Does Your Team Have the Right Learning Mindset?

by | Marketing Leadership, Marketing Organization

There is a lethal mindset at work in most American companies, schools, teams, and families. Left unaddressed, it allows bad bosses, teachers, and parents to kill more potential than the plague ever did.

I call it the Training Mindset— a belief that someone else is responsible for a person’s knowledge, skills, and capabilities. It is a mindset that confuses training with learning.

With a Training Mindset, acquiring knowledge is something that is done TO someone. When someone trains, he is told to go somewhere to sit, listen, and test in front of a teacher, computer or other media. “Training” is a budget line-item, time allotment, or regulatory body requirement (CPE). Training is a passive mindset that indicates when one will take training, how one will take it, and where one will take it. It is the homework that must be done to get a grade. It is the mindset of reactivity, entitlement, passivity, and underperformance.

With the Learning Mindset, the opposite occurs.  Individuals with the Learning Mindset see learning as something that one does FOR oneself. It is not done to someone. Learning is NOT a budget line-item, time constrained or dictated by a third-party. This mindset pursues the goals of expanding the mind and the individual. It is curious, studious, disciplined, proactive, tenacious, expansive, and compounding.

Learning is devoured; training is assigned and taken. Learning, unlike training, does not need a manager’s approval. Learning does not get cut under budgetary stress. And, learning seldom fits into a nice tight “academic” box.

LISTEN: Who’s on the Bus? The 6 Critical Roles of Growth Marketing


If you’re a leader, your role is to establish the curious, proactive, tenacious, expansive, and compounding learning-vs-training mindset, set HIGH learning expectations, and remove any institutional barriers. Your job is NOT to micromanage “training” for your team.

READ: Do You have High Expectations for Your Marketing Team?


If you’re a team member, your role is to get you mindset realigned, stop making excuses, and own your learning. Don’t wait for your manager to “approve” whatever it is you want to do. If you need to fight to go to Dreamforce, Inbound, Gartner events or graduate school, then build the business case and fight like hell. If the firm won’t pay for you to go to an event, buy a book, reimburse a periodical subscription or give you the needed time to learn, then pay for it yourself and do it on your own time.

READ: Where Do You Higher the Best Professional Services Marketers?


Keep a running list of resources you want to learn: SEO, PR, design, finance, recruiting, sales, project management, AI, Blockchain, Aristotelian ethics, to play a musical instrument, world history, church history, Renaissance art, or the origin and strategy behind the game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Silly as it may seem, all of this is game. It’s game because learning compounds. Each new data point connects to another in an endless sea of experience, impact, big questions, “aha moments,” and satisfaction that fuels more curiosity.

READ: How to Become a More strategic Thinker



Individuals with a Learning Mindset do not see learning as a job duty or promotion requirement. They see knowledge as the natural outgrowth of the human person and as the road to developing an integrated self. Learning is the choice one makes.

Right now:

  1. Take the time to self-evaluate. Are you waiting to be trained and making excuses for underachieving? Or are you developing your own mind and steering your life and career?
  2. Make a list of everything you’d love to learn more about.
    Start with a single Internet search, find an author, event, club or associate with the knowledge you desire.
  3. Dive in.
  4. Take what you like and leave the rest.


Be prudent.


Here’s a great idea from Acliviti, a Prudent Pedal client, to have some fun, learn something about teammates, and get learning. Thanks to Lee Tennant, Director of Operations at Acliviti for sharing.

The concept: A mashup of “Drink Talk Learn” (created by engineering students from the University of Waterloo in 2012) and “The Biggest Sales Bull-shitter,” a competition borne out of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business that requires students to do a sales pitch with a deck they’ve never seen.

The details:
What: The point of our Drink Talk Learn (DTL) party is to deliver a presentation individual participants found interesting and each wanted to share/inform/tell/rant to the rest of the group while having a good time.

Why: SELLING the topic was the crucial learning for the team!

How (Rules):
1. Create a presentation:

– Topic must be something nobody else in the office knows
– Prepare a 3-minute Powerpoint presentation NOT exceeding 3-minutes in length
– Exceeding 3 minutes disqualifies you
– Include no more than 10 words per slide
– 1 slide must include pricing (even if it’s a vague, soft cost)

2. The team audience votes on its favorite presentation and the winner receives a prize!

3. The Twist: At the start of the party, we surprise everyone by telling them that the presentations were to begin, but they won’t be giving their own presentations! Instead, we drew names from a bowl. The first name drawn was the presentation, while the second name drawn was the lucky presenter!


  • Dungeons and Dragons
  • The charmed life of Will Rice (my 3 year-old son)
  • Yarn Bombing: The new street art
  • Why ACLIVITI should go to an international soccer game in the UK
  • How spoiling your dog is good training for grandkids
  • Chicago Graffiti Art
  • 10 realities of being a hockey mom
  • Why you shouldn’t take a first date to dinner
  • Eagles vs. Owls: Who is superior

It was a HIT!

About the Author

Jeff McKay
Founder & CEO
Prudent Pedal

As a strategist and fractional CMO, Jeff helps firms set smart growth strategies in motion. He was the SVP of Marketing at Genworth Financial, the Global Marketing Leader at Hewitt Associates, and held senior roles at Towers Perrin and Andersen. Learn more.

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