In many ways everyday leadership is just a big experiment. Leaders do everything they can to do what they have to do in the “right” or most efficient way possible. Sometimes they will be very successful and everything will go right, while other times everything will seem to go wrong. No matter the outcome, you can always learn from experience. You can also learn from experience of others.
What to do to learn from experience
If you are anything like me, the more you learn, the more you realize how little you really know. You probably also do all you can to learn from experience so you don’t repeat your past mistakes and you can mimic your past successes. There is a lot you can do to learn from experience whether it is your own or from someone else. If you want to learn from experience, however, it is very important to have an open mind. To learn from experience, I suggest four actions you can take.
1. Reflect On Each Experience
After you go through an experience, reflect on what happened. What was the expected outcome and what was the actual outcome? As you reflect, identify what choices and actions led to successful and unsuccessful results. From there, determine what principles were followed and how those principles can be used/adapted to solve future problems.
2. Review How You Reacted
How did you respond during the experience? What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them? Were your reactions effective? As you reflect on your response, you will be able to identify what you could do better and what you did well. Make time to reflect on your reactions regularly so you can consistently learn and improve. Also, once you know how you reacted, you can determine what you will do next time so you don’t react the same way.
3. Review How Others Reacted
I once heard a quote that, “Men and women are fools if they only learn from their own mistakes.” To learn from experience, you can also learn from the reactions of others. What did others do right and wrong in a given situation? What would you have done differently if you were in their shoes? What did they do well? By reflecting on the actions of others, you will learn from their failures and successes.
4. Revise Your Future Actions
Once you reflect on your actions and those of others, learn from experience by determining how you can act differently in the future. Determine what you will to do to be successful, so you don’t make the same choices that led to failures.
Your leadership abilities will improve as you follow these four steps to learn from experience. This can be put into practice with your team or organization by holding periodic reviews/debriefs to discuss the outcomes of major projects or incidents. During these reviews/debriefs, identify the individual roles of each person and how those responses led to the overall outcome. These debriefs will be very helpful if done in the spirit of learning.
A while back, I had a conversation with one of my coworkers about children. At the time my daughter was very little and his children were teenagers, so he told me to do all I could to enjoy being with her as a child. He said that once she becomes a teenager she will know everything, and things will be different. He then explained that his teenage kids KNOW EVERYTHING so they don’t listen much anymore. He explained this to me because he wanted me to learn from experience so that I didn’t take for granted my daughter’s time as a little child. I had to learn to learn from experience.
Why do you feel it is important to learn from experience? What valuable lessons have you been able to learn from experience? Have you been able to learn from experience by using the steps outlined above? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!