As Lane4 kicks off another year I’ve been taking some time to reflect on what I have learnt and need to keep learning, or indeed unlearning, as the business continues to evolve. Helpfully this coincides with our Research Team having spent many months thinking about how adults learn best and making sure those ideas are at the heart of our client work. So, it got me thinking – how do I learn best?
As somebody who leads a company that’s growing quickly, I’ve learnt that what you did last year is more than likely not going to be good enough next year. I am constantly asking myself ‘what might a bigger organisation, or one who has done this particular thing really well, be doing now?’. As much as I need to focus on the day to day operations, I am always constantly challenging myself to think about the sort of leader Lane4 will need in 2-3 years.
I have also got much better at letting go of things; not always easy as a co-founder I have found. Constant delegation has been key so I ask myself every day, ‘should I be doing this?’. This helps me to get head space to think about our future.
I’ve learnt too how to be, I hope, a helpful catalyst for change. Not everybody’s role allows them to have a broad overview of many elements of the business. It’s a privilege and responsibility so I regularly hone in on a particular area where I think I can help stimulate a change or encourage even better collaboration, for example. If I spot an area that may need some attention to keep pace I’ve learnt it’s a good idea to help that along but to do it cautiously, with curiosity and support. At the end of the day, the implementation of a new way of working will be somebody else’s job not mine so they have to care about the change, motivated too, and not just feel I’m meddling for the sake of it.
I’m always learning from our FD about financial modelling and different ways of funding growth as Lane4 strives to fulfil its ambitions. I still find that really exciting. And, as we’ve grown, I’ve had to learn to balance two sides of leadership well – the behavioural aspect (in which Lane4 specialises so sometimes it can feel easier) and the governance and technical side of leading an ambitious, growing company. Making sure my direct reports have aligned goals feels like an obvious thing to say but it’s so crucial and actually is much easier said than done. Lots of our work with clients relates to this need too. I’ve learnt that, just because people get on, it doesn’t mean that effective collaboration will happen naturally.
I learn best from experience. Honestly, I haven’t read a business book for a while. I read the news online and industry insight is helpfully curated for me through my LinkedIn network. I learn a great deal from the client work I am still involved too. Coaching senior leaders and working with executive teams gives me insight into many sectors and their approach to leadership, both behaviourally and technically. Some of the strategies we have implemented at Lane4 can be tracked back to me seeing some great leaders doing similar things in our clients. I actually see great leadership at Lane4 too and I still learn on the job from different styles around me every day.
I definitely learn through networking and, despite being an introvert, I get huge value from lifting myself out of the day-to-day at Lane4 to meet other leaders, build connections and listen to others. I’ve also benefitted hugely in recent years from a Non-Executive Director role that I play – the epitome of influencing without authority.
Finally, I haven’t lost touch with some of the great ways of learning that are common place in elite sport but not as commonplace, I feel, in business. Doing something and then truly reflecting on why it succeeded or failed with somebody who can give all types of feedback is crucial. I think we do that well, and it can probably get even better at Lane4 in 2018!
For me a learning mindset is as important to performance as capability. It involves curiosity, wanting to be better, being humble and never believing you know everything.