Throughout this blog series, we’ve been writing about the ins and outs of encouragement. We’ve also talked about what to encourage. In this final post in the series, we need to talk about one more thing that absolutely must be encouraged by every leader.
Leaders understand that learning encourages others. So they provide learning opportunities. They set expectations for learning and create learning cultures. They model continual learning by being vulnerable enough to take advantage of their own learning opportunities.
They encourage learning because they know learning is an encouragement.
When leaders do not create a learning environment, people don’t know what to do in times of turmoil and change. Fear, anger, confusion and anxiety settle in. These emotions make it difficult to focus and are scientifically shown to limit cognitive abilities.
When people fail, these emotions are magnified. Leaders who do not treat failures as learning opportunities amplify the devastating effects of these emotions.
When leaders look backwards instead of forwards and hold past failures against others, they ensure that people will become discouraged.
The inverse is also true. Leaders who foster positive emotions by creating learning climates have upbeat, happy and inclusive teams who are open to even more learning. Performance improves because interest and capacity is expanded with the ability to do more cognitively demanding tasks.
Looking forward is inspiring. People want to invest in dreams and goals that matter. They want to learn. In service of achieving those goals, encouraging (which means “to put courage into”) makes it easier for everyone to keep working toward those goals.
In healthy learning cultures, people seem more like eager college students and less like the adults who believe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Remember, in college, how your focus was on your goals and your dreams and your hopes of attaining something more? You were not resistant to learning, but actually excited by the possibilities of it. Post college, in workplaces, learning sometimes seems to be about fixing people or takes on a remedial tone.
Naturally, people who feel the learning experience is going to be negative will resist it. They can’t benefit when they are resistant.
Are you encouraging others by encouraging learning? As a leader look around your organization and see where the opportunities for more learning might lie. Tackle some new learning opportunities of your own. Make every experience a link to learning.