Are You a Student or a Learner?

STUDENT LEARNER

As I work closely with many others in my consulting practice, I see a distinct difference between how people approach new situations. Some eagerly jump in, even though they aren’t fully prepared. Others may be willing, but they wait for clear direction, for the path to be cleared, for step by step direction before they will venture into this new territory.

Differences Between Student and Learners

As I observe these two approaches, I see a distinct difference between learners and students.

Students await direction; they rely on a detailed “how to” and “step by step” directions. Learners find the way; they are willing to get messy and are OK with less than perfect first steps.

Students are focused on the external rewards. They ask what it takes to get an A. The want to know what counts toward their final grade and what does not. Learners learn for the sheer sake of learning. They are motivated by an intrinsic desire to learn, to grow, to discover.

Students do what they are told, when they are told. Read this. Do this. Write this. Learners are a bit more unruly. They explore. They get distracted. They dive deep into one area of interest, leaving others behind.

Students want to know “the answer”. Not just any answer, but the “right” answer. Learners spend their time on the questions, and the questions that the first questions give birth to. The bigger the question, the more fun learners have.

Students measure their worth by the teacher’s marks. Learners are willing to challenge the thinking of the teacher. To argue a point. To think more deeply into the topic.

Students strive for perfection. Learners strive for messy attempts that lead them to greater insights.

Students minimize risks by following directions. The clearer the directions, the better. Learners chafe at overly restrictive directions. They revel in the fuzzy boundaries and uncharted territory.

The student is a text book. The learner is a blank journal ready to be filled with insights.

The student associates mastery with passing the test. The learner sees mastery as a continual and deepening practice, with mastery an elusive but worthwhile pursuit.

The Demand for Learners

There are places where being a student is a great approach, such as places of deep technical expertise (like piloting an airplane or preparing tax returns) or jobs where consistent performance to a defined standard is expected. Tasks that are best done in a repeatable process.

Yet the world today is in demand for learners. For in the world today, technical knowledge has an increasingly short half-life. The world demands quick adaptation to a rapidly changing world, one in which known answers are in short supply. It requires deep thinking, comfort with ambiguity and comfort with risk taking.

Today, the biggest risk may not be that you are not smart, but that you can’t learn quickly.

And so, I challenge myself and you, to become even more of a learner. To risk not knowing in the pursuit of knowing more deeply. To abandon the notation of perfect performance and embrace the fun of messy exploration. To tap into that joy of discovery that you had at 5 and discard that fear of appearing foolish that follows you around with adulthood.

If you’d like a companion on your journey, I would be honored to walk by your side. Please know, you can always contact me here or email me at kris@evergreenleadership.com.

What Collaborative Teams Do Differently

I sincerely hope that you’ve had a chance to be a part of at least one highly collaborative team! If you have, my thoughts here will attempt to describe that peak experience and what a collaborative team does differently. If you have not, my goal is to capture the essence of the being on a collaborative team, so that you are more alert for this type of experience.

When you’re a part of this type of team, you contribute meaningfully to something bigger than yourself or anything you could have done alone. You step back in amazement and wonder that, together, big and important work was done. You’ve bonded, often making life-long friendships, with those that worked side by side with you.

That’s not to say that you loved every moment and that there weren’t times of friction and conflict. Often times the task was herculean, the resources scarce, and the work you did far exceeded anything described in your job description. At times you wondered if you could really do what you set out to do.

But, you did it. No, that is not true. In reality, “we” did it. Together, in spite of the daunting task, the team pulled together, did what needed to be done and made it happen. In my experience, collaborative teams I’ve worked with have started green-field manufacturing plants in countries foreigns to us, implemented ERP systems in complex ecosystems, started companies and put together meaningful learning programs with long lasting impact.

What a Truly Collaborative Team Looks Like

I’ve been a part of many teams that did “big” work and hard work that were not collaborative. On these teams, the work got done. We worked hard. We overcame obstacles. But these teams didn’t have the same feel, the same zest and the same spark that others did.

So what makes a collaborative team different, and how do they function? Here is my take, from my experience:

  • Collaborative teams have a laser like focus on the common purpose and why it is important. There was deep clarity about the work of the team and we knew that our work mattered. There were plenty of times that we thought there was no way, no how, that we could do it, but we still showed up every day and worked as if we could.
  • While there was clarity on the purpose, the day to day details about how to achieve the purpose were not well defined. We had the freedom to meet the objective using our own skills, brain power and will. This was not for a lack of skill; it merely reflected that this work was new and different than what had been done before. We were charged to find the way forward.
  • Although everyone on the team had a role, specific expertise and was a responsible for a “part” of the whole, yet everyone pitched in to do whatever was needed. I can’t think of a single, solitary time when I head a fellow team member on one of the teams complain “that this is not MY job”. Our job was to deliver on our mission and everyone’s job was to make that happen.
  • There were not “prima donnas”, but there also weren’t slackers. There were clearly some folks in charge, but leadership flowed naturally depending on the needs of the work in that particular moment. Team members who didn’t contribute or were too “good” to get their hands dirty didn’t last long on these teams.
  • Creative solutions emerged. As these collaborative teams were traversing new ground, we brought a sense of possibility and a lack of constraints that freed us up to do things differently. There was a willingness to listen to new ideas and to take a risk to try them. There were passionately debates about how to proceed, ultimately deciding and getting behind a way forward (that often combined several of the ideas from many different team members).
  • There was a strong sense of team work. Everyone was valued and it showed. We worked hard together, but also got to know each other personally. We socialized together. Traveled together. Knew each other’s families. We supported and helped each other, in and outside of work. We balanced task and team (or relationship). And many, many years later, these people are still some of my closest friends.

