The Gift of Learning

What gifts will you be giving — or receiving — this holiday season? The gift of learning is one that never ends!

My Gift of Learning For YOU!

If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to learn from Mr. Yoshino through the book Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn. my gift of learning to you today is this downloadable sample from the book of Mr. Yoshino’s Letter to the Reader and one of the most powerful stories he shared about learning to lead in his first months at Toyota.

CLICK HERE to download the book sample!

The Gift of Learning

In this article — also published on LinkedIn — I share three takeaways about the importance of learning that I discovered through partnering with Isao Yoshino and writing the book “Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn.”

The greatest gifts aren’t always those that you can hold or package with beautiful wrapping paper and a handmade bow. They aren’t always the ones that only money can buy and rarely are they the ones that can be outgrown, break after years of use, or are a part of the year’s latest fad. The best gifts are those that keep giving — in ways one may never have thought possible — and I’ve learned first-hand how special those gifts truly are.

Learning is the Foundation

“This became the pattern of our relationship — two people, from different cultures, backgrounds, genders, and generations — coming together to learn, share, and help each other, through conversation and reflection.” 

When my family moved to Japan for 18-months at the beginning of 2015, I knew it would be a gift. But spending such meaningful time learning alongside of Isao Yoshino, a 40-year Toyota leader, reconfirmed for me that learning — in and of itself — is the gift transcends time or place.

Over the years, Mr. Yoshino reflected on his leadership trajectory at Toyota as well as his personal growth as a people-centered leader and shared with me his stories. They were filled with vulnerability, life lessons, and leadership principles that I not only apply to my personal life and my coaching career, but that others around the world are now bringing into practice with their teams and organizations after reading the book, Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn: Lessons from Toyota Leader Isao Yoshino on a Lifetime of Continuous Learning.

Isao Yoshino and me at dinner in Nagoya, January 2020.

Mr. Yoshino’s stories are inspiring, leaving readers with opportunities for personal reflection, themselves. His stories are honest, which gave him the opportunity to continue to learn and “re-learn” from his past experiences, much like each of us have the opportunity to do as well. His stories are shared with purpose, for it is only through continual learning that wisdom is developed and perfected. 

His stories are his gift to all of us so that we can learn, lead, and live with greater intention.

As you consider the gift of learning this holiday season, reflect for a moment on these three takeaways about the importance of learning that I discovered through partnering with Isao Yoshino and writing the book “Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn.”

1. Learning is the Only Secret

“The only secret to Toyota is its attitude towards learning.” — Isao Yoshino, Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn

Many organizations, businesses, teams and leaders seek to emulate Toyota best practices. And while there are countless tools, processes, and concepts that are worth incorporating into one’s practice to support operational excellence and a culture of improvement, the main key differentiator is Toyota’s attitude towards learning.

Learning is embedded into the fabric of the organization’s culture.

Mr. Yoshino notes that at Toyota they don’t even notice how the concept of learning is at the core of all they do. It is ingrained in their mindset and is taken for granted as an essential part of their culture. Yes, Toyota builds cars. But, as Mr. Yoshino shares, first they build people. They invest in their employees and create a culture where learning isn’t just a slogan on a wall, it’s an essential practice in all they do from personal development, to team dynamics and organizational innovation.

2. Learning Happens Better Together

“I am learning and relearning more about my life. There are things that I knew then, that I understand more deeply now.”

— Isao Yoshino, Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn

The beautiful part of giving the gift of learning is that oftentimes the person giving the gift finds the gift-giving just as fulfilling as gift-receiving.

Each time Mr. Yoshino and I have a conversation, he reminds me that in sharing his experiences, he continues to learn more about himself and his life as well.

The years we collaborated in the development of the book — and ongoing discussions that have continued since its release — have been filled with learnings that I’ve walked away with and incorporated in my life and career. And, through Mr. Yoshino’s own ongoing reflection, he has continued to find insights that— while in the thick of the experience — he was not able to see earlier.

Learning isn’t one-sided. It is valuable to all parties involved. Mr. Yoshino calls this a “chain of learning” where both parties are linked together to create greater value together. When we take the time to reflect with the intention help another to learn, we can find that we are learning in the process too.

As a leader, gifting your team with learning opportunities not only helps them gain confidence, learn from their mistakes, and play an active role in identifying solutions, but it also gives you the chance to learn how your team learns best, a trait that is critical to leading with intention.

3. Reflection is the beginning

“Reflection is the beginning, not the end, of learning.”

— Katie Anderson, Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn

How often do you find yourself reflecting at the end of a failed project, trying to determine how to not make the same mistake again; after a missed opportunity passes you by, hoping to figure out how to not miss the chance the next time around; or when you are confronted with change — a change in a project, a change in leadership, a change in career, or a change within your team; or after a success, so that you can learn what worked so you can repeat it in the future?

For many, reflection is seen as something that happens at the end of learning, but I believe it’s actually the beginning.

Reflection is the start of the journey to learn from any situation or experience. Carving time out to regularly reflect — and ensuring that your team members also have the structure and time to do so — will not only create a culture where learning is engrained, but it will give your team members the gift of discovering what is most meaningful and important to them.

Give the Gift of Learning

This holiday season consider giving your team and yourself the gift of learning.

Pick up a book that will deepen your opportunity for personal and collective reflection.

Sign up for an online course that will help you dive deeper into a topic of interest for you and consider giving your team the opportunity as well.

Whatever gift you choose to give, remember that the gift of learning is the gift that will never stop giving.

Give the Gift of Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn!

Isao Yoshino’s stories of learning and leading are a gift to us all!

I have learned so much from Mr. Yoshino starting back in 2014 when I first met him at a conference and then our first meeting in Japan, to the culmination of years of purposeful interviews and collaboration in the book Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn.

Give the gift of learning to yourself, to your team, and to your friends this holiday season! You can buy you copies on Amazon or your favorite online retailer.

And don’t forget my gift of learning to you is a sample of the book that includes Mr. Yoshino’s Letter to the Reader and the story of his first mistake at Toyota!

CLICK HERE to download the book sample!


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