain “mastery” in a mere weekend, “short bites” e-training, or the mythical “21-day promise” course. Cognitive neuroscience has shown that cramming for exams does not mean you “learned” the course material because it is merely going in and out of your short-term memory.
As I said above short, accelerated Mindset and Skillset trainings cannot become embodied knowledge when the learner is not given the conditions and structure wherein that is possible. I worked as a contracted corporate employee trainer for years and lead trainings that did not result in long-term behavioral habit change and will no longer offer the false hopes that a highly successful across-the-board learning outcome is guaranteed in such delivery formats.
Cutting corners often ends up costing more in both time and energy, and in too many incidences, the needle isn’t even moved in terms of personal and professional learning, development, and the sustainable behavioral habit changes required to make students more knowledge-full human beings. There simply are no short cuts when it comes to attaining the acquired wisdom of Life Smarts - but you choose can make it either difficult or easy depending upon your ingrained Mindsets. The good news is everyone can change the way they think, choose and behave, no matter what challenges you may be facing. However, kicking and screaming and resisting learning, development and change only compounds the problem.
Fortunately, new trends in workplace Learning and Development are finally embracing behavioral habit change and educational neuroscience as vital components of sustainable knowledge-building. And while Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being implemented by some for its potential role in streamlining on-demand e-delivery trainings, others (myself included) are advocating for a return of more human touch in Learning Project Development, Design and Delivery programs. Having had the honor and privilege to teach in live, onsite environments, in addition to scientific, evidence-based curricula, the power of anecdotal evidence in the forms of storytelling and shared experiences cannot be diminished in terms of the spontaneous, unscripted, and yet deep and lasting learning that occurs in these “aha” interconnection moments. And while online educational formats are essential to reach large groups of learners, they cannot replicate this phenomenon due to dimensions of both verbal and non-verbal interactions and communication that simply can’t occur when participants are attending via a computer, tablet, or cell phone computer screen and not together in the same physical space.
Learning Choices and Leadership Influence
In both individual and workplace learning, an initial step is determining precisely what the knowledge and behavioral habit change needs are, which requires asking lots of questions. It’s never one size fits all. When consciously choosing to develop and refine individual Mindsets and Skillsets that become sustainable Life Smarts we can apply wherever we find ourselves, a self-review along with honest, kind, constructive, and interactive feedback is the first order of operations. This gives us a roadmap to build and follow … and again, we follow those steps as far and as long as it takes, knowing the destination is secondary to the voyage itself and the learning opportunities and adventures we will have along the way.
But a prelude to that is actually choosing which door you want to walk through, and the learning formats that will best serve your (and in workplace situations, your team’s) needs and goals. We all lead by our example in whatever field of influence we have, and the choices we make form the examples we lead by in any given moment – and none are unimportant. Leadership is not born, it is developed.
The Big Questions are: What example are you leading by? Who and what is shaping your leadership development?
Learned leadership skills doesn't automatically mean the influence that develops how someone leads is positive, beneficial, and humane. Life Smarts help us to choose and lead wisely and be an inspiration to everyone our life has an enlivening impact and influence upon, regardless of our age, vocation, gender, position, or status in both our personal and professional lives.