Self-Directed Learning:

The Essential Guide To Empowering Your Leaders

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Meeting goals, attaining objectives and improving revenue are what many enterprises tend to prioritize above all else. However, another area organizations cannot afford to dismiss is cultivating growth to develop top-performing leaders.

Leaders that are equipped with the top sales resources and training create a cascade effect. As they implement the skills they’ve learned into their practice, others will be encouraged to follow their lead, establishing a culture of excellence for years to come. 

Additionally, organizations need leaders that appreciate skills, encourage growth and support success. In fact, only 20% of workers believe they possess the skills they will need to be effective employees in the future.

But what traits are important to improve?

Employers predict that in the years ahead, self-management abilities like active learning and flexibility, as well as traits like critical thinking, analysis and problem-solving skills, will become increasingly crucial to long-term success in the workforce.

Self-directed learning aims to cultivate these desired traits and more.

Here’s how you can utilize self-directed learning within your organization and trigger the domino effect that can lead your enterprise to operational excellence.

What Is Self-Directed Learning?

By its broadest definition, self-directed learning refers to a process in which individuals take the initiative to identify their learning needs, create learning goals, discover learning resources, pick and employ efficient learning strategies and evaluate learning outcomes — with or without aid from others.

The theory behind self-directed learning is that it feeds into the learners' innate need to acquire knowledge on their own timeline. 

The future of corporate training is shifting to self-directed learning because it's adaptable and fits the new norm of digital training.

Instructor-Directed Learning

Instructor-led learning guides a group of participants through a number of concepts and exercises in scheduled face-to-face sessions or workshops, whether physical or virtual.

Self-Directed Learning

Although it may appear that self-directed learning is an entirely hands-off process, this isn’t the case.

Self-directed learning involves students working independently through predesigned learning activities — articles to read, recorded lectures to watch, exercises to do, etc. — in their own time and at their own speed, often with little to no active guidance from an instructor.

Benefits of Self-Directed Learning

Research has shown that investing in training results in a 353% return on investment (ROI) in the workforce.

Self-directed learning programs deliver the same ROI and also provide these benefits for your sales team and your organization:

    • Learn at custom speeds to reduce skill gaps.
    • Improve critical thinking abilities.
    • Develop specialized skills.
    • Improves adaptability.
  • Create the next generation of leaders.


Sales Trainers

5 Characteristics of Self-Directed Learners

Self-directed learners develop many traits that maximize their professional potential and yield great organizational success.

Here are five of the most commonly developed traits of self-directed learners:

Objective Yet Creative

Some teams are more effective than others for reasons aside from basic execution of tasks and fundamental training. 

Critical thinking and objectivity are key qualities of top-performing, self-directed learners and are shown through effective problem-solving, unbiased analysis, solid judgment, efficient decision-making, unmatched creativity and excellent conflict resolution. 

Those who learn through self-directed training develop stronger independence, encouraging them to take more accountability for their strengths and weaknesses. This ultimately results in more growth as a salesperson and enables them to be the best performer they can be.


Conducting research in the sales industry is a fundamental, yet often overlooked process. Those with the drive to research their market, competition and consumer base are more likely to generate new opportunities for their organization.

Self-directed learners understand the importance of research and analysis, as it often influences the quality of the experience they personally draw from their training. Self-directed learners who are experienced in researching their industries will be better equipped to analyze and yield benefits from the following:

Competitor analysis: Competitor analysis focuses on your organization’s competitive landscape to give you insight into how your business can outperform your direct competitors. You can gain insight into a competitor's strengths and weaknesses by studying their marketing initiatives, brand reputation, revenue or sales volume and other crucial data points.

Consumer research: Although almost all market research involves your customers, some consumer research studies focus exclusively on understanding consumers better within a particular market category. Proper consumer research should tell you more about your ideal customer’s shopping preferences, lifestyle and passions, among other factors. Your ability to successfully appeal to your audience depends on how well you understand them.


The intentional process of choosing how to allocate your time and dividing it up between duties and activities is known as time management — an area that many struggle to perform effectively.

As your team of self-directed learners becomes more adept at preparing for and controlling their learning, their organizational and time-management skills improve. This lets your team accomplish what matters while still fulfilling their obligations and commitments.

Bigger opportunities often call for a greater time investment. Demonstrating sound judgment, logical reasoning and objectivity when estimating how much time to devote to any activity, including self-directed learning, is a powerful skill set to possess.


