Leadership – Don’t let learning be the reason you don’t make tough decisions

This may seem like an odd statement about leadership.  But when I reflect back on decisions I should have made earlier in business, I have let learning stop me.  With suppliers who weren’t performing or with staff who were not the right fit, but had a specialist skill within the organization.  Why didn’t I let them go earlier?

If I am really honest with myself, I was afraid that without this person/supplier, I won’t know what I had to do.  I would have to learn the skill from scratch.

This is a daunting process.  I would have to firstly break a relationship that I have been building over time.  Then would have to go into the zone of discomfort and learn something new that I have not (personally) done before.

Is that so bad?

What would it require? time, effort and getting comfortable with the feeling of anxiety once again.  It may mean that my goal is going to take a bit longer to achieve.  But at least I have a chance of getting there, instead of continuing to go down a path that I know (deep down) is just not working.  This is what leadership is all about.  Leading the learning process, including myself.

Leadership 1 – Have I learned new skills before?

This is the first question I asked myself and the answer was clearly, YES.  I did not know my craft/professional before I started working in the field of musculo-skeletal physiotherapy.  But I learnt the skills required, have taught skills to many others and now see these skills as second nature.

Did I know the skills in running a business before I started?  No, but I read and read, practiced, read some more and practiced again.  Over time, the skills of people management, accounting, marketing, operations etc became my normal.  I am now quite comfortable leading a team and myself.

So why will this time be any different?  The skills required and the field of knowledge may be a bit different, but the process of learning will be the same again.  So what am I waiting for?

Leadership 2 – Start somewhere

What if I start down the path and it’s the wrong one?  So what, change direction but at least I would have given it a go and known that I need to change further.

For most skills in life, someone has done it before.  Although my life circumstances may be different, in general, most skill and business problems have been faced and solved by others.  The great news is that someone has usually written about it as well.  So reading/listening to their experiences is often a huge shortcut in getting to your goal.

I, like everyone, am time poor.  I find it hard to imagine having time to sit down, read a book and learn a new skills.  Luckily, the world of audiobooks, podcasts is so mature that most information that you need to learn a new skills in an audio format.

I have learnt a huge amount of skills and new knowledge listening to audiobooks or podcasts.  On the way to work, whilst doing my gym workout and during deliberate practice at home first thing in the morning.

At the start it is always hard, but the biggest barrier to starting was my anxiety and ego.  Once I accept this and get on with it anyway, I’ve always been amazed how quickly I have learnt new skills and been able to apply them to my business

Leadership 3 – Don’t be too embarrassed to ask for help

I still feel uncomfortable asking for help.  I can’t help feeling like a failure if I have to ask for help learning a skill or asking for assistance.  From an outsider’s perspective, this sounds crazy, but it doesn’t change how I feel about this inside.

However, when I have asked for help from knowledgeable others, very few people have said no and this has always been an accelerator to change.  I may not have even understood what they were saying at the time, but, when reflecting back, I start to understand the new knowledge and how to apply it.

This has meant that I have been able to do our own software development and not be limited by the constraints of other people’s program.  From no skills in programming about 4 years ago, I am now very comfortable writing basic programs, prototype ideas and having technical conversations with IT professionals.  I have employed software developers and have made this a normal part of my business.

It started by getting comfortable with feeling the anxiety of learning a new skill I did not know before.

Is learning holding you back from making a decision you know you need to make?  What is the first step you need to take?

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