Every day when I arrived home from school my mom would ask the same question. It was deliberate and predictable. She would ask me, “Marnie, what did you learn today.” Early on my response was also predictable. “Nothing.”
Year after year my mother asked this question and eventually I learned that “nothing” was not an acceptable answer. She expected me to be able to share one thing about the day from which I could glean a nugget. Some days I learned that certain people are mean. Other days I learned that it pays to study. Most days I shared a fact or concept my teacher presented in class.
My mother’s question still rings in my head on a daily basis, and I now find myself asking my clients and colleagues the same question. “What did we learn today?”
In the busyness of our days, it’s easy to overlook this important question, but the answers can shift your thinking.
Learning Culture Questions
As a leader, ask your team members what they are learning as often as possible. The more you ask, the more they begin to think creatively about workplace improvements. Your questions might sound like this:
- What did we learn from today’s event?
- What can we learn from our latest success?
- What can we learn from that presentation/meeting?
- If we could do this even 1% better how would we do it?
- What is one thing we can learn from this customer complaint?
- What would make you even more proud of your accomplishment?
Tips for Creating a Learning Culture
To continually learn from everything that is happening in your workplace, consider the following easy tips:
- Commit to asking, “what did we learn” at least once every day. The opportunity might present itself as you are coaching an employee or during a staff meeting. If you commit to the question at least once a day, like my mom did, the focus on improvement eventually sets in.
- Incorporate what you are learning into the team’s policies and practices. This is not about learning for learning sake. Identifying what has been learned is just the first step. Once a critical has been identified, act upon it. Change your practice, document the idea, or send an email to the rest of the team. The faster you can institutionalize what you and the team are learning, the faster your team will grow.
- Have a learning mention at every staff meeting. Make it an agenda item to ask my mom’s question, “What have we learned?” Your team can respond in a round robin format, each sharing something they’ve learned recently that will help the others in the group.
- Recognize those who share what they are learning. Sometimes we have something to share because we messed up. Make sure the team members who willingly share their perspectives are appreciated and valued.
- Never settle for good enough. When you stop asking, “What are we learning?” you are essentially settling for the status quo. In our rapidly changing world, none of us can afford to settle.
Leaders who create a learning culture ask one important question every day. Teams that are high performing contemplate the answer. What have you done lately to create a learning culture in your team?