It drives me crazy when I think I’ve learned something only to find myself in a situation where my mind goes blank.
Before going on my first trip to Honduras I worked hard to learn some key Spanish words and phrases. When we arrived I had my opportunity to use what I had been learning. But as I encountered my first native Honduran I opened my mouth and nothing came out. My mind went totally blank and I couldn’t remember a word. There’s a huge difference between being familiar with something and really learning it.
The same thing happened to me the other day but it wasn’t a foreign language I stumbled over, instead it was the language of leadership. Through my reading over the past couple of weeks i had became familiar with a great leadership concept. Suddenly I found myself in a meeting where this concept would add value, but my mind went blank and I couldn’t find the words to explain what I had been reading. I was familiar with the principle but hadn’t truly learned it yet.
You know you’ve learned something when you can share it, explain it and teach it to others. Too often we read or hear great leadership principles but then we rush right past it failing to find ways to apply and integrate it into our personal leadership habits. If you really want to learn the language of leadership it requires 5 behaviors:
- Repetition – I must hear the principle again and again.
- Meditation – I must process what I’m learning and think through how the principle applies to my current leadership situation.
- Application – I must find ways to put the principle into practice regularly so that it can begin to become a habit and eventually a skill.
- Evaluation – I must ask myself and others how I’m doing in the execution of the new competency so I can get better over time.
- Multiplication – I must teach others the new skill I’ve developed.
Remember just because you read it, heard it or saw it doesn’t mean that you learned it.