Lead Through Learning

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” –John F. Kennedy

As we wrap up our quarterly blog series on organization development (OD), we would be remiss to close this topic without mentioning the integral role learning plays in culture transformation. It’s perhaps more important than the change factor [link to January articles] or the performance quotient [link to February articles]. We’ve saved the best for last.

When you, as a nonprofit leader, attempt to shift your agency’s culture, you will find that for such development to stick, you must get to the root of the organization – to the frontline employee and ground-floor leaders. You must teach them how to change their knowledge, skills, and abilities. You must empower them to increase their performance in meaningful ways. And you must engage them in these processes – meaning, true behavior change and performance improvement only occur when individuals choose to learn for themselves.

Be the change

In the next blog article, we’ll describe practical ways you can encourage employee learning for culture change. The first step, however, is for you to be a model student for your organization.

Think about any new concept or skill you’ve learned recently. How did you go about such learning? Where did you find the information and how did you move from knowledge to application? Most likely a teacher was involved – someone who shared her insight or modeled the behavior you were aiming to achieve. This is your goal as a leader of culture creation in your organization: Be the best example of what you hope your employees will achieve. Here’s how:

  • Tell employees what you expect them to learn and show them how to do so. Make clear to staff the training opportunities and development pathways that will help to move them from Point A (current state) to Point B (future state). And once you’ve shared such expectations and opportunities, do it again. And again. Use multiple channels to ensure all employees are receiving your message. Just when you think you’ve reached the point of obnoxiously overcommunicating, tell them one more time.
  • Be authentic. Leading through learning doesn’t mean you must be perfect. In fact, employees will respect you more when you are honest with them about your own opportunities for improvement. After you’ve communicated what effective learning looks like, explain how you are personally pursuing such learning. Be real about your strengths and achievements and likewise about your failings and shortcomings.
  • Make yourself available to employees as a teacher. Attend employee trainings and facilitate those for which you have expertise to impart. Create space in your schedule to mentor at least one employee. When staff understand that you are serious about their professional development and see the time you invest in the organization’s learning programs, they will take their own growth more seriously.

The specific training and development programs you implement to drive culture change and organizational performance will be unique to your agency’s goals. But the above tenets for leadership through learning are consistent for all nonprofit managers. Do you need guidance from an organizational consultant with your culture change strategies? Are you at a loss for where to begin with employee training? Or perhaps you could use a jumpstart on leadership development? Brighter Strategies is an organizational development consulting firm that can help with all your OD needs. Contact us today to learn how.

 

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