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Navigating the Learning Life Cycle

As we experience new things, we naturally internalize change. From the outside looking in, we see people begin to adjust their actions to better reflect the desired outcomes. But when we reflect on our own experiences, we understand that there is more than just a change in behavior, there’s a change in mindset that underlines our new behavior. When working with leaders, our coaches understand that mindset shift is the true catalyst for long-term growth and change. In order for leaders to become lifelong learners, our coaches help them navigate the Learning Life Cycle.

A common theme our coaches see with their new & mid-level leaders is Managing Up so, in order to understand the Learning Life Cycle, we’ll walk through that example together:

Step 1: Self Awareness

As mentioned above, the Learning Life Cycle is centered around the idea that in order to experience true change, we need to start with our mindset, our biases, our choices, and our beliefs. Active reflection allows us to bring our implicit beliefs forward and begin to address them. Once we address the beliefs we have, we can expand our minds to new possibilities.

Awareness in action:

Your boss comes to you with a request to rework your weekly recap you send to them, but you know it’s going to complicate the reporting that you deliver to the department heads. You struggle to give your boss push back and you have a thought pop in your head, “At my last job, my boss told me that they were always right, therefore my boss now must think the same thing!”

As that thought crosses your mind, you realize you’re working with a new boss, which means they might have a different view of things. You aren’t sure what it is, but just understanding that there are other perspectives out there allows you to start thinking through how to address the situation.

Step 2: Increasing Knowledge & Understanding

Once we’re aware of how our mindset is affecting our actions, we can begin to look at the contextual situation to get a better idea of different stakeholders and the impact of our actions. Looking at the bigger picture can give us clues to what our next steps could be and how critical the situation is.

Increasing knowledge & understanding in action:

As you start to build knowledge on the situation, you realize that your weekly recap was designed to help you craft your end of month deliverables to each department head, which is a key part of your quarterly evaluation. Although your weekly recap is sent only to your boss, if you change the layout and KPIs then you would have to do twice the work in the same amount of time. You also think back to how you’ve seen your boss interact with your colleagues, and when there was a difficult conversation, they were understanding as long as there was a valuable reason behind it.

Step 3: Practice & Experimentation

We like to refer to the action items as experimenting because it is no longer “trial and error” but creating a hypothesis and testing it. After evaluating ourselves and the situation, we can come up with a couple different experiments to try in order to start to change our behavior.

Practice & experimentation in action:

Thinking back to your colleague’s situation, you decide to test out approaching your boss with line-by-line reasoning for why you don’t think it would be helpful to change your weekly recap. You show them the end-of-month deliverable and how it lines up with your recap and its overall impact on your quarterly evaluation. They understand and react positively and thank you for bringing it to their attention.

Step 4: Reflection

Reflection is a critical part of change. It gives us the opportunity to slow down and put thought into our actions and their consequences. Asking ourselves, Did that work? Why or why not? And evaluating what we learned in the process and why it matters.

Reflection in action:

After talking with your boss and getting their response, you reflect on how what you experienced differed from what you expected. You learned how to use your resources to better communicate with your boss, and moving forward you feel more comfortable challenging them and managing up.

The key to the Learning Life Cycle is that it’s a cycle. As leaders, we’re constantly learning to manage ourselves as well as the people around us. Understanding the Learning Life Cycle gives us the opportunity to address our behaviors at their root and make the changes we need to bring the most value to our teams and organizations.

Optify coaches are experts in the Learning Life Cycle. Reach out to the Optify team for more information on how implementing the Learning Life Cycle can support your leaders and your organization.


Optify’s mission is to develop the next generation of leaders by providing one-on-one coaching to people broadly across organizations. Created by coaches who spent over a decade coaching top leaders, Optify’s platform now brings the lessons of what it takes to lead and learn to the rest of the organization.

We offer an innovative online coaching platform that provides a clear, goal-oriented process, reinforced by a robust library of micro-learning content. Each client experiences the power of learning and succeeding in partnership with a seasoned coach on a schedule that works for them.

Our coaches help clients develop the awareness, insights, and skills to meet their business demands today and set them up for success throughout their careers. Clients learn to take command of their role, collaborate with others, and execute effectively, unleashing their potential and enabling them to thrive.
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