Effective Leaders are Always Learning

Learning keeps us thinking, striving, laughing, digging, struggling, and delivering.

I’m always learning. I enjoy it. I want to keep my brain tuned, keep contributing kindly, and keep relevant daily.

Both of my parents – rest their souls – suffered from dementia in their later years. It was frustrating for them when they couldn’t think of the right word or couldn’t remember what was said ten minutes ago. They both lived long lives – dad passed at age 91, mom passed at age 97 (!) – but dementia robbed them of calmness and engagement far too early.

I hope I can reduce the chances of suffering from dementia in my older years. So, I thrust myself into new opportunities rather than relying on old knowledge, skills, and assumptions.

First, I am always learning new music. In the Brian Raine Band, each bandmate must deliver exactly what the song requires – every moment – for the experience to be musical and enjoyable for our audiences. My fingers have been sore from playing the mandolin – 8-strings tuned very differently on a very narrow neck – and acoustic and electric guitars. My brain is often challenged by the demands that a song places on my assumptions, my fingers, and my memory.

Also, I have learned to shoot clay pigeons. My daughter Karin got us back into trap shooting, aiming a 12-gauge shotgun at flying clay birds. She’s better than I am. So, I took a lesson from a champion shooter.

While I’m right-handed, my left eye is dominant. That means that no matter that I’m aiming right-handed – with my right eye along the barrel – my left eye is stronger and causes me to miss to the right! So, my instructor put a sticker on my sunglasses over my left eye so I couldn’t see the front bead sight. The result? The left eye is taken out of the equation. The right eye resumes dominance and sights straight. I hit a bunch more clay birds.

I’m learning Google doc’s. Their cloud storage and applications are top-notch for enabling remote players to create, edit, test, and produce high-quality pieces. My brain is challenged by old assumptions about sharing documents. I think, “I’ll send her this document,” when, right before my eyes, she’s editing the document as I watch on screen.

Learning causes me to question what I believe. I can’t go back to my “unknowing” state. I must work through my assumptions to assess their relevance in this new state. That’s good for me and for my brain.

In a similar way, effective leaders are learning all the time.

  • They’re learning how well team members operate together – and they’re refining to improve teamwork and contributions daily. The ground rules from last week might not fit perfectly for the team this week!
  • They’re learning how well individual team skills mesh with customer demands, in the moment. They modify who’s doing what regularly to leverage skills and passion to boost service and quality.
  • They’re learning about new demands coming down the road – and experimenting with how to best help the team succeed, every day.
  • They’re learning from team members about process tweaks that can reduce frustration and boost efficiency.
  • They’re learning from team members what new skills team members are trying – or what new skills team members need to learn.

Don’t stand pat on your experiences, skills, and assumptions. Dive into learning new ways of teaming, of operating, and of serving. It’ll be hard at times, but it’ll help you help others.

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