My daughter is bilingual, both French and English. Having spent her first few years of school in France and growing up with her mother speaking only French, her English vocabulary is not as well developed. So I am trying to get her to do something that I did as a young boy, read the English Dictionary. While it may look daunting (it’s a very thick book) and seem boring (I found it fascinating with definitions, etymology and different meanings, and pictures), of all the books I have ever read the Dictionary helped me the most in later life.
At this point I’m not being too successful at getting her to read the Dictionary (too many more pleasant distractions in today’s world), so I am borrowing a tactic from Leo Buscalia about coming to the dinner table ready to talk about the one new thing she learned today (if it was an uneventful day at school, she can always scan the dictionary before dinner and find a new word to talk about).
The point here is, we often go through life having lots of experiences but rarely do we take the time to think about “what I learned from this experience”. It’s a good discipline to establish early in life (another Good Habit Rabbit analogy).
And, what’s all this got to do with business and leadership?
As you probably realize from my previous blogs and articles, I am focused on improving organizations through better leadership and work processes. A very useful leadership process I came across years ago at a technology client is called the quarterly What-Are-We-Learning (WAWL) strategy meeting. This is not a typical strategy review meeting, but a discussion focused on what the senior team is learning as they implement and execute their business strategy. Usually chaired by the CEO, the WAWL meeting can provide powerful insights into improving the quality of both planning and execution. And the discussions are rich and informative. As a result of a WAWL meeting I have witnessed both personal and organizational learning that has led to significant process improvements and better execution.
Planning is not an event. It is the continuous process of strengthening what works and abandoning what does not. – Peter Drucker
Too often I find executive diaries crammed with back-to-back meetings with absolutely no time for reflection. I often hear the lament: “I can’t even find time to go to the restroom”.
You don’t find time, you make time.
And I’m not talking about restroom breaks. I’m referring to the habit of making time to review events, develop insights and gain new learning from your business activities on a regular basis. By developing good business and learning processes, like the WAWL meeting, we can continue to learn and grow.
A few hints:
- Program into your diary an hour each day, usually towards the end to review the day’s activities and cement what you learned.
- Set aside an hour at the end of the week and write down your learning and insights in a special journal.
- Schedule a WAWL meeting with your senior team every quarter.
- Start each weekly staff meeting with a short discussion asking for any significant learning from the previous week.
If you are not learning something new each week to improve yourself as a leader or improve your organization’s ability to perform, then you are not doing your job.
Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. – John F. Kennedy
Tight Lines . . .