Let Yourself Be a Learner

Thought Leadership Articles

Published 14 April 2020

When was the last time you let yourself have the freedom to learn something new?

To fail. To get back up. To research. Ask “silly” questions. Admit that you don’t have all the answers.

Working with Business Owners and Executives, I have seen the real shift to valuable conversations once you crack through the veneer of “I’ve got it all figured out because I’m the boss” and uncover the real feeling of “I have to appear to have it all figured out because I’m the boss”.

Putting up the front that we are an omniscient being just because we are the leader is the land of Imposter Syndrome.

Condensing the recommendations for how to deal with Imposter Syndrome generally follows two paths.

  1. Get over it.
  2. Fake it ’til you make it.

Neither of these options really work or else we wouldn’t still be talking about it.

Get over it” assumes that by developing self-confidence you can magically minimise all the other genuine feelings and “Fake it ’til you make it” feels horribly inauthentic.

In the work I do with Female Founders and Women on Boards, we spend a lot of time talking about Imposter Syndrome. It’s not that it’s more prevalent in women but rather we tend to socialise or talk about our feelings differently. Let me be clear – I speak with A LOT of men that have the exact same feelings.

What if I don’t know all the answers?

What if the market is moving faster than me?

How will I still be relevant?

How do I assess my own feelings of worth and value beyond what I know right now?

I ask myself these same questions on a regular basis. To be fair, I’m not a counsellor, a psychologist or an expert at anything.

What I am is curious. Which make me a life-long learner.

Let Yourself Be a Learner

A few months ago I was on a speaking panel for aspiring young women in business. I was asked about my professional ambitions and what I wanted to “be” in 5 years.

Curious,” was my answer.

Curiosity demonstrated through a willingness to ask questions, seek out new knowledge and have the confidence to let myself be a learner is what I believe will keep me relevant, valuable and in-demand professionally.

I see this put into practice every day within the business and Advisory community.

A business leader recognises that they have a knowledge gap that may be stopping them, or slowing them down, from moving from where they are and to where they want to be.

They can ignore the knowledge gap – or take meaningful action.

Closing Knowledge Gaps

You can close the knowledge gap in a couple of ways but they all start with curiosity. Ask questions, read, search out knowledge from credible sources.

And then the next step is to work out what is the most efficient path to get you to your destination.

  • How deep do you need to go as a learner in your pursuit of knowledge? 
  • Do you need to be informed enough to exercise critical thinking or deeply knowledgeable to develop expertise?

Time, resources and personal commitment all come into play.

Sometimes, you will be personally committed to gaining expertise and find ways to commit the time and resources to develop your expertise.

Go for it.

More commonly as a business leader, we may not have the time or resources or personal commitment to move beyond informed critical thinking to expertise. But we still have a knowledge gap to close.

So, we have to find a point of leverage to close the knowledge gap.

This is where great mentors, strategic advisors and best practice advisory boards provide fantastic leverage to catapult us from the edge of the knowledge gap to land softly on the other side closer to where we want to be.

Develop Learner Syndrome

Let’s re-frame a couple of things. I believe that imposter syndrome is actually a good thing with a bad name. We feel like an imposter because:

  • We genuinely care about doing a good job and;
  • We want to add value and be valuable by creating great outcomes with positive impact and;
  • We are unsure if we have the knowledge to make it happen.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to do a good job or wanting to be valued and valuable. We just have to learn to close the knowledge gap.

And that’s why I hope we can all proudly develop Learner Syndrome.

Be curious.

Be willing to be a novice.

Be open to finding the right leverage for you to close your knowledge gaps.

Rinse and repeat.

Just Begin

When do you ever look back and regret learning something new? It can become addictive. A little like the endorphins that are released when we exercise, you never regret ‘that run’ or HIIT class.

So, what are you curious about?