Leading your Journey: Proactive Learning in a Reactive World

Let’s get personal for a moment.

As we step into a new year, I want to challenge you to pause and reflect on my questions below. As you read on, be brutally honest with yourself. This is about your career, your aspirations, and your growth.

Are You Just Flipping the Calendar or Flipping Your Growth Strategy?

How are you transforming the mere act of entering a new year into a genuine opportunity for personal and professional evolution?

As Mel Robbins says: No one is coming to save you. No one is coming to push you. It’s all up to YOU. You need to parent yourself if you want to make your dreams come true. You CAN do it… you just have to stop waiting to feel like it.

Yes, many employers truly care about you as an employee, and your professional development, but here is the hard truth, according to the Future Skills Center report from 2023: Canadian firms invest modestly in training—an estimated $240 per employee annually—and lag their international peers in rates and hours of instruction. Larger firms are more likely than smaller firms to provide training. Training is more likely to be offered to employees with higher levels of education; in professional, scientific, and technology-focused roles; in their prime working years (i.e., aged 25 to 54 years versus 16 to 24 or 55 to 64 years); and in full-time, permanent positions (versus part-time and/or precarious positions).

The sparse data also suggest that employers who offer training do so to meet competitive pressures, address skills shortages, and adapt to new technologies and regulatory changes.

So, if you work for a small or medium-sized employer (which is the case for the majority of Canadians) your professional growth strategy is most of all your business.

Take care of your business. Reach out if you need help.

Is Your Learning Journey in Sync with Your Company’s Compass?

How often do you find your personal learning goals at a crossroads with your organization’s strategic direction, and what innovative steps could bridge this gap?

According to the same report, even if training funds are available for you, they tend to be ROI (Return on Investment) and workplace-focused. Firms usually invest in training for immediate needs—such as onboarding and orientation, technology adoption, addressing skills gaps, and implementing innovations. Additionally, they often favor on-the-job and at-workplace training modes over other options.

This means that you need to find a sweet spot where your personal interests intersect with the organizational goals. It’s important to communicate clearly to your leader what specific knowledge or skills gap you aim to fill in your portfolio. This should ideally help the company move towards its goals more quickly and efficiently. Do your due diligence and invest time in providing a solid set of data to support your case. Helping your manager can be mutually beneficial; if you make your leader’s life easier by saving them time in research and verification, a positive decision that is important to you might be reached faster. So, it is indeed your business.

Not clear about the organizational goals? Unsure where the sweet spot is? Consider scheduling a meeting with your manager or leader. Here are some starting-point questions that might help you in your preparation

  • What are the current strategic goals of our organization?
  • Can you identify any skill gaps in our team that I could help fill?
  • Are there upcoming projects or initiatives where I could apply new skills
  • How does the company typically support ongoing employee training and development?
  • What skills or competencies are seen as most valuable in the company’s future growth?
  • Can you provide examples of how others have successfully aligned their personal development with company goals?
  • Are there internal or external training programs that the company recommends or supports?
  • How does the company measure the ROI of training and development?
  • What are the opportunities for applying new skills within our current team structure?
  • How can I best communicate and demonstrate the value of my proposed training to the organization?

If you work with small businesses, where proposing such questions might seem overwhelming to the owner, consider taking a more gradual and personal approach. Start by expressing your eagerness to contribute more effectively to the business. Share your aspirations and how they might align with the business’s goals in a casual conversation. Focus on how your growth can benefit the business, and gently introduce ideas for training or development that can be mutually beneficial. It’s important to be mindful of the business owner’s capacity and perspective, aiming for a collaborative discussion rather than a formal proposal. This approach can create an open and comfortable dialogue, paving the way for discussing your professional development in a way that feels supportive and aligned with the business’s needs.

When Was the Last Time Your Learning Goals Got a Reality Check?

In a rapidly changing professional landscape, how do you ensure that your aspirations for learning are not just ambitious but also aligned with real-world organizational needs?

Jokes aside, change has occurred so rapidly over the past three years that everything you did even last year is already outdated. It’s time to connect with your professional bodies, explore frameworks of competencies, verify their current relevance, and reassess any significant skill gaps that need addressing in the upcoming years.

The majority of professional associations, industry leaders, and experts have published blogs, research, and insights predicting skill needs. Reflect on how workplace expectations might impact your professional life if you lack these skills in the next year, five years, or in the long run.

