I recently witnessed two incidents that perfectly demonstrated the benefits of being open to learning – both very different in nature but both hugely positive.
I was sitting in an airport waiting for my return flights via Frankfurt when it was announced that a 500kg WW2 bomb discovered near the runway meant there would be no further flights out of the airport until it had been sorted out – I wasn’t going to complain about that!
However, I really needed to get back to the UK as I was presenting to a large group early the following day. When I explained my challenge, the very patient service staff set about trying to sort something out.
My service agent spent a good bit of time listening to me, and then set about searching the systems trying to find a solution. After a period she said, “I can’t find any way to get you home today, it’s very late and I can’t find anything. Let me talk with my boss, she’s training me this week.” The ‘boss’ came over, listened to the issue, and then said, “Let’s try this….”
A further period of investigation followed, where she guided her charge who then exclaimed; “Ooh, I didn’t know that I could do that, that’s wonderful”. She rather excitedly went on to explain that she was able to get me on the last seat on a London bound plane, but I had to go straight away as they were about to close the flight.
It’s amazing how being told that you are being sent to a place 100 miles from where you wanted to be and in the middle of the night, without your baggage, can actually make you happy!!
The following day with very little sleep and a very expensive taxi journey, I was in situ in front of my large gathering. We were all together as part of a planned development programme, and all of the delegates were ‘experts’ in their field.
One of the delegates stated that they were only present because they were ‘told to’ and since they were the most experienced in the room and knew the subject better than most, they really didn’t have anything new to learn.
Later in the day I was standing with a group practicing one of the tasks when I heard this same person exclaim “Wow! I didn’t know I could do that – that’s completely brilliant!”
They came over to me and freely stated, “You know, I didn’t even know that I didn’t know that! This has been a really good day”.
What had started off as a really challenging week was, on reflection, a really good one! I had just experienced first-hand that learning is something we can all do, no matter how inexperienced or experienced we believe we are, and boy, that feels great.
Des Kelly is a Director Consultant at Process Management International Ltd and has over 25 years’ experience helping clients around the world developing successful improvement strategies working with businesses such as Rolls Royce, Bentley and Land Rover.