Image this scenario: You are sitting at home enjoying some quiet time right before the holidays. Perhaps you are wrapping gifts, baking some cookies or taking a nap.
Then the silence is shattered by the ring of the doorbell. You slowly open the door and crashing in comes your family, dogs, luggage, gifts, and lots of noise as they arrive for the holiday. At that moment, you feel like Clark W. Griswold from Christmas Vacation, but you quickly realize this is the real thing. Does this sound familiar to you?
I’m on a bit of a slippery slope since many of my readers are family members. So, unlike myself, I assume a large number of you do your best to tune out visiting family members, avoid conversations, find a good hiding place or suddenly find a new appreciation for spirits. But, what if you took the time to talk and really spend quality time with your family? Do you think you may learn something new? Have you ever considered the amount of knowledge bottled up in your house at one time?
I recall visiting my family in Wildwood Crest, New Jersey, as a child. My crazy Uncle Bob taught my brother and me how to climb out the first floor window in the back of the house to escape. This gave us our freedom to head towards the beach and hotels along the Jersey Shore – more importantly, we were out of the house. My parents may not have appreciated it, but we learned something new and, even better, we learned by doing. Also, it’s a skill that could come in handy in our adult lives.
I’m a firm believer in self-directed and lifelong learning, both personally and professionally. In business, we would call the “family experience” peer-to-peer learning, or mentoring, if the teaching is coming from a grandparent or older relative. Employees are starving in the workplace for mentoring, and there is strong evidence to re-enforce the effectiveness of peer-to-peer learning. Yet, we avoid it like the plague at home.
So, you may be thinking, where is he going with this? Learning leaders spend so much time and effort building formal learning programs, yet fail to see the value and importance that peer-to-peer and mentoring play within professional development. Don’t make the mistake of trying to formalize it so it fits into your program. Instead, encourage a culture of learning where employees want to help others learn: Promote self-directed learning so people feel empowered to seek out mentors or a comfort level to ask a peer for help. Incorporate into the on-boarding process by helping new hires find mentors and peers to accelerate their ramp up. Believe it or not, this may have a big influence on the retention of talent in the first year of employment.
Employees are not off the hook on this, either. Expand the way you learn and develop beyond the office by seeking out mentors and peers to support your personal development. If you are craving it in the workplace, you see the value. So, why would it not be as much, if not more value for personal growth? When you set yourself on the journey of lifelong learning, it naturally takes you out of the workplace and brings personal and professional development together as one.
Tis’ the season to be learning, so when that doorbell rings this holiday season, invite the family in with open arms and start learning. When the dishes are cleared and your bellies are full, keep the table conversations going. (However, for the sake of keeping peace during the holidays, I would recommend avoiding politics!) Take a moment to look around the room and take in the volume of knowledge available to you – it is there for taking.
One more thing, if you choose not to take this advice, I can introduce you to my Uncle Bob. Maybe he can teach you how to climb out the window, too! Enjoy the Holidays!