Volume 20 Number 4 - April 5, 2022

My mission is simple. I am devoted to enabling people working in manufacturing to recognize and achieve their potential; through that each of you contributes to an improved quality of life for all you touch. Mission matters. That of your business, and yours personally.

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Do People Want to Learn?

Each of us has felt the joy of a baby discovering his hands and feet. Each of us has felt the joy of that same baby, now a toddler, learning to crawl and then walk. The best part is the pure excitement the child obviously feels by that learning.

Kids are excited to learn to read, to help parents in the kitchen, and to discover playing games with friends and family.

Then they enter school.

In many cases our rote and pass-the-test-based approach to delivering education drains the joy out of learning. Not in all, but in enough that too many of our young people skip school, drop out, or graduate high school with a GPA barely above failing.

In a recent LinkedIn post I shared an article I had written about the need for manufacturers to hire people with the character, values, and behaviors of importance and to plan on teaching the new employees the job or company-specific parts of the job.

A colleague responded by declaring that “…most people have the ability to learn…the challenge is around having a willingness/desire to learn.” He suggested the question: in what ways can we spark the desire to learn?”

I disagree with his premise that a willingness/desire to learn is missing. It’s merely buried.

When in high school I was required (because all girls were!) to take Home Economics classes. I had absolutely no interest in learning to cook, sew, or anything else the teacher told us was “important to getting a good man.”

She would say I had no willingness or desire to learn, and she would be right. At least in that environment with that purpose about those skills.

I left my last employer in 1990 because it was clear to me that the leadership team, of which I was part, was more committed to living groundhog day than it was to learning. In response to my earlier protests, the top leader insisted that each of us send him a 2-3 sentence summary each week of the most important thing we had learned that week. Sad.

Ninety nine percent of your employees want to learn, grow, and stretch. That passion may be buried deeply by supervisor orders of “just do your job” and observable frustration to anyone asking questions.

It’s school all over again. Hit the numbers. If you hit the numbers, we must all be doing a good job.

Big talk about learning environments, lifelong learning opportunities, and ‘be all you can be’ create massive frustration when candidates and employees discover these are mere tag lines with no substance.

I emphasize the importance of respect for people to an enduring organization. That respect must include respect for their dreams and desires, their likes and dislikes, their passions and their “Home Economics” disinterest.

Sending people to a conference room to hear someone drone on is rarely a true learning opportunity. If that is instead a conversation that aligns with the hopes, dreams, likes and passions, with attendees integrated actively into the learning and it is related to them in work and nonwork examples, it can light a fire. If it is further embedded daily into the work, the thinking, the opportunities, the improvements, it can change the company and the people in it.

What is a company besides the people in it?

If your people are not actively learning and applying, your company is stagnant, regardless of financials that report success.

Engage this week with each of your direct reports to understand their hopes and dreams, their likes and dislikes, their passions, and their arenas of disinterest. And share your own. Then do something with what you discover. Make changes in roles or responsibilities, provide learning opportunities, move something one person hates to the person who loves that part of the job.

People want to learn. It is up to you to provide the environment in which they can.

And for that one percent that do not want to, either help them move on, or appreciate the way they do their job, as that is the way it will always be done.

The Starting Pistol

Yuval Noah Harari:
"The only way for humans to stay in the game will be to keep learning throughout our lives and to reinvent ourselves repeatedly."

The Tape

Rebecca Morgan:
"...and what is a company but a group of humans?"

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