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Self-directed learning (II)

Employees are personally responsible for succeeding at work. No one can do it for anyone else.

Success requires the willingness to keep learning. Learning agility is fundamental to career growth. Its five dimensions are mental agility, self-awareness, people agility, change agility, and results agility.

Applying experience or expertise gained in one context to other situations is an example of mental agility. Without mental agility, employees quickly become incompetent, since growing, adapting, and evolving are now core work skills. Jobs outgrow employees who do not learn; employees who learn and grow faster than their jobs require are likely to be needed for longer.

Here are some agile learning behaviours:

  • Solicit direct feedback and support to overcome difficulties or setbacks
  • Acquire new job-related skills ‘off your own bat’
  • Explore new challenges to move beyond your comfort zone
  • Try something new
  • Be prepared to fail
  • Make connections and see unique patterns to increase innovation

These personal qualities facilitate learning agility:

  • Realistic self-belief: no one is perfect
  • Curiosity
  • Persistence
  • Self-discipline
  • Self-reflection to increase awareness and self-acceptance
  • Resourcefulness
  • Initiative
  • Energetic, optimistic attitude

People’s goals influence learning in unexpected ways

Are employees better off focusing on the goal of achievement, or on the experiences they have while working towards achievement? In other words, which orientation is likely to lead to the best outcome?

Researchers Ayelet Fischbach and Jinhee Choi found that when employees set overall goals to achieve it helps them stay focused. But if their focus on end-point goals is too strong they can miss out on positive experiences they have while working towards those goals.

Although employees need to know what goals to achieve, it’s even more important to focus on enjoying and appreciating the process. Paradoxically, combining goal achievement with experiencing the process means you are likely to achieve a higher standard overall. Focusing only on end-point goals boosts your initial intentions, but diminishes your perseverance and engagement on the way.

So, set end-point goals (to clarify where you’re heading) as well as process goals (to make sure you enjoy the journey). This increases learning and improves outcomes.

Some questions to reflect on…

How do you sustain yourself in the process of self-directed learning, especially when the going gets tough?
How would you like to improve your approach to learning?

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