So you get told, as an employee, perhaps manager, at your job, which you might love, might hate, might not really care about and just see as a job, that the company has decided to provide learnerships. And guess what? You get the bonus task of having a learner (or couple of learners) work alongside you or your team… Bonus? “Doesn’t bonus mean something to do with extra…income? For me?” You may be wondering.

And then slowly the realisation sets in…Oh, no…it’s extra alright…but, not cash…oh no, work. Extra ‘to do’, ‘to give’, time, energy, patience, effort… “Whhhhyyyyyy????? ME!!!!?????” (You may wonder, again, in silence, or outside, shouting, screaming, smoking. Or not. Whatever floats your boat or rocks your disco ball. I’m not judging, just reporting, as Robin Sharma would say.)

Point is. And perhaps you missed this part. You are not being asked. As I mentioned earlier, in case you didn’t read, thoroughly. You are being Told. With a capital T.

Being in a position of guiding, teaching, instructing, whilst trying to do your actual physical job, can be daunting and overwhelming, just plain draining and frankly not your sippy- cup of protein shake.

But what if it’s not that? What if it’s not just “giving”, energy- sapping, time consuming, “not my job”, withholding you from your job, and I’m sure a thousand other reasons you can come up with?

What if you can play this role with an empty mind and an open heart?

A beginner’s mind.

Becoming a learner yourself while holding the space for someone else on their learnership journey? A learnership on Leadership.

What if, while teaching your job, the skills needed, the values and intention behind your work, you experience your well- mastered profession through the lense of the learner, fresh eyes and a sponge- like mind? And what if it opens up a whole new way of living, breathing and embodying of your work?

As a Leader. An Inspirer. A Warrior of Work.

Now that is seeing the Opportunity. The Beginner’s mind.

Shunryu Suzuki, a Zen teacher, used and discussed the phrase in his book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.

“It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner would.”

Holding this idea of the beginner’s mind, in mind, perhaps makes it possible for employers, managers and employees alike aka leaders, to step away from the idea of “I know” and “I must give of my time, my energy, my resources, my, my, my….” into the role of the learner with a capital B: the Beginner.

Being curious also of our own journeys, as we lead, model and motivate. No matter how skilled you are at your vocation, the Beginner’s mind allows one the open- heartedness to recognise the opportunities for growth and exploration, both for you and the learner. And “my” or “I” has the prospect of becoming “you” and “we”.

“What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale.”

-Shunryu Suzuki

Can we walk the path alongside the learner? In her book Going Horizontal, Samantha Slade refers to non- hierarchical organisations, where the whole organisation’s community is supported in their personal development and leadership growth. She also states: “…organisations are as great as the people within them.”

In Dare to Lead, Brené Brown discusses “daring greatly and rising strong at work.” To teach with a beginner’s mind and allowing yourself to be on a leadership learnership takes courage and in the same vein, bravery. Your ego, identity and “not- knowingness” might be at risk and revealed. This is daring greatly, as you humanise yourself, and create an opportunity to genuinely and authentically connect and identify with the learner. Staying open and present.

Brené goes on to explain how she often shares with teachers (crucial leaders in our society), that students aren’t always able to take off their armour at home or even coming to class or work, as they desperately need to emotionally and physically self- protect. This becomes the ethical calling of the teacher, manager, employee, to create that safe space for the student, the learner, to just for that day or few hours, “take off the crushing weight of that armour, hang it on a rack, and open their heart to truly being seen.”

And in this process, your job could possibly become more than just a job…but rather a craft, an art, something you are proud of, a vessel through which you can inspire others, and yourself, and maybe, just maybe…

Embody the Expert with the Learner’s eyes and the Beginner’s Mind.

The first step is an invitation. So go ahead. Be curious. Invite yourself. Your inner Learner.

Perhaps the question isn’t “Why me?” But, “Why NOT me?’

References

Dare to Lead, Brené Brown, 2018.

Going Horizontal, Samantha Slade, 2018.

Wikipedia Beginner’s Mind, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoshin

Robin Sharma, Masterclasses, Youtube