Why You Lead Better In "Learning Mode"

5978348496_4c53391e99_b Larry Forster, a performance improvement specialist, is interested in information about career changes and about the use of story in organizational settings. Larry is about to make his own career change from full employment to second career as entrepreneur. So, I really appreciated hearing his thoughts on how he would advise young people. Why young people? Well, let me tell you a story.

When Larry worked for a large petroleum company, he had responsibility for introducing some major organizational changes. This is a mine-field of challenges for anyone introducing change whether you are inside the organization or brought in from outside the organization, whether you are high in the management chain or somewhere else in the hierarchy. When Larry found himself in the midst of one of these challenges, he decided to ask the simple question of the 30 or so folks who were to carry out the change. He asked, “Does anyone want to kill this idea?”

To his surprise, several things happened. First, the group supported the idea; they didn’t want to kill it. Once spoken, they began to articulate the concerns each had and didn’t stop talking for a long time. Second, there was a point at which the “energy changed.” In fact, as Larry thought about it, everything had changed, and the change had begun inside Larry. Where before he had been in an adversarial mode with this group of people, Larry had moved into a learning mode. You can guess the outcome. Once the group recognized that Larry’s ‘position’ had shifted from fighting for to learning about, they took on the task themselves. The work of incorporating the new idea belonged to the entire group, and they each did their part to make it happen.

As I heard this story from Larry about a time when he learned a lesson well (one of my favorite questions of all those I interview), I realized that he would be a great person to ask about his recommendations for young people just entering the workforce on how to keep knowledge flowing in to enliven their work and careers. So, Larry, what do you recommend?

Larry’s wishes for young people:

  • Learn about the power of story and the real difference it makes in communication.
  • Use the power of face to face – the best way to keep all your channels.
  • Blend the benefits of your social media with face to face encounters. You can teach those of us who didn’t grow up with Facebook to harness this new medium.

As Larry says, “Every generation can learn from any and all others! And I’m at the front of the line to learn from the younger generation.”

Photo by Daniel Brock