Creating A Learning Culture

At the time of writing my last post, you read about my pug Sammy, who was 15 years, 2 months and 19 days old. During the time in between the last post and writing this one, I’ve been doing a lot of reminiscing about Sammy’s life.

During puppy training class, which is really human training class, they teach you that if your puppy potties on the floor you don’t rub their nose in it. They don’t understand and you are just being mean by rubbing their face in their potty. Instead, they teach you to adjust your own behaviors such as: more frequent potty breaks, being more present to the signs that usually precede the mess among other things.

Over the last 15 years of raising a dog from being a puppy and working with leaders, I’ve learned that there are a lot of commonalities between being a puppy parent and being a leader. Puppies come to us, and while they know how to do many things, there are a lot of things that they don’t know how to do. So, you invest time in teaching them how to do the things you want them to be able to do.

There’s a common thread with our teams: Sometimes we get employees that are fresh out of school and there is a lot they need to learn. New to the workforce employees need to learn basic business acumen as well as how your specific company works. This is a given.

What isn’t a given is a culture of learning. So often in business, leaders have created a “rub your nose it in” culture.  The people in the organization hold on to the past and won’t move past what happened once upon a time. I’ve seen decades long relationships turn sour and a lot of misery created because of wrongs, real or perceived, that happened in the past but are being held tight in the present. As a collective, we need to learn how to go back and “clean it up”. Which means we need to be willing to have the crunchy conversation to air out whatever is in the space on both side so you can move forward.

I’m working more with young leaders who are hungry to grow and have significant impact on the business. I’ve seen many of them be held back in their growth and development because their peers and managers are still holding some perceived failure of the past against them. We have to be willing to see our co-workers as who they are today, not who they’ve been. We’ve all made mistakes, not shown up our best, been to rash or too harsh.

The puppy grows up into an old, whiteface dog. As a responsible dog owner, it’s important to be aware of the current condition of my dog Sammy. For 9 months we were uber present and aware of his current state of health.

That new employee grows and matures and learns and evolves. See them for who they are today, not who’ve they’ve been in the past. Give them opportunities to show their growth and for you to experience them in a new way. Don’t be the leader, or co-worker, who rubs someone’s nose in their “less-than” moments. Be mature and face it head on, with respect, humility, transparency and honor.

Practice leads to greatness.

Take a look around your organization. Do you see any instances of rub your nose in it out there? For leaders, you need to look deeply.  Listen closely.

Notice how people talk to each other, or about each other. Notice teasing and joking that has a flavor of meanness to it (most do). Ask other people about their experiences. Remember, that as a leader, you will be treated differently than others. Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Practice leads to greatness.

For everyone on the team, if you notice this kind of behavior, speak up when you see if, even if it isn’t directed at you.

Here’s a few ways to do that gracefully:

  1. This conversation no longer sounds respectful to everyone involved.

  2. There’s another way to get what you want that is more effective.

  3. What would it take to be able to move on from that incident?

If you need some additional support on how to have this conversation so that you can clear out the air about an issue that is hindering your ability to move your business forward, reach out for a consult. I love supporting people on having these difficult conversations that are necessary in order to create thriving work environments.

For those of you following Sammy’s journey--at the time of writing this post, Sammy has made his transition over the rainbow bridge.

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