Your learning agility impacts your potential!
Your learning agility impacts your potential and performance. But what is it, how do you identify people who have learning agility?
Copyright (c) 2009 John Kenworthy
Most people would accept that the ability to learn, and the ease of that learning, makes a difference in life. But, is someone who is more able to learn, more easily and in many different situations, better equipped to be a better leader?
Lombardo and Eichinger call this "learning agility", and suggest that learning-agile people exhibit common traits: They:
think critically and examine problems carefully, making fresh connections with comparative ease.
are very self-aware, know and leverage their strengths effectively and know how to compensate for their weaknesses.
enjoy experimenting and are comfortable with change.
deliver results in through team-building and personal drive.
Learning agility is manifested in several ways. For example, there's mental agility.
Learning-agile people have and use more tools for problem-solving. They use the emotional and logical sides of their brains equally well and easily. They can prioritize the urgent and the visionary and strategic issues.
Learning-agile people have results agility.
They show personal drive and can build teams. From this team-building ability they also develop their people agility. Comfortable with themselves and with diversity, they balance intra and inter-personal skills effectively. They will tend to be open-minded, non-judgmental about ideas and other people. Able to deal with and embrace change, they know which battles to fight and establish consensus when appropriate.
Lastly, they are conflict agile,
Learning-agile people know when to collaborate and when to compete. They know when to accommodate others and when to avoid conflict altogether.
Assessing learning agility
How can you identify learning-agile performers in your organization and position them for success within your organization?
A learning-agile person can be expected to exhibit success when dealing with new or difficult situations. You can expect them to volunteer for new experiences and will likely rise to informal (or formal) leadership roles in teams.
Once identified, deliberately try and move them out of their area of apparent expertise to a new area. Observe how they perform and how they relate to new colleagues, to new leadership styles, to a customer-facing role or to the back-office. Watch carefully for how they deal with different personalities and attitudes and people of different backgrounds.
Lombardo and Eichinger use a formula of diversity, adversity, intensity and complexity of experiences, combined with a willingness to learn as a formula for success. Learning-agile people will excel at:
Turnaround projects - problems that need fixing
Startups - starting a program, product, system or facility from scratch.
Line-to-staff moves - learning how to influence without authority.
Changes in scope of projects and changes in scale or size.
All of these experiences requires the person needs to acquire competencies rapidly through the experience, feedback and integration of knowledge, skills and abilities.
Seriously consider how you might identify your own learning-agile people. They have the potential to succeed exceptionally in your organization.
Why identify learning-agility?
Michaels, et al (2001) in "The War for Talent studies" found just 7% of respondents agreed their companies had enough talented managers! Just 3% agreed with the statement: "We develop people effectively." Sessa & Campbell, (1997) found that a third to three-quarters of new top executives fail in their first appointment! A third of Fortune 500 CEO's have been replaced in the last 10 years (Bennis & O'Toole, 2000; Charan & Colvin, 1999).
Such results have many causes, but one implication is that organizations have great difficulty in spotting and nurturing talent that has staying power once in key positions.
Someone with "high potential" is a person who has an open willingness and ability to learn competencies required for first-time, challenging conditions. They deliberately choose to learn and review their outcomes and make adjustments in their behaviours and skills to improve performance.
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