Responsibility of leaders is to first identify the areas for learning

A few month ago, I headed to Columbus for a meeting with a client. I had gone less than a mile on a dark, curvy two-lane road when around one bend I was startled to see the silhouette of a small animal in the middle of the road, a skunk. She froze with fear. I was concerned about losing control of the car so I took my foot off the gas, turned the wheel slightly, and grimaced hoping she would not make a wrong move and I would hear that familiar bump. I looked in my rear view mirror and was relieved to see the skunk scamper into a bare cornfield unhurt.

When I first started driving, my Dad taught me to worry more about my passengers and the car than for small animals. He didn’t want me to hit them but he didn’t want me to wreck the car trying to miss them. Sometimes the remedy is worse than the thing you are trying to avoid.

Early in my driving experience, there were times when I ignored Dad’s advice and swerved barely avoiding a wreck. Other times I slammed on the brakes and the bump happened anyway. Then, I learned a calm, slight adjustment could sometimes eliminate an unpleasant situation. However, the movement of a skunk was an unpredictable variable. Even the best skunk avoidance process could be foiled.

Later, on another trip to Columbus, I was surprised when I saw at least a dozen dead skunks on the road. This experience of mine with skunks is being enacted repeatedly by a number of people.

For a leader, enabling learning is a critical process to self-development. Teaching and learning are equally critical to organization-wide development. My Dad was a school teacher, so he always passed on the valued processes he had learned to his boys. I experimented with his teachings and at times improved them.

The responsibility of leaders is to first identify the areas for learning and the content of that learning required by the business. Then, leaders should create learning opportunities for the appropriate employees. The learning opportunities can be training or coaching with internal or external content providers, mentoring, or online tele-seminars. Other learning opportunities can be invented by the leader and followers like book discussion groups, learning bonus processes, and many others. Designing a learning organization, although not a new idea, has benefits for increased creativity, problem-solving, morale, and customer satisfaction.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s completely revised, third printing of The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success, visit his Web site, or call him at 740-629-4536. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.