040 The Importance of a Learning Culture and Why It Matters with Magdy Karam

“The idea that ‘I know it all’ does not exist. Instead, I’m always hungry and thirsty for learning. I want to be a ‘learn-it-all.’” – Magdy Karam

My guest on The New Leader podcast today is Magdy Karam, a passionate leader who has been a part of the Microsoft family for over 20 years. He’s currently the Chief Learning Officer of Microsoft Canada based in Mississauga, Ontario.

I first met Magdy at the Learning and Development Masterclass 2020 in Toronto, as we were both speaking at the event back in March.

His talk was really interesting, especially for leaders looking to better understand the importance of a learning culture and why it matters – and how to start building one in their own organization, which is exactly what we talk about today.

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • Why you should not stay in one role for too long
  • How to create a learning culture
  • How a growth mindset connects with learning culture
  • Four ways leaders can role model a growth mindset
  • The challenges of creating culture change, and much more..

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Moving from one role to another – with intention

Don’t stay in one role for too long. Take your time moving from one job to the other and make these moves intentional.

I’m not saying haphazardly move between the roles, but every time you land on a job, learn it well. And then start thinking,

“How can I move again?”
“Where to?”
“What is complementing my set of skills?”

And make that move intentional. Make your learning continuous and purposeful.

Creating a Learning Culture

I’m trying to create this insatiable desire for learning. At Microsoft, we call it creating fans, and what I’m trying to create is Learning Fans.

If I can get to a point where people go, “I want to be doing that. I want to be learning continuously. I want to be as efficient, as valuable, as marketable” and they become a learning fan, then my job is done.

My vision is to get to a point where people love to learn, and this is something that becomes part of who they are. There’s no cajoling or trying or pushing or anything like that; people just want to do it for their own benefit. That’s the vision.

Your Role in Creating a Learning Culture/Growth Mindset

The leadership has a key role to play here. We expect them to role model a growth mindset in four ways.

In their daily behaviors, patterns and habits. For instance, leading from the front and be the first to consume their own training and talk about what they learned.

Things like in the systems and processes they put in place. For instance, their governance and review meetings should be much more focused on learning as opposed to inspection, that people will get used to that and have an understanding that it’s okay to come to a meeting and learn, as opposed to them fearing the meeting because of the “inspection.”

We also expect them to show it through the symbols, the things they highlight and focus on. For instance, what gets highlighted and rewarded? If you’re encouraging curiosity and giving rewards for people who have learned something, then again it sends a strong message around the learning culture.

Finally, we talk about storytelling. This is basically how you talk every day in your meetings, in your email, online. The language must change. The questions they ask must change.

Things like, “What have you learned?” or “If you can do it all over again, what would you change? How are you going to share this information with others?” These are the types of messages and questions and language that we expect our leaders to continually say again and again.

And they have to be consistent. Otherwise, people will get skeptical that this is just a fad and it will go away.

Links and Resources

Connect with Magdy: LinkedIn

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein

The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

The Sticky Note