Synthesizing What Collaborative Teams Do Differently

The best I can synthesize what collaborative teams do differently is that they:

  • focus on both TASK and TEAM
  • are highly accountable and get work done
  • achieve big things
  • are creative and innovative in pursuit of accomplishing what they set out to do. At the same time, they nurture relationships
  • respect everyone’s contribution and expect everyone to contribute
  • disagree at times, but only in the pursuit of the shared goal
  • are more fluid in tasks and leadership and idea generation
  • support, challenge, and work hard
  • celebrate successes and the stories of their failures become part of the team lore about the journey

Is Your Team Collaborative?

If you’d like to size up either leadership or team capabilities with collaboration – reach out. We have a great tool for self-assessment.

If you’d like to nurture more collaboration in your work place, let’s talk! Just reach out to me at kris@evergreenleadership.com

What Is Collaboration and Why Is It Needed Today?

True confession….when no less than three different clients this year asked for help on collaboration I experienced a sense of validation and vindication. Because on no less than three prior occasions, as I was up for a promotion in my earlier careers, I was denied. The reason for not making the cut? “I was TOO collaborative.”

There was no denying I was collaborative. Still am. Always will be. I do my best work side by side with others, dreaming, creating, and then doing. But TOO collaborative? How could that be?

Join me as I explore the concept of collaboration with knowledge I’ve learned through reading current thought leaders, creating content, facilitating workshops and more. During my exploration of collaboration, I come to a stunning conclusion about how I could be TOO collaborative that I want to share with you! At the end, you’ll also find my chart on “collaboration at a glance”.

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The Innovation Imperative: Four Things to Foster Innovation in Organizations

The forces of change surround us and are unrelenting. Fiber optics allow us to move data at amazing speeds and the cost of storage has plummeted from a cool $300K for 1 gig in 1980, to virtually free today. In addition to the accelerating power of the internet, we see an explosion in the speed of change. It may be driven by technology but it touches all that we do.

We find ourselves in an environment in which disruption is the steady state. Responding to today’s environment requires us to think about business in a different light. Where innovation exists alongside optimization. Where we get comfortable with the joy of creating, the emotion of connecting, and the powerful output of networks and collaborations.

Keep reading to find out four ways to foster innovation within organizations. You won’t want to miss the section where I discuss bringing creativity into the workforce to build connections with current and future customers.

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Five Networks Every Leader Needs

As I speak to leadership groups and mention the value of networking, I invariably get a brave soul or two who raises their hands to make points like, “I hate networking events. They seem like a waste of time. You meet a lot of people, none of whom remember you for more than a millisecond.” Or, “Networking just seems like a way to promote yourself and get others to do things for you.”

And I remember the time I thought the same thoughts and had the same questions. And how, over time, I’ve done a complete shift in how I view networking and my own network.

Keep reading to learn what I now know about networking as a leader. You won’t want to miss the section where I dive into the five categories of people that all leaders need for their networks.

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Why Embracing Failure is the Wrong Message

Face it: Failure stinks. No one I know likes it. And even the most successful and creative people I know, don’t celebrate things that turned out poorly.

Yet a mantra that has emerged in the last five years is to “celebrate” failure. Really? Celebrate?

While I get, on some level, the reasoning to encourage people to take a risk and actually “do something” – the notion of celebrating failure is not, what I believe, is in anyone’s best interest.

Learn about other behaviors that are detrimental to organizations, and discover what healthy behaviors your organization should consider adding.

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How to Tend Your Team’s Fire and Not Get Burned

Leaders are always responsible for generating energy (or heat) as they engage the hearts and efforts of others in moving toward a common, shared and worthwhile goal.

In thinking about that energy and momentum as “heat” generated by a “fire”, I recalled that fire takes three elements: Fuel, Oxygen and a source of Heat.

In this article, learn what your team’s Fuel, Oxygen, and source of Heat are, and discover why you should keep your team burning – but not too hot.”

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Ten Gifts Great Leaders Give

I’ve worked with great leaders, mediocre leaders and one or two really poor leaders. In reflecting back, I realized the really great leaders gave me many great gifts.

 

These are gifts that last over time. They aren’t very tangible but are always present. They are gifts that altered the way I saw myself, or my situation, or the world around me. I am eternally blessed by and grateful for these gifts.

Want to know what these gifts are? Read my latest blog post, and see my challenge for you.

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Need a New Planning System for 2018? Mine Might Inspire You to Create Your Own.

In the past two days, I’ve had two separate requests to share my planning system. So here goes. Warning: This is not for the faint of heart!

I believe many of us are searching for some “magic” – the one system that provides us focus, keeps us organized and helps us achieve all that we set out to do. And there are more than enough people who will claim they have the system for you. Many times they are expensive and complicated.

My system has evolved over time and is a bit non-traditional. Yet, it works for me and it has enabled me to get and stay focused on the most important things, to track progress and to guide my activities over time.

I truly believe that no one size fits all. I’ve seen others do really well with other systems that when I tried them, left me uninspired, overwhelmed and doomed to fail.  I’m not suggesting this will work for everyone. But I do suspect that you might do as I did, experiment with one of two of the elements and see if they work for you. If they do, great. If not, it was only an experiment.

Keep reading to learn more about my planning system for 2018 and how you can adapt and experiment with it to have a focused and fulfilling year!

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A Simple Daily Practice That Can Change Your Life

In this week of Thanksgiving, I want to share a practice that I began long ago. It has dramatically improved my mood, my well-being and my life and takes less than 10 minutes a day and requires less than $10 in materials. The most challenging part of the practice is that it requires practice. You must work at having the discipline to do it day in and day out, regardless of your state of mind, your fatigue, or your busyness.

Keep reading to learn about what this practice is and the scientific benefits that come with cultivating the mindset associated with it.

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