Effective leaders know deliberate learning is not optional, but a requirement of growth and success. Consistent learning demands an investment of time, money, and energy, but the price paid pales in comparison to the abundant returns in awareness, understanding, and the development of richer connections to people, places, and ideas. Which begs me to ask, how often do you invest in the following three areas to receive the greatest return both on and off the job?
1.The Leader-Reader Connection: As someone who studies successful individuals’ habits, the common thread of voracious reading never fails to show up. From Oprah or Bill Gates to my most recent client, COO of Raintree Systems, Terrance Sims, these leaders are disciplined in their practice of carving out time to read. According to a New York Times article stating that Gates reads over 50 books a year, he mentioned that reading is still the “main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding.” Gates also has taken an annual two-week reading vacation for his entire career. Not only does reading open up your mind to new adventures and perspectives, but it also betters your vocabulary, stimulates your thinking, and can shift how you see yourself and others – making room for more empathy and less judgement. If you consistently find yourself reading fiction, try some non-fiction on for size and vice versa. I often share an Audible book with my sweetie as we walk the beach sparking both our thinking and conversation.
2.The Conference Connection: Perhaps I’m biased since I speak at conferences weekly, but I witness the conversations, camaraderie, and coaching that randomly occurs in the hallways, during meals, and even in the washroom! These unplanned moments of connection often equal or surpass the well thought out education provided. If I were to unexpectedly ask anyone in attendance how they can afford the time away from work, the answer would overwhelmingly be, “I can’t”. Yet, after years of showing up, these same individuals realize they can’t afford not to attend. The savviest attendees maximize their conference investment by proactively creating memorable moments. For example, my colleague and friend, Laurie Guest, organizes a fun friend’s dinner months in advance. She invites an eclectic group of individuals, many even new to her, to gather off-site for conversation and connection. Having been privileged to attend, I’ve also been fortunate to meet a few individuals (who turned into dear friends) that otherwise might never have come across my radar.
3.The Crew Connection: While leading a training activity, I overheard a co-worker tell another, “Wow! I’ve sat next to you for the past three years, and I had no clue you’re a docent at the botanical gardens. I studied botany in college!” When we make the time to share our truths, ask insightful questions and fully listen, we can always find common ground with another or better understand what makes them tick. This awareness becomes a building block for greater appreciation, trust and respect. In our busy, demanding days, it’s all too easy to default to unengaging small talk or mindless chatter with another rather than create a quality moment or two for genuine conversation that opens the door for powerful collaboration. If you can’t remember the last time you invested real time learning something brand new about someone in your crew, now is the time to begin.