Why This CEO Gives Every Single Team Member Homework
Homework? Yes, you read that correctly. As the co-founder and CEO, I give homework to every single person at Aha! Twice a year, to be specific. And while you might think that the assignments are solely related to professional skills or technical proficiency, you would be wrong. The assignments are meant to provoke deep thought, meaningful reflection, and organization-wide conversation.
Aha! is a learning organization. We encourage team members to continually pursue growth in their personal and professional lives.
The so-called homework is one way we do this. Think of a book club, at scale. Here is how it works: Twice a year, I choose a book that supports an opportunity we are seeing for team growth. Sometimes the growth is company oriented and often it is about the individual. Everyone in the organization reads the book and I pose questions to the team based on the book’s theme.
Then, each person presents their responses to the entire company in person on stage during our week-long company meeting. We call these meetings onsites. Sometimes the responses to the questions are very personal. But they are always insightful and broaden how the team thinks about the opportunity ahead.
The latest title was How We Work by Dr. Leah Weiss. Her research on mindfulness and working with purpose dovetailed beautifully with our own values as a company. It also provided some concepts and techniques that our team can employ as Aha! continues to grow fast.
Our focus on learning helps expand everyone’s thinking and broaden their perspectives.
One study found that “The single biggest driver of business impact is the strength of an organization’s learning culture.” We all benefit when people are more perceptive and more creative in their approach to problems.
This is why our team at Aha! does more than read books. We also invest in a comprehensive five- to eight-week onboarding program for all new hires and ongoing educational programs throughout the year. Because learning and growing helps everyone perform at a higher level. And doing your best work leads to greater job satisfaction and personal fulfillment.
I actually had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Weiss and discussed these concepts with her as well. I used my conversation with her and my own thinking to create the list below about learning at work, which I shared with our Aha! team earlier this year.
I hope these suggestions help you as well:
Define your central purpose
Research shows that when you match your interests and your work, you increase both your motivation to learn and your performance. Take time to write down why you do what you do and how it aligns with your values. (Even if you feel like your purpose is evolving, you can still try to be great in whatever you are doing today.)
Find a meaningful place to begin
Be self-aware about your strengths and weaknesses, as well as your schedule and bandwidth. If you set your sights too high too quickly, you could get discouraged. Pick a starting point and define what you would like to master and then find ways to incrementally stretch towards it.
Set aside thinking time
A report found the average person gets just 24 minutes a week for formal learning. To develop a culture of learning, you need to make those minutes count. Carve out time and space, and set achievable but meaningful goals to help you stay motivated. Build your curiosity — it is a skill like any other.
Keep an open mind
Look for opportunities to grow. Find projects outside your area of expertise, but within your area of interest. Listen to everyone, because profound insights come from unexpected people and places. Look for learnings in even the most rote tasks. Volunteer to help however you can. Seek out a mentor. Even become a mentor yourself. And of course, read, read, read.
Real learning, the kind that helps you improve and grow, takes ongoing commitment and patience.
The payoff is greater knowledge, which leads to more profound achievement. This is why we assign everyone at Aha! homework on a regular basis. Learning is what each of us should strive for every day and what CEOs should invest in — because it leads to greater joy at work.
How do you keep learning at work?
Our team is happy, productive, and hiring — join us!