Last month, the CUES staff delivered on our organizational value to “actively pursue learning” by celebrating Black History Month with a series of educational activities. For example, team members played Zoom trivia with questions about on Black History. They also watched and discussed a video about Thurgood Marshall, the first Black U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
March, of course, is Women’s History Month, making it a great time to learn about “herstory”—history told through a feminine lens. Again, the CUES staff will have special opportunities to increase their knowledge. We plan to keep including educational opportunities as we move forward toward honoring all aspects of diversity.
While these celebrations are certainly wonderful learning opportunities and important to our DEI journey, it’s important that leaders not relegate learning solely to designated points in time. Instead, all kinds of learning need to happen on an ongoing basis—whether that’s taking time to join a conversation about the gender pay gap, making room on your schedule for an online course about business lending, or traveling to a beautiful location to enhance leadership learning by combining it with getting outside and doing physical activity.
Here are seven tips for making sure learning is not something you reserve for special moments only, but part of your everyday work life:
- Take the reins of your learning. Don’t wait for someone to tell you what or when to learn. Be curious! Pursue learning about things you find interesting. Ideally, many of the things that interest you will be part of your individual development plan, but don’t limit yourself.
- Block time on your calendar for learning. At CUES, for example, it’s understood that Friday afternoons are a great time to focus on developing your talents.
- Find ways to hold yourself accountable. Different check-in strategies are useful to different people. Do you best to boost your learning by talking about your progress with an accountability buddy? Or by using an online platform that tracks your learning and awards badges for your efforts? Or something else? Whatever it is that works for you, do it.
- Subscribe to serial publications. In honor of Women’s History Month, for example, you might choose to sign up for the free Advancing Women e-newsletter. But once you have done so, you’ll get a new dose of great information four times a year, not just during Women’s History month.
- Learn from doing the work at hand. Go about your day-to-day work with the intention of learning at the same time. This approach can change what might have at first looked like a ho-hum project into a success that launches your career to the next level.
- Learn from your peers. Participating in online forums, networking at conferences and following up with industry contacts can all be great sources of new ideas and learning.
- Reassess and stretch. It’s a good idea to revisit your talent development plan regularly to see if it asks enough of you. This periodic review is a good time to ask what this Harvard Business Review article calls, “propelling questions”—questions that help to move you forward in your learning. For example, “Which of my strengths would be most useful if my organization doubled in size?”
I encourage you to continue learning at special times of year. A great way to celebrate Women’s History month, for example, would be to join the cohort for our Women in Leadership Cornell Certificate program, which gets underway March 16. But don’t forget to learn something every day too. I hope the seven strategies in this article will help you do so.