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Leaders are learners. How the best IT Project Leaders constantly improve

IT Project Management
IT Project Management

“When did you finish training to be a Project Manager?” asked the new member of a project team I work with from time to time.

We’d been comparing our backstories, him fresh from college, ink just dry on his certificates and excitedly starting his first placement, hence the question. With a few more years under my belt, I had to think about my answer. It was only later that I realised that, actually, you never stop training and you never stop learning.

Furthermore, of all the IT Project Leaders I know, the greatest ones are all I learners.

They are always bringing something new to the table and they encourage their team members to do the same, whether it’s reading, listening to a podcast or streaming a TED talk they are sponges for new information and it shows in their performance.

They do something else though.

They seem have worked out a better way to learn and they execute it brilliantly on a daily basis.

1 – They Teach What They Have Learned

They pass on what they have learned, they discuss it, debate it and each time they do they digest the learning further. Studies have shown that, when you teach something that you have learned, you digest it better yourself. As Steven Covey, author of The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People once said, “You learn by teaching.” In fact, Covey is a great example of this, he recommended not that rather than just reading his books, you should teach what you have learned within as soon as 24 hours.

2 – They Have A Wide Subject Matter Scope

They seek to learn from outside their day job. The brain is a complex muscle, in the same way, that you wouldn’t go to the gym and just work on a part of your leg, you need to exercise different parts of your brain. Most project managers read a lot about project managing, great project leaders do this too but they also read about a broader scope of subjects.

The last time I met with one, for instance, he was reading about how farmers were trying to reduce methane gas emissions from their cattle!! I mean, how random is that at first glance?! What it does, though, is allow your mind to place its energy elsewhere. When you start to imagine how to stop cows accelerating global warming you leave your subconscious mind to deal with what to do with the latest IT Project challenge you’re facing, and it seems that your more laid back subconscious mind is sometimes better at this. Ask Archimedes! Would he have had his eureka moment had he not stopped work for a soak in the bath?

So, where do you access learning? Here are the four most popular knowledge channels cited by the leaders I talked with.

Leaders Are Readers

Former US President, Harry S. Truman once said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” This is the case with all the IT Project leaders who shared insight. They read all the time, books, blogs, white papers, industry journals.

Leaders Are Listeners

Most of the IT Project leaders I spoke with download podcasts regularly, some industry specific but others that are generally motivational or just interesting and thought-provoking.

Leaders Watch

TED talks are brilliant, aren’t they? I recently stayed in a hotel and among the options on the Smart TV was an array of TED talks which I devoured with delight.

Leaders Attend

When was the last time that you attended a seminar? If the speaker was really engaging I bet that you came away buzzed and wanting to get back into the office and put what you learned into practice.

Another great place to attend is an adult learning class or workshop type event. A couple of leaders I spoke to regularly attend lessons that are totally removed from their day job … cookery, woodworking, even knitting were examples I was given! There is method in this – when you challenge yourself and step out of your day to day you exercise those different parts of your brain and open yourself up to new creative potential.

One Project leader I chatted with had a great perspective on all of this. He told me that while the information attained from all this reading, watching or listening is great, for him, each of these channels gives him an opportunity to spend quality time with the planet’s smartest people. I love that.

So leaders are readers … but there’s something else that I’ve noticed.

The greatest learners are also the greatest earners. There’s food for thought. See you in class!

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