As the world comes to grips with social distancing guidelines that shape how we interact and communicate, organizations of all types and sizes are making fast and furious strides into digital communications.

Elementary-school teachers are learning new platforms to post online lessons. Small businesses owners are navigating digital meetings with an all-remote staff. Employees on newly downsized teams are finding themselves with additional tasks and job responsibilities, and they haven’t been formally trained.

The result: Many workers are far from their comfort zones, and the ability to learn digitally has never been more of an asset.

Determine What to Learn & How You’ll Learn It

When it comes to leadership development, it’s important to hone in on what, exactly, you need to learn, and which skills you need to develop. A variety of digital tools — such as self-assessments, 360 assessments, or knowledge pre-checks through various learning platforms — are designed to help you answer that question. Plus, there are always the core leadership skills you need in every role.

Begin with one of these 2 approaches:

  • Increase your self-awareness through a multitude of online assessments. Then look at the gaps, or opportunities, for improvement. Tackle these gaps.
  • Or, look at where you want to be, what role you want to be in, and what skills are needed in that role.

Great — now you’ve figured out what you need to learn. If you’re not sure how to access digital learning products, look at what your HR/Learning and Development/Talent Management group offers.

According to our research, about 80% of L&D organizations have purchased excellent digital content for their organizations, but most learners in the organization don’t know they have it. Just check — you may be surprised at what you have access to.

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Commit to Personal Development as a Digital Learner

Once you’ve got the content, remember the age-old wisdom: “There is no time like the present.” Aside from making the commitment to start, you also have to be willing to devote space and time to the learning process. Two keys to succeed as a digital learner:

  • Establish deadlines: Set a deadline for completing your learning. Tell someone else that you’ve set this deadline. Hold yourself accountable for following through on your intentions.
  • Prioritize learning: Set blocks of time aside on your calendar for your learning. If it’s not on the calendar, it won’t happen. It’s as simple as that.

Practice What You Learn & Reflect on Your Success

Aristotle once said, “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”

Think about the past, when you’ve read a motivating book or watched a transformative TED Talk. Does your behavior change instantly? Probably not without intention, because learning doesn’t mean watching or reading.

After you learn a new skill, be very purposeful about how you will practice it. Write down how putting it to use felt. (Spoiler alert: It won’t feel good the first time. Or the second or the third. But you’ll get the hang of it!)

If it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth it, and you would’ve arguably set your sites too low. A new leadership skill is quite likely the hardest habit to form. It’s not easy to address conflicts, give effective feedback, or become a more strategic leader.

Reading an article about the “32 Things Never to Say in Front of Your Boss” makes for a great diversion from work, but it doesn’t make it more likely that you’ll practice what you read.

If you then reflect on how your last meeting with your boss went, and run through that article like a checklist — then you’re really getting somewhere.

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Reflect on Your Success

Once you’ve learned something new — and practiced it — take some time for reflection. Humans are naturally wired to remember our failures and to try to learn from them. But we should take just as much effort to learn from our successes.

Writing down new experiences that went well is a great way to ensure that you turn infrequent behaviors into frequent habits. (I love the DayOne app for this.)

This is another key in how to succeed as a digital learner — or really, as any kind of learner!

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