Part 3 in the HRBP Series: Continuous Learning

Every organization strives to be perfect. We set goals for high achievement. We interview for traits like “attention to detail” and we are always looking to hire the “subject matter experts” in our field. And while organizations say they value learning, most rarely show it with their low training budgets and lack of flexibility to let employees learn new skills or take risks to try something new.

In my continued conversation with Slalom Chicago’s General Manager, Justin Odenbach, we explore building a culture of learners and talk about receiving feedback as leaders to continue to learn and grow.

It’s More Important to Be Real than Perfect

John: One thing that always fascinates me in the work world, and specifically in consulting, is this perception that we’re supposed to be right all the time. I think that can get into our heads. But, because of the nature of our ever-changing environment, we need to be in this state of learning. Asking “why” sounds so simple, but curiosity defines learning. We want a culture of learners, not a culture of knowers. If we stop learning, we’re done, especially in this industry.

Justin: The good news is that everybody is born with a learner’s orientation.  We just need to help some people discover and unlock it again.  I think people are encouraged by other career models to be invulnerable. At Slalom, we’re helping people unpack that.  At other places, people teach you to hide your faults. They see work as a place to be perfect, so for some people, this orientation needs to be relearned. I’ve always loved the mindset that “It’s not that you failed, it’s that you learned one way that wasn’t success. Try something else.” I’m a good example of it, I’ve been there. I was on a path where I wanted to be more perfect than real. Slalom helped me relearn that, and it’s important to me that our culture support our people as they relearn that too.

It Takes Courage and Humility to be a Trusted Leader

John: As people are integrating into our culture and going through this process of relearning, one thing I find myself stressing is building a foundation of trust, especially for the new leaders that we hire or promote.  Trust is the basis of performance management and relationships.  To give and receive feedback, there has to be a foundation of trust between you and your team. If you don’t have this foundation of trust, and the ability to be open, you won’t gain credibility or respect.  What do you think is most important for new leaders at Slalom who are working to build trust?

Justin: I tell people the two most important behaviors in a leader are courage and humility. Courage is needed to provide feedback, to deliver perspective in the face of adversity, to be vulnerable and open, and to take risks. As a leader, you receive feedback from all around, not just from the top down. You need to be able to hear that feedback and channel it into personal growth. That takes humility. Humility also gives way to curiosity. You have to acknowledge that you don’t know it all, and that’s what leads to learning and growth. When those pieces come together, you build trust and demonstrate what it takes to be a leader at Slalom.

We’d love to hear from you about this topic. Leave a comment or engage us on Twitter: @johnphudson @JustinOdenbach @SlalomChicago.

Stay tuned for the final part of the 4 part series, next week, as we discuss the value of your work and the ability to lead in every role.


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