Leader learning

A quote from Mr Mourinho today:

“Five years in a managerial career is a long time. Football demands a lot and you learn a lot every day.”

If you compare the pace of change in football to the pace of change in the business world, it’s pretty pedestrian and yet Jose Mourinho is still learning a lot every day, or at least he says he is. However, you’ll know we define learning as having taken place when you can observe a relatively permanent change in behaviour – so in reality, Mourinho is probably not learning, he’s probably just acquiring a lot of information that can be useful in his line of work, some of which he uses to change his approach. Many of his behaviours are probably still very similar to what they were 5 years ago as football hasn’t really changed that much.

From the high performers we work with in the business world, we know that the requirement to learn, really learn, is much greater and that the requirement to stay up to date with changing information, new ways of going to market, new competitor activity, new technology and new demands can be almost overwhelming, if performance isn’t your focus. For many leaders we work with, they liken their challenges to having to learn a new sport every couple of years, or regularly switch from one code of the sport to another. Somewhat more challenging than effectively playing the same game for well over 100 years.

The performance approach allows you as a leader to simply see that all of the changes being required are simply part of the challenge that you have to be ready for. The information that you have to stay on top of is simply like a marathon runner who has to put in the miles on the road every day. If you as a leader are focused on being ready to meet the challenges you’ve signed up for and you make sure that you keep doing the things you need to do to stay relevant, then you begin to perform in a world of discovery. You get to discover how good your actions and choices have been. You get to discover how well you can apply what you’ve found out in the right way at the right time. You get to discover how good you can be at using your knowledge and skills to play the game that you’re now facing. You get to discover what committing to being superb at the basics provides you in performance terms as a leader.

In any high pressure leadership role, the demands are great. Football just happens to be scrutinised more regularly and more publicly than many other leadership roles. Those leaders that we see who role model learning, both in terms of making appropriate behaviour change and acquiring new knowledge, are the ones that thrive.

They thrive because those that they are leading get to follow the lead of someone role modelling what it takes to stay relevant and perform to potential with great consistency. Those who just say that they’re learning every day are spending more time impression managing than simply being superb at their jobs. For sure, impression management is a skill worth having, but it’s a lot more effectively achieved through consistent actions than by consistent rhetoric.

What kind of learning are you all about as a leader?