The ability to collect information and present it in a way that encourages a prospect to do business with you is at the heart of sales success. Your value proposition, pricing or even the qualities of your product won't matter unless your team can engage potential customers in conversation.

As a result, your team must have a keen sense of what your customer is trying to communicate via both verbal and nonverbal cues. Additionally, a sales pitch is more than just listing the advantages or justifications for working together; it needs to demonstrate a mutually beneficial relationship, which strong communicators understand.


Self-management is the ability to recognize and take the necessary action to meet responsibilities in various areas of life. It’s also our capacity for conscious and beneficial control of our actions, thoughts and emotions. 

Self-directed learners possess great self-management abilities and know how to stay focused and efficient while working by avoiding distractions. They are also aware of what must be done to reach their objectives. And they do more than say it, they actually do it.

How To Establish Self-Directed Learning Programs in Your Organization

Create a Robust Culture of Learning

With a culture that’s built on a strong foundation of self-directed education and upskilling, team chemistry is strengthened, key metrics are exceeded, top performers are crafted and your bottom line improves significantly.

Encourage your leaders to implement self-assessment to create a more robust culture of learning. Accountability with the intent to learn and improve is the key to accomplishing a culture that excels in self-directed learning.

Encourage Your Leaders To Adopt a Growth Mentality

Growth is a top priority of great leaders and it’s crucial to understand that self-directed learning development is essential to building a successful and long-lasting business. 

Ensure you provide your team with the right self-directed resources and training necessary to make necessary improvements and set your organization up for success.

Additionally, ensure the learning empowers both your employees' professional aspirations and the organization’s goals. It’s easy to simply provide the benefits of training for the betterment of your organization, but employees need to feel that self-directed learning provides benefits for them too.

Provide the Ideal Learning Environment and Resources

Each enterprise has different environmental preferences for training. Whether it’s in the office, virtual or a hybrid, it’s important to establish the ideal self-directed learning environment across your organization.

Great leaders understand that by prioritizing the needs of their organization over their own, they are investing in something bigger than themselves: a collaborative culture that ultimately supports the business’ vision. Be sure to provide your leaders with best practices, training programs, tools and more.

Assess Learning in Relation to Business Results

When establishing self-directed learning programs, it’s important to align the training with key business goals and objectives. Doing so will ensure the education time will feel purposeful and create a roadmap for your organization to follow.

Team Up To Achieve Learning Objectives

Self-directed learning can be a great investment for your entire organization, but the results are also dependent on the training provider. 

When cultivating a training environment for self-directed learning, ensure you work with a training program provider that will help you pinpoint the exact learning objectives that will best help your business.

Reduce Resistance to Learning

There may be initial resistance from your leaders to implement self-directed learning, but you can navigate this by:

  • Explaining the rationale for training and learning.
  • Describe how the training will be conducted.
  • Discuss the approaches that you will take to long-term training and reinforcement.

Listen to feedback and address questions or concerns by outlining benefits for both the organization and everyone within it.

Self-Directed Learning Strategies

Establish SMART Goals

Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound goals have shown to be highly effective in helping anyone achieve their goals. In fact, a study showed that over 75% of participants managed to achieve their goals after utilizing the SMART methodology.

Here is a quick breakdown of what SMART goals are: 

Specific. Be as precise as you can about the intended outcome. In general, the actions needed to achieve a goal will be more obvious if they’re definite and explicit.

Measurable. Ensure your goals have metrics that can be tracked over a period of time. Without creating measurable goals, it’s impossible to determine if the goal has been achieved or identify areas of improvement.

Attainable. Create goals that are realistically achievable or maintainable for the intended timeline.

Relevant. Ensure your goals are aligned with company values, visions and objectives.

Time-bound. Be as specific as possible about the time frame for the set goals.

SMART goals are a great way to cultivate and improve self-directed learning since they provide a clear, linear path to achieving desired goals, which can otherwise be a struggle for training without a coach. With the right self-training program, however, you can create and embed SMART goals into your self-directed learning to stay true to the path you’ve established.

Personalize the Learning Experience

There’s no such thing as a training program that works for everyone; each person is at a different point in their career and needs to be given the resources that support where they stand professionally. 

Creating a personalized, self-directed learning experience for each salesperson will ensure the training aligns with where they are in their sales journey and create a more immersive experience.

Sales Training

Provide Training Reinforcement

Self-assessments and self-directed training reinforcement are crucial for the growth of your organization because it allows your staff to evaluate the value of the training and what reinforcement will be necessary to consistently upskill.