Observe changing workplace dynamics and trends in the Canadian Labour Market, and ask yourself what this could mean for your short- and long-term vision plans.

Most importantly, don’t just hope to go with the flow. As the river of life carries you in its current, it can propel you forward but can also kick or sink you if you’re not mindful of its power and hazards.

It is you who are swimming.

Are You a Passenger or a Pilot in Your Learning Flight? How actively do you engage in steering the learning process towards areas that benefit both your growth and the organization’s objectives?

Look at the past year, with a specific focus on your learning journey.

Start by dissecting your learning experiences over the past 12 months. Don’t just skim through your memories; engage in a thorough, written analysis. Scrutinize your calendar, month by month, and catalog every learning opportunity you seized or missed. Reflect on:

  • The nature of what you learned: Was it skill development, knowledge enhancement, or attitude adjustment?
  • The method of learning: Did your learning occur through structured programs, spontaneous experiences, or during the regular flow of work?
  • The timing: Was your learning planned or happened unexpectedly?

Do you like the picture that emerges?

Does it appear well-planned or chaotic and spontaneous?

What lessons have firmly lodged in your memory, and why? Equally important is recognizing what now seems irrelevant and understanding the reasons behind this perception.

A clean piece of paper and a pencil can offer remarkable clarity. Performing this exercise at the beginning of the year ensures that the rest of your 365 days are more navigable and decision-making becomes more straightforward.

Then start planning for 2024. Remember that less is more.

I personally really enjoy working regularly with this template – a simple 2×2 matrix with four quadrants that focus on

Source: Filtered – https://learn.filtered.com/


  • Learn it right away: High utility, low time-to-learn.
  • Schedule a learning block: High utility, high time-to-learn. Ideally, add this to your calendar.
  • Opportunistic Learning: Low utility, low time-to-learn. Utilize spare moments like commutes or lunch breaks.
  • Decide on Necessity: Low utility, high time-to-learn. Determine if it’s worth your effort.

In a collaborative setting with your leader, initiate a dialogue by presenting a review of your past year’s learning experiences. This step is more than just sharing information; it’s an opportunity to align your personal development with the organization’s strategic goals. Together, you can craft a learning plan that not only resonates with your career aspirations but also serves the organization’s objectives. Utilize the resources and support your leader can offer, ensuring that your growth trajectory is both personally fulfilling and professionally beneficial.

For those charting their learning path independently, start with a candid self-assessment of your strengths and areas needing improvement. Set clear, achievable learning goals aligned with your career trajectory. Importantly, integrate learning into your daily routine in a balanced manner. This approach ensures that personal development is consistent and sustainable, leading to meaningful professional growth. Reach out if you need help.

Enjoy the flight.

Is Cultural Curiosity Your Missing Puzzle Piece in This Year Learning Plan?

How often do you step out of your comfort zone, and risk being culturally curious and learn? This could be the secret ingredient to your growth.

Whether you partner with us or not, it’s crucial to assess whether your learning plan includes the development of cultural curiosity. In our daily professional lives, we constantly engage in communication, collaboration, and partnership across diverse cultures. And by ‘cultures,’ I refer not only to nationalities but also to diverse worldviews, ages, orientations, religions, beliefs, and more. While we all seek to be understood, it’s essential to ask ourselves: are we knowledgeable and capable of understanding others? Developing this skill begins with a spark of curiosity.

We conduct Cultural Curiosity Training twice a year, which is open to the public. We are also eager to bring this knowledge directly to your diverse team. If you have any questions or need more information, please feel free to reach out.

If you’re concerned about a lack of a learning budget, don’t let this idea slip away. You can subscribe to our emails for regular tips on cultural curiosity. Additionally, engage with articles or books on this subject. View every interaction—whether personal or professional, online or offline—through the lens of cultural curiosity.

We are all moving towards a future where global citizenship skills are not just nice to have, but essential. Investing time, energy, and resources into developing these skills in 2024 is not just a choice, but a necessary step in your personal and professional growth.

Our journey through the landscape of professional development emphasizes the necessity of being both a learner and a strategist. As you plan for 2024, let your learning journey be a blend of ambition, practicality, and cultural awareness, ensuring that every step you take is a leap forward.

Happy New Year of Learning!