Are you better at what you do than you were last quarter?
I work with teams and team leaders for a living. I do a lot of facilitation and coaching every week. I work with different types of teams (leadership teams, technical teams) in different contexts (small companies, large companies, universities) each week. That means I get to learn a lot about different companies, different styles of leaders and teams and projects in many different stages of life. I love that part of my job. I always have. In my past work life, I had the opportunity to lead the New England and New York regions for a global HR solutions company, and one of my favorite parts of that job was being able to learn about different industries, customers and different markets.
In that way, I am constantly learning on the job. And, of course, that is beneficial. My experience base broadens. I am able to relate to and support the efforts of a very diverse crowd of professionals. It keeps me on my toes and energized to have the opportunity to continuously learn and work with such diversity of topics.
Recently I was thinking about the difference between the continuous learning I experience when I have the chance to broaden my areas of influence compared to deepening a skill set I use every day in those broadening areas of influence.
Here’s how it came about. A colleague loaned me a few books on facilitation and team activities. I intended to quickly browse the books, pick up a few new games or activities I could use with a particular team in an upcoming meeting. What started out as quick-hit search for a few games became an all-day reading event (by choice!). I found a few great activities for the upcoming team meeting, but when I started digging into one of the books on facilitation (The Secrets of Facilitation by Michael Wilkinson) I quickly realized there were technical insights for me about the craft I have practiced for almost 30-years.
I am a facilitator and a coach. It would be interesting to count how many classes, team meetings and events I have facilitated over the years, but suffice it to say I have lots of experience and a natural knack for facilitation. As I read the book and reviewed the practical advice, I found myself recording Aha moments and making notes of other techniques I could use to improve my facilitation in any context.
That’s when it dawned on me – I have always said I am continuously learning in my job because I often have the opportunity to work with a new client and I get to learn their business, their industry, etc. But, I have not intentionally spent time on the continuous ‘sharpening of my saw’ – sharpening the skills of HOW I perform my craft. I have facilitated and presented in front of different groups. I have used different tools to design and develop learning programs. But, when was the last time I committed to improving those foundational skills or adding new techniques and tactics to my ‘experienced’ toolkit.
It was refreshing – it was a satisfying Saturday spent learning new things to try at my next offsite.
Are you an experienced facilitator? If yes, you have probably learned a lot about new topics for new classes. But, when is the last time you sought feedback on your style, practices and facilitation approach?
Are you a team leader? If yes, you have probably read technical journals to stay current in your field. But, when is the last time you read a journal or book on leadership?
Are you a team member? If yes, you have probably studied much in the technical area of expertise, but when is the last time you took a class or thought about what you could do to be a better team member? A more valuable colleague?
Make a commitment to enrich your own skills in an area of your work where you already have extensive experience. Build on those strengths. Further master your craft. Don’t be ‘too busy’ doing the work to invest in how well you do the work. Make the investment — sharpen your saw.