[October 26, 2021] One of the many surprises that I encountered as a military flag officer was the number of uneducated civilians working in their chosen field. By uneducated, I don’t mean they lacked a formal college degree, but they had stopped their education in any meaningful way. They must have figured that all they needed was to “punch their ticket” by earning an academic degree, and that would make them successful. However, the challenge for all leaders is to build a learning culture that carries throughout a person’s career, and if lucky enough, throughout their lifetime.
Indeed, there were civilians and military personnel who obtained their education credentials from a suspect college. I had the bad luck of working with a handful of civilians in the Department of Defense who were functionally illiterate but possessed college degrees. This gets back to the lack of accountability in many organizations. More on this later. Yet, I had to ask myself, “why were these people not furthering their education?” Why did they not take the opportunity to learn? In many organizations, the availability to learn is there, but the organization has no learning culture.
The most successful leaders want a workplace that drives innovation, tries new things, and encourages problem-solving. To make this happen, as we see in the best of organizations, it is done in a workplace environment that embraces continuous learning. Of course, this discussion is not just about academic education. It’s also about leaders creating a high-impact learning environment that gives employees the right mental tools and motivates them to do more.
There are several things leaders must do to ensure a continuous learning environment:
- Build trust and confidence in learning
- Show the value of learning
- Provide educational and exceptional learning opportunities
- Establish a process where what is learned can be shared
- Empower employees to learn
- Construct a formal learning system
This is an exciting area for leaders. The investment in their time and energy is small relative to the benefit. Leaders can lead learning through their personal actions, organizational policies, and through their encouraging efforts. In doing so, they will be encouraging a work environment that is enduring and thriving … and successful.
Please read my newest book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” at Amazon (link here).