“You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.” – Glinda, The Good Witch, The Wizard of Oz.
We believe everyone is born with potential. Potential to learn. Potential to grow. Potential to teach. Each of us, as individuals, is equipped to help others reach that potential. When we do that at scale, we can transform and build great companies.
Curious Lion is on a mission to help rapidly growing companies develop their people in unique and engaging ways.
So, how do we execute and adopt a Learning Culture within Curious Lion?
We are a remote, distributed company. Remote has negative connotations though, so I prefer to think of us as a Connected Company. We also have a permissionless environment in which to experiment. We practice learning routines and habits that make me so proud of this team.
Success Starts With Strong Onboarding
We want new Lions to feel comfortable from their very first day, so we connect them with buddies to mentor them and managers to develop them. We focus heavily on our six values, showing new hires how they affect what we do on the job.
The manager role is taken seriously at Curious Lion because that’s where a Learning Culture lives and dies. Managers are responsible for meeting people where they are, surfacing what drives them and what development they seek out. We’ve uncovered hidden gems– people contributing in ways a formal job description would never allow them to.
Finally, we help people create a roadmap for their own learning and development from their very first day with us. 30, 60, and 90-day goals are mapped out and plans are set to achieve them.
We deliver onboarding as a learning experience, the way we’d like our clients to experience it.
Transparency Connects Actions To Results
I used to work in Big Consulting for 12 years. It was difficult to see how what I was doing was making money for the company. Since then, I’ve always wanted people that work for me to understand how their role contributes to business success.
Every week, we gather for our Scoreboard meeting where we track metrics from the number of visits to our website to followers on social media, from open opportunities to the number of months payroll we have covered with cash in the bank. Each person in the company is responsible for tracking a metric and sharing their findings at the meeting. Everyone is involved. Everyone gets to learn what makes the company money, and how we are doing financially.
Everyone Is Always Learning
As a learning company, it’s important that everyone feels empowered to develop themselves. Each team member gets a learning budget, encouraging them to take outside courses. We have a recurring segment of our monthly All Hands for team members to share their takeaways as a presentation, spreading new ideas while helping them solidify their own learning.
We have a channel in Slack dedicated to learning. In what may come as no great surprise, we call it the Learning Channel.
Writing is a cornerstone skill for our Learning Architects. Recently we established research projects for each of them. Outside of client projects, each Learning Architect studies a paper, article, or talk (we’ve had topics like harmonic surprise in music, facilitation in a virtual world, and a deep dive into Learning Experience Platforms). First, they present back to the group what they learned, gathering real-time feedback on what resonates. Then, they draft an essay on what they learned and how it applies to our work. Everyone provides feedback on the article before it’s published on our blog.
Finally, the cherry on the top: mine and many others’ favorite meeting of the week. It’s our very own Cohort Learning Experience (CLX). Every week we meet as a team for Office Hours to discuss how we do what we do. We quite literally shape the business together in these meetings. We’ve co-created six principles for writing great learning outcomes. We’ve co-developed checklists for how to stoke motivation in learners. We record these meetings, edit them, and add them to a growing curriculum for future team members.
The team leaves these meetings inspired and invigorated simply because we took the time to talk about learning. I’m seeing two other benefits from these intimate live sessions, as you can see in the diagram below.
One is that people on my team are moving up their professional career paths, from support roles to specialists, to experts (moving up the pyramid). The other is that I’m able to more easily see who is ready for a management role, as I observe how they interact with me and each other (moving from left to right in the pyramid).
It’s not only the organizational benefits we’re seeing– business results are improving too.
Learning Leads To A Better Business
At the end of 2021, we landed our biggest ever project – a total learning transformation for the sales enablement team of a large enterprise SaaS company. We landed an even bigger one from the same company at the start of 2022. We followed that up with two more of similar size.
Our business is growing by double digits through referrals and repeat business. We don’t have a formal new business development process; the growth is almost all down to off-the-chart levels of client satisfaction.
Our team manages around eight large projects at any given time. We produce two weekly podcasts. We publish writing consistently online. What blows my mind is that everyone is doing it voluntarily, with such passion. No one has to work here. I know this is obvious, but when you really think about it, it’s kind of crazy.
When I started Curious Lion in 2017, with only my cat to bounce ideas off of, I never dreamed that I would be leading a team of people with a drive and passion for learning that matched my own. The integrity, the vibe, and the investment each person puts into learning are truly special.
We have a culture now in which people trust each other; in which they feel like they can grow; in which they feel committed to a shared vision; and in which they feel like they belong.
They are my pride.
So it comes full circle: we believe everyone is born with potential. The answers to our biggest challenges as people and as companies lie within us. Each of us, as individuals, is equipped to help others surface those answers. When we do that at scale, we can transform people and build companies that are Unbeatable Learning Machines.