Tracking self-assessments will allow your leaders to make training decisions for the future and, ultimately, create a culture that drives accountability and team success. Once you’ve established a culture of excellence, you can then implement the most up-to-date, self-directed resources and tools necessary to provide continuous growth.

Encourage Collaboration With Team Members

Let’s disabuse the notion that self-directed learning should be an isolated experience. Employees should be encouraged to discuss and share the knowledge derived from their training with their cohorts. Coordinate learning events, build cohorts or develop mentoring programs to help bring your team together. 

Cultivating team chemistry will unite your team and create a lasting culture of excellence within your organization.

Provide Solutions for Team Members To Manage Time Effectively

Time management is the biggest challenge to upskilling via self-directed learning. However, the best way to ensure your team is making consistent progress while managing their time wisely is with a flexible schedule of routine or learn-up sessions that can seamlessly fit into their work agenda.

Be an Active Participant in the Learning Process

It’s not enough to deploy self-directed training for your team; leadership needs to play an active role in the training process as well. Otherwise, your team could either brush the training off as just an extracurricular exercise or fail to understand how the training aligns with their professional performance.

To avoid these issues, integrate training into your team’s daily workflow. You can play an active role in the training process by:

  • Acknowledging and rewarding self-directed learning achievements.
  • Conducting periodic check-ins and holding regular performance reviews.
  • Offering other opportunities for development and upskilling.

Self-Directed Learning Tools and Technology

There are a plethora of tools and resources you can use to establish a self-directed learning program at your organization, but nothing compares to what XINNIX offers:

  • Learning Management System (LMS).
  • Video-conferencing tools.
  • Self-publishing. 
  • ePortfolios. 
  • Self-Assessment. 
  • Video-streaming platforms
Trainee Learning on Computer

What To Look For in Self-Directed Learning Programs

It takes continuous education and professional development to succeed in the competitive and dynamic area of sales.

But how can you effectively evaluate the top self-directed learning programs for sales professionals? Here are some considerations to help you find the right one for your organization.

Flexibility and Personalization

A "one-size-fits-all" approach is a major factor in the failure of many sales training programs. To meet the demands of each team member, self-direct learning programs must be adaptable and customizable.

Look for the correct training program that has extensive learning materials and formats that can be tailored to match each member of your team to allow them to choose how they learn.

Assessment and Feedback Systems

Feedback and self-assessments are important components for ensuring that self-directed learning sticks. In fact, feedback has been shown to double the rate of learning!

The XINNIX SystemTM utilizes training methods that encourage commitment and reflection through feedback and reinforcement of the best practices for those in your organization.

Quality and Relevant Content

As mentioned, the importance of individualized learning cannot be overstated.

Consider different learning styles, preferences and your training budget. You must pick a format and a source that offers content of the highest caliber, is relevant to your requirements and goals and is up-to-date.

Available Support and Resources

When looking for a self-directed learning program, it’s crucial to look for a program that also provides access to training support and resources.

Having supplemental resources and support for your self-directed learning program can help reinforce the education of your organization by ensuring their knowledge is up-to-date with the latest best practices.

Cost and Accessibility

Flexible cost and easy accessibility are two areas that you should look for when choosing a self-directed learning program. 

Find a provider that fits within your budget while also providing the tools you need to cultivate growth and success.

Experiential Learning

While traditional learning revolves around a lecture and frequently results in disengagement, experiential learning requires students to implement new concepts and tactics that will advance their business in real time.

Experiential learning offers the following benefits:

Through The XINNIX SystemTM, your team experiences an experiential learning procedure that combines coaching, accountability and training while teaching them about the long-term benefits of leadership growth. Your team engages with our performance specialists to build the skills necessary to improve hiring and retention, increase revenue through strategic planning, close communication gaps and more.

Group Training Meetings

Empower Your Leaders With Self-Directed Learning

Equipping your team with cutting-edge resources is the most effective way to transform your organization and cement its legacy for years to come.

Self-directed learning gives you the flexibility to implement training on a more individualized scale without sacrificing the quality of the training. And XINNIX is a leading provider of self-directed learning programs with over 30 years of experience leading organizations to operational excellence.

At XINNIX, we employ interactive, immersive self-directed learning to influence our students' perspectives, skill sets and behavior, inspiring them to strive for nothing less than perfection.

Request a demo to discover how we can transform your enterprise together.

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