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Infect Your Colleagues with the Learning Bug

By Andy Warren,

Today we have a guest editorial as Steve is away on sabbatical.

If you’re reading this you’re in the habit of investing some time in your career. You scan the SQLServerCentral.com newsletter, read things that are interesting, and at least occasionally give the question of the day a try. You probably supplement that with a book or two, some favorite blogs, some free online webinars, and maybe even a conference like the PASS Summit when funding can be had. You’re investing in you.

I’d also wager that you put more effort into extra learning than your colleagues. Why is that? Maybe you’ve learned the value of investing in you from being promoted or getting a new job or getting a raise for your abilities. Or maybe you learned from the mistake of not investing in you and struggled to find a new job. Or maybe they have adopted the practical yet cynical view of learning what they need to know when they need it and not spending time learning stuff they may never use. Or, maybe, they read some bad articles or got some bad advice or just can’t see the good stuff because of the noise.

Should we encourage them to learn more? And if so, why? The unselfish reason is that a relatively small investment of learning can help them stay employable and maybe even earn a bit more. The selfish reason is that if they learn they’ll push you to learn more and to do more – an upward cycle to be certain. Note that some people just won’t buy into extra effort and if they don’t, that’s ok, it’s not our place to bully them into doing it our way. The big win, if it works out, is that you change the culture of your team toward learning, and that leads to all kinds of good things.

So you want to encourage them to learn more – how do you do that? I’ve had a lot of success with sharing interesting and relevant links via email. If they choose to read it they get something with zero noise. If they respond, I’ll ask them what they think, or mention that the author has written good stuff on other topics, or maybe mention someone else who has written on the same topic. It’s a slow trickle of email, not even one a week when I do it, because I want it to be really relevant or interesting. Email isn’t the only way. I’ve taken colleagues to user group meetings and met up with them at SQLSaturday, suggesting topics and speakers that I think they will most enjoy.

It’s soft sell and slow sell, if you can call it selling at all. What I try to offer is a window into a world where there is a lot of interesting stuff to learn that can make work easier and more interesting. It’s showing that while the search engine of your choice is good for answering a question, the kind of learning you and I do is to learn the questions. It’s modeling life-long learning and what I llike best about it is that it’s humble – it’s a way of saying here is yet another thing I didn’t understand or know well enough.

I’ll close by saying that you can lead the horse to water at best. Don’t get frustrated when a colleague is less enthused than you. You’re not at the same place in life or career and pushing will just frustrate everyone. Do what you do, share lightly and specifically, and what to see what happens.

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