Shawnee Love • January 30, 2020
As leaders in small and medium businesses, you are pulled in many directions. Not only are you responsible for the overall success of the operations but you must also manage and lead people as well as get your own work done (which in small and medium sized organizations usually means a full-time job as well). Years can go by without any formal learning experiences.
Don’t get me wrong, you are certainly learning every day while working, but formal learning experiences can expose you to ideas and perspectives that you won’t get without deliberately inviting them in.
It’s like if you ski regularly at your favourite ski hill. Each time you go up, you get more practice including opportunities to be exposed to different runs, snow and weather. You might watch someone on the hill and try to emulate their skiing style and get a little better that way too. However, to really make progress on correcting or improving your skills as an experienced skier, you probably will need to take a lesson.
The same occurs at work. Day to day you are practicing and maybe even tweaking how you do things based on natural consequences from your environment (e.g., a customer complaint or employee resignation), but to really leapfrog your skills and/or performance in a compressed time frame, you might want to consider taking a class or course. However, if you are like most leaders in small businesses, getting out of work for a full day or series of days is nearly impossible. Your organization is too lean plus you have to cover for employee absences for required things like vacation and sick. As a result, you put off taking a class or seminar unless it is mandatory (e.g., license or certification required).
Enter online education. Not only do very respected learning institutions such as universities and colleges often have a great repertoire of online courses, but so do many professional associations. Additionally, online learning platforms like Coursera, Lynda.com (aka LinkedinLearning), and iTunesU are reputable organizations with huge portfolios of available courses (some but not all for credit).
If you can’t spare time from your average day or simply can’t guarantee you will be in a seat at a particular day and time, then online courses are a wonderful way for you to open your mind and advance your knowledge- something I would argue we all need to do from time to time.
You can of course read books and listen to podcasts or Tedtalks, etc. but participating in a formal course puts a bit more rigor to the learning and usually means exposure to more than that which you might choose on your own or come across in your normal daily interactions.
That’s why we encourage you to make 2020 the year you try out an online course and grow your capabilities and a leader, manager and/or owner.