Being aware of the brightest and best in your industry gives you power. If you can comment on your company or area of expertise then that is of value but, if you can also comment on what other competitors or industry sectors are doing then that gives you even more power, as it makes you more knowledgeable and useful to others. Ask yourself if you know enough about what is happening in your business, markets and industry. Self- directed reading is a process that involves developing your knowledge through a programme of targeted reading. To secure maximum benefit from the process we need to focus on the specific range and depth of information that we need to improve our knowledge base. When developing a programme of directed reading, consider the following sources to develop your knowledge and information database:
When reading be aggressive in making notes in the margin of books or underlining sections in articles and reports. Banish any childhood disciplines about not marking books etc – they are a resource: use them – but of course make sure you own them when you do this. Use highlighter pens to indicate important points or passages.
Secondments are concentrated periods of time spent in other departments or functions within your organization. The aim of a secondment is to help us understand how other parts of the organization operate. Alternatively, a secondment might take place with a customer or supplier to help us understand their businesses practices and approaches. If your organization does not operate such an approach why not ask or request that you spend some time working with another department, customer or supplier.
To achieve real benefit from any secondment establish:
Training and development programmes when matched to our learning needs can provide an excellent and accelerated means of improving our skills and capabilities. When considering any training or development programme ask the following questions:
Shadowing involves spending a period of time closely observing or accompanying people as they conduct their roles on a day-to-day basis. It might be regarded as similar to a secondment, but is generally more intensive and involves spending a much shorter period of time.
The aim of shadowing is to gain an understanding of a particular role or operating environment. Again, to secure maximum benefit from such an experience the person we shadow needs to have a clear understanding of what we want to achieve. At the same time they obviously need to be receptive to sharing information and insights on their role and work with us. Spending a day with a sales representative or engineer operating with customers in the market place can provide a valuable and interesting experience.
Our everyday work provides valuable learning opportunities. Indeed, most of us actually learn more by working on the job. We can seek to maximize these learning opportunities through a structured process of coaching and guidance by selected managers. A coaching manager can provide extremely valuable sources of advice and guidance on a continuing basis.
Work projects and assignments can be powerful tools for learning and development, providing opportunities for developing skills in a number of key management activities including:
As well as increasing our knowledge and skills, special projects or assignments also provide us with new information and insights into our organization. The important point when using this approach to aid your learning is to choose a project that involves a real live business issue. That way it will generate real management interest and so encourage us to generate a quality result and so heighten any learning experience.
Irrelevant projects which do not enjoy management interest are unlikely to motivate us to deliver superior results or outputs.
Open learning is a process involving the acquisition of knowledge and skills at a pace and place determined by you and involving a range of learning media. It is an approach that has and will continue to grow very rapidly with the onset of new and more exciting forms of web- based media.