What I learned – January 2011 Edition

One of the ‘aha’ moments in my life came when I realized, and accepted, there is so much more I don’t know.  If you haven’t seen Declan Whelan’s presentation on Building a Learning Culture, you can view it here.

Each month I’m picking the top 3 -5 new things I’ve learned and tried in the hopes it will help me keep my commitment to improving and to share what I’ve learned with others.

1) Knowing when to shut up: I learned this in Michael Spayd’s coaching circle.  We were practicing powerful questions and Bill, one of the participants, asked a really powerful question then proceeded to explain the question.  Michael jumped in and reflected back to us how the power of the question was lost after the explanation.  Michael and Lyssa Adkins have been delivering Agile Coaching training and a statement he mentioned was “As a coach, your job is to shut up!”.

I tried this recently after a coding kata with the team I’m on.  Usually I jump in and clarify and give my opinion in an attempt to tell people what I think they should have learned.  This time I just shut my mouth and it ‘felt’ better to have the team realize and learn something even if I didn’t agree with what they learned.

2) Asking permission for my opinion:  This was another lesson from my coaching circle.  During a real-life scenario practice session each person had the opportunity to provide insight to Alisson, who brought the scenario.  When it came time for Michael to provide insight, he asked Alison: “Can I give you my opinion?”  Simple, yet effective.   I’ve been on the side of getting opinions dumped on me, it’s not fun.  Asking this question helps prepare the person for what is coming.

I tried this a few times since then.   As an internal coach, my approach is less directive than it would be as an external coach.  I find asking for permission creates a sense of personal safety for the person I’m giving advice to.

3) Remembering peoples names: I really suck at this.  I blame my introverted-ness.  I was in a meeting with 7 or 8 people at a client’s office.  On my notepad, I drew a diagram of the table and wrote down the names of the people as we went around the table with introductions.  When each person spoke in the meeting I checked the diagram to put a voice and face to the name.  After the meeting I thanked each person, using their name in my comment.  That really helped.  I can still visualize each person’s face and where they were sitting so the next time I had a meeting there, I remembered their names.

As with all things, it takes practice to improve.  Having a new level of awareness about these new things I’ve learned, give me the opportunity to practice and improve myself.   How do you keep up a commitment to learning?  Would love to hear your feedback!