7.16.10 Issue #436 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Nancy Haller, P.h. D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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Leaders Need Learning Agility
By Nancy Haller, Ph.D. , Leadership Coach

We all face uncertainty and stress in our everyday lives. It’s a fundamental part of the human condition. There’s no escaping it. Normally we see a problem, and then we bring our emotions and thoughts into play to solve the issue. We draw on our experiences while simultaneously finding support from partners, family and friends. The anxiety we feel makes us uncomfortable, yet that same discomfort also motivates us to rebalance. This process enables us to grow as we become more flexible and adept at dealing with problems that will arise in the future.

Learning agility is a core competency of leadership. It is not the same as learning ability. The fact that you are reading this article, that you are a dentist, that you have been successful in your academic and professional endeavors, means you already have the capacity to learn. Some people might even say you’re a “quick study” - you grasp information easily and you process it rapidly. Certainly learning ability is a necessary factor for learning agility. But it takes much more than a high IQ to be an effective leader. The willingness to learn and grow is key to developing yourself as a leader and taking your practice to its fullest potential.

Research indicates that agile learners thrive in new and difficult situations. They are clear thinkers who know themselves well and are willing to take risks. They have a curiosity about their world and they apply new knowledge. Most importantly - and not surprisingly - agile learners deliver results, even in new situations.

This is the standard to which all leaders need to strive, particularly in these difficult financial times in which we live and work. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re in charge of a few employees or thousands; you also need to develop learning agility in your people. Here are three important requirements to becoming a more agile learner. Practice each of them daily and encourage your team to do the same.

1. Make A Commitment To Learning
Dentists are notoriously perfectionists. On the positive side, this bodes well for precision, accuracy, and follow-through. However, perfectionists are fearful of uncertainty or ambiguity, of giving up control and “letting go.” They demand immediate results from themselves (and others), and are unwilling to go out on a limb and take the chance of being embarrassed. Unfortunately, this prevents true learning. Recognize and accept that learning or doing something new is uncomfortable.

2. Seek New Challenges
Many of us prefer to stay in the comfort zone. It’s safe and predictable. While it’s natural to want to avoid discomfort, commit to do one thing differently each day. As Eleanor Roosevelt reportedly said, “do one thing that makes you uncomfortable each day.” Certainly it is a bit daunting to push yourself into something unfamiliar, but that behavior is the very thing that builds confidence and keeps you engaged in your work and in life.

3. Practice Giving And Receiving Feedback
Remember how you learned to play an instrument or a sport. You had feedback from a teacher or a coach. When you challenge yourself to learn new skills it’s essential to know how you’re doing. Identify trusted and objective people who will provide you with that kind of crucial information. Ask them to be honest and kind in order to maximize your learning. Listen to what you hear without rejecting, defending or explaining. Give yourself time to process the feedback. Then make the necessary changes and keep growing.

The power of learning agility is that you get better at problem-solving. We discover that things are not insurmountable. We grow in confidence and in our love for life. And that is the difference between mediocre and peak performance.

Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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