The pathway to excellence and success is through lifelong learning. Even if a leader is great today, if they're not getting better, they're actually falling behind.
When young professionals first enter the business world, they receive a ton of training. They learn how to manage, how to hire and fire, how to give effective praise and criticism.
But then one day, because of their expertise in their industry they attain a new peak along their career journey. They’re empowered and challenged to lead and manage situations they've never faced before. But are they really ready?
I have compassion for people who are forced to fake it and simply say that they've got the situation handled. But do they? They usually do manage the situation ok, because they are talented. But ok is never good enough in today’s competitive marketplace.
Leaders need to be ever better to thrive in today’s marketplace. A pro baseball player who finally makes it to the big leagues doesn’t stop taking batting practice. The professional dancer doesn’t stop taking lessons. The best musicians in the world work on honing their craft every day.
Then why don’t more organizations encourage their business leaders to sharpen their skills with outside consultants, mentors and coaches? Unfortunately, many traditional organizations view people who seek additional help as weak or incompetent.
Transcending and personalizing higher education
I've worked with dozens of educational institutions representing many stripes and colors. They are excellent at teaching many things, but understanding and customizing the learning for every single executive at every single career stage simply stretches their capabilities too far.
Progressive organizations understand the significant ROI of helping senior leaders improve. Authentic leaders understand "...what got you here won't take you there..." Leaders believe in continuous improvement. Leaders commit to doing "ever better," an approach one of my mentors, Bob Kipp, taught me.
Here's three ways to be a lifelong learner:
- Read. Stay knowledgeable on those things that matter to you. Start with authentic journalism. News gives you the "what." Read the writings of people whose job it is to present each story with objectivity from all sides. Read blogposts, magazines, websites, bylines etc. to understand the "why" or "so what" beyond the "what." And please read long-form content, often referred to as books. Every book by Dan Pink, Thomas Friedman and Malcolm Gladwell is thought-provoking and extremely well-written.
- Surround yourself with people who think differently. I often say, "if you and I always agree, one of us isn't needed, and it isn't me." I own my opinion; you own yours. And when we collaborate, I expect us to have a one plus one equals three result. Participate and engage in groups of people who share something with you, but constantly expand your worldview.
- Invest in YOU. You’re always around to help others.That’s normal. According to Alana Muller, the guru of networking excellence and founder of Coffee-Lunch-Coffee, the vast majority of people would prefer to do a favor, than ask for a favor. Remember the quote by Hillel: "If I am not for myself who is for me? And being for my own self, what am 'I'? And if not now, when?" Ask yourself, is now a good time to invest in my professional development?
For more than 20 years, Morningstar Communications has served hundreds of clients representing almost every industry, stage and size. From established Fortune 1000 companies to startups. To organizations that are moving through an enormous change, to those who have just emerged. Public and private. Local, regional, national and global.
The common ground for all of our diverse clients is a deep commitment to continuous improvement, both for themselves and for their organizations.
As Aristotle said, "The more you know, the more you know you don't know." Now's a great time to learn.
If you want to become an ever-better leader and persuasive communicator and are willing to try a few things differently then let’s talk.