I think this statement is applicable to all of us. Too often sharp up and coming managers develop a sense of “arrival”. They feel competent and entitled. They forget that learning is a lifelong process. Conversely, the best way for people who are nearing the last decade of their careers to stay relevant and valuable is to learn. A habit of learning will keep you engaged and give you an advantage in the competitive world we live in.
What to learn
There are three key areas of learning that need sustained focus.
- People management knowledge
- Technology knowledge
- Industry knowledge
While there are a number of other areas that warrant time investments, these three are non-negotiable. Read on.
There is a significant difference in how to manage the generational variances in today’s work force. It is not a “one style fits all” world. The expectations and needs of millennials are very different then someone with traditional “old school” views. A manage, young or old, needs to understand and appreciate the differences. There is deep value to be gained from employee’s in the latter years. But you will need to take the time to meet them on their terms to find, release, and harness that value. Conversely, the dynamic thinking of the millennials is awesome as long as it can be applied in a practical and executable manner. Learn the generational people management skills. It will make you a formidable manager.
We live in a business environment where technology knowledge is a non-negotiable. I’m not talking about how to use desktop applications. Rather, all of us need to understand how to leverage IT solutions to enable and enhance business strategies. Too often there is a serious gap between the strategy of a business and the capability of IT. There are a number of core principles and policies that are critical to having a vibrant contributing IT organization. As a leader you need to understand them so you can champion, leverage, and lead IT into a full partnership with the business.
The backdrop for industry knowledge is business knowledge. The mechanics of this is that you should be reading one, preferably two to three, business newsfeeds on a daily basis. Basic knowledge like trade agreement impacts, housing starts, banking performance, economic indicators such as GDP, etc. all create a basic knowledge of local and foreign economies. This backdrop is the right lens through which you should observe and consider your industry.
Why? Because no industry is an island both in terms of continental and global activity. Threats and opportunities arise from anywhere. A general industry knowledge framed by broad current business knowledge will enhance your world view and your management decisions. This is a competitive advantage for you.
What does the long game look like?
My Father has a keen understanding of the human condition. As a young man I asked him what my goals and focus should be. Here is what he said;
- From your twenties into your mid to late thirty’s your primary goal is to learn
- From your mid to late thirty’s until you early fifties your primary goal is to do while continuing to learn
- From you early fifties until your early sixties your primary goal is to shift from doing to teaching while continuing to learn
- From your sixties onward your primary goal is to teach while learning
I am in my mid-fifties and I have proven this model to be spot on. The fact that I have made learning a lifelong pursuit has enable me to be relevant and in demand in my fifties. A lot of my peers are now out of touch and floundering because they did not continue to learn. They felt like they had arrived and there was nothing more for them to learn. That was a critical error.
Are you committed to learning? If so, what did you learn this week? Last week? The month before?
Your personal brand will be dramatically enhanced if you commit to a life of learning!