Guest Post: How can leaders take the mantle and build a self-sustaining learning Organization?

Continuous improvement programs have sprung up in organizations looking to build a self-sustaining learning plan.

By Ashruti Baranwal (We Acappellaz) and Sushmita Ghosh

March 31, 2022

6 mins read

team collaboration

As organisations look to gain an edge in a globalised and digitalised world, continuous improvement programmes have sprung up, with the focus on continuous improvement that is essential for a firm to commit itself to continuous learning. It is true profits occupy the top-most priority for any organisation to sustain in the long-term. But some of the critical factors leaders should keep in mind are leadership capacity, organisational culture and employee capabilities that contribute to an organisation’s performance.

Companies that emphasise leadership development, building a healthy work culture, and empowering employees to learn continuously perform better than their competitors. After all, an organisation cannot improve if it doesn’t create something new in the first place! Resolving issues, introducing or launching a new product or a new idea all require new ways of thinking and acting. If leaders don’t push their companies to adapt to changes, they will simply continue resorting to old methods and techniques that may be detrimental for the firm to survive in the long-run. It’s a situation of make or break! If change is cosmetic in nature, improvements can either be short-lived or propitious.

So, how can organisation aspire itself to learn and adapt something new? Learning organisations provide members with an operational ecosystem where they are constantly learning, thereby resulting in a company that is highly adaptive to changing circumstances. To be seen as strategic, problem solvers and forward looking, L&D professionals must be their ‘Best Self’. Nowadays, Chief Learning Officers (CLOs) are playing an active and critical role in board room meetings.

With this paradigm shift, leaders are aware that learning is a buzzword for any organisation to succeed. But without leadership in action, this new change won’t see the light of the day. For instance, when someone fails to meet expectations or makes a mistake, how does your organisation respond? Do you pull up your team for their mistakes or do you diagnose what went wrong and develop effective mechanism to fix the problem? Here, comes across the importance and effectiveness of continuous improvement.

And, continuous improvement can only take place if an organisation embraces a culture of encouraging everyone to rank up and allowing them to learn new skills that can help them to achieve the best results in the projects as well as for the company. In addition, it also helps in having a solid and engaged leadership which encourages the entire workforce to become a better resource and more productive.

It is important for leaders to understand their employees who are specialising in various fields. They are not only part of your work family, but they also doing their jobs and burning the midnight oil to keep the company sustaining for a long period! In such instances, the capabilities of the employees should be recognised and rewarded for their skills. This gives confidence to the employees that despite being burdened with a huge amount of work, they are getting due recognition. Since organizational learning is strongly influenced by a leader’s behaviour, the employees in an organisation needs to feel encouraged to learn. This can only be possible when the leaders actively question and listen to their teams and thereby prompt dialogue and debate.

In this case, leadership development is critical. As leaders take the centerstage in an organisation, building a self-sustaining learning organisation requires the full support of its L&D function, and it starts with their understanding that their own development needs to be prioritised. Besides, a leader should also have a leadership development plan in order to train and hone leadership skills of current employees. But how to create an action plan tailored for your company which can be used as steps to build that leadership development plan?

  1. Coach your team members: Coaching would involve developing your team members performance and offering constructive feedback. The team leaders would work alongside their team to develop their skills and improve work ethic. Encourage individuals in your team to work toward a shared goal of business development, individual success and achieving team goals.
  2. Develop team’s strengths by identifying weaknesses: Determine which individual in your team excels in which task and then delegate needed tasks to the right person. This would help your team grow both professionally and individually. Respect your team members as individuals. In addition, embrace realities of different work styles and treat people’s individual differences as an asset.
  3. Communicate, identify team goals and evaluate progress: Always set clear team goals and communicate how progress will be evaluated as it will help the team to work collaboratively. Manage performance by observing the results. Effective communication will also ensure that your positivity is received by your team.
  4. Resolve conflict: As teams consist of people with different personality and work traits, it can lead to conflict at times. Thus, as a leader you can establish fundamental rules and clearly assign tasks. If you notice any differences within the team, resolve them before they escalate.
  5. Boost psychological safety: For having a happier and more productive team, leaders need to create a psychologically safe environment that fosters acceptance, diversity, and collaboration. Co-create systems that increase transparency within your team. Make your team feel comfortable by voicing their opinions and making it a regular practice. You should learn to appreciate all contributions even if they conflict with your view. Another part of creating psychological safety is having the courage to speak up when someone acts inappropriately.

In order to make your team and your organisation a success, it is important to learn how to be a good leader. And to become an effective leader, you must understand your own strengths, motivations and weaknesses. Great leaders connect with their team by engaging in open communication, encouraging team development and improvement, and giving and receiving criticism.

Leaders should be the ears of their company. They should observe, listen, diagnose, and introduce a self-sustaining model which allows employees to continually learn and grow. It is possible to create power in organisations when the gap between “Show and Tell” can be bridged, which requires leaders to be mirrors to one another.

Investing in oneself begins with leaders being aware and conscious of their own role. Don’t forget, people follow leaders’ footsteps, and any organisation’s success is directly correlated with the potential of a leader. In other words, if a leader develops self-awareness, it will not only strengthen an individual performance but also the organizational performance.

As Winston Churchill puts it, “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

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