When I was going to school for Japanese language I spent a lot of quality time with flash cards.  One of the biggest hurdles for Western learners of Japanese is the fact that there are three sets of characters used for written communication: two phonetic alphabets (hiragana and katakana) and a whole bunch of characters adapted from Chinese called kanji.  It was a 25 minute walk from my apartment to campus and many mornings I spent that time flipping through my flash cards.  I memorized everything – individual characters and the method to write them, common words using those characters, common phrases that used those words, grammatical patterns that used those phrases.  I think it is the same for many professions.  At the beginning there is a lot of memorization and it is a fundamental part of the learning process.

As we develop in our professions we graduate from the rote memorization and start to work in the world of feedback.  As a new coach I spent hours reviewing tapes of my coaching sessions and making notes about what went well and what could be improved.  It was tedious work but helped me immensely in my development as a coach.  This kind of learning is called reflective learning and it is the #1 learning skill for professionals to develop to the next level.  A reflective learner has a deliberate process by which they collect and evaluate feedback and results to see where improvements can be made.  For me that included feedback from clients, other coaches and (to a large degree) myself.

Reflective learning can be a powerful tool for everything from developing our cultural intelligence to becoming a better speaker.

Become a Learning Leader through reflective learning by implementing these steps:

  • Define the area for development (ex. An entertaining speaker.)
  • Develop a reflection tool comprised of areas to reflect on performance of the skill. (For a speaker this might mean evaluation of time management, rapport with audience, handling of questions, etc.)
  • Set a time to reflect after performance of the skill. (ex. Right after a speech or presentation write down the results using your reflection tool.)

Putting a reflective learning habit into areas in which we want to improve might seem like additional work, but the payoffs from intentional focus on our performance can accelerate our learning tremendously. Plus it leaves a trail of improvement that can be a big boost of confidence as you realize how far you have come.  Looking back you will realize just how far you moved forward.  Invest the time to be a Learning Leader.  You will be glad you did.