in Learning and Development

Learning and Personal Development

I’ve been honored to lead my employer’s growing Training and Associate Development program for the last few months, and have had many wonderful opportunities to grow and to prove myself in new skill areas. One thing that this new role and career change has allowed me to do is fully practice what I preach by becoming ‘fully involved,’ to use a firefighting term, and to bring out the biggest of my ideas and put them to use in a tangible way.

I delivered a presentation yesterday in our new “Leadership Academy” that I helped develop at work, and I want to share with you some of what I shared with our aspiring and inspired leaders at SageNet.

Recognize your needs

You need help – it’s simply not possible to do things on your own all the time. Sure, some tasks you can manage without outside help, but to become successful in the long term, you’ve got to bring in outsiders. You need to admit that you don’t know everything, and that someone else might be better at a task than you are.  Give them the rope, the tools, whatever is needed for them to succeed, and yo’ll find that this helps you succeed.

It is perfectly OK to admit that you need help. We’re not here to poke fun or deride you for admitting that there are areas where you have room for improvement. It really should be quite the opposite. You should be praised for making that observation and realization. You need help. You need training, you need practice, you need encouragement, you need feedback, you – oh, this is good – you need coaching, you need communication, you need a team of people to help you develop yourself.
You need help.

You also need to realize that with or without you, the world is constantly changing. We are in a technology-dependent culture, full of technology-dependent people, and the one thing that never changes in all of that is the fact that everything is always changing.
What’s crazy about that is that we humans have a knack for being extraordinarily uncomfortable with change.

In a 2016 Leadership IQ survey, 45 percent of frontline employees responded that they’d rather not change. They would rather that their companies simply maintain the status quo, than go and try to innovate – to change – to shake things up. Can you imagine what would happen to us here at SageNet – if we simply decided not to change? If we didn’t research new products and solutions, if we didn’t update our software internally, if we didn’t improve our processes?

What if we never cast a vision, shared our mission, or tried to live out our core values? Change is not only constant, and expected, but it is required for us to succeed. Change happens when we recognize our needs, realize that we need help, and when we decide to take action. Change also comes with a certain amount of risk, too – doesn’t it?

Accept risk and responsibility

Have you done anything risky lately? Think for a moment, what was the last thing you did that you were a little worried about, maybe very worried about? In life, there are many risks we take, some we accept more easily than others – but they all involve some level of risk.

If you’re not failing, you’re not…

  • Trying
  • Succeeding
  • Innovating

Each of these things involve risk – they also involve you taking a bit of responsibility for the outcome, don’t they? What else can be said about risk? My question to you would be, if there’s no risk, is the reward going to be worth it? If there’s no risk, what’s making us better than our competition, what’s making us better than our past? Many times it’s been said that the greater the risk the greater the reward. So perhaps the opposite is true, too – without risk there is no reward.

One of the things I want to help you with in your quest for personal development is to looks for ways to can take on a little risk and responsibility, in order to bring about a greater outcome. You can do this by focusing on how you learn from and respond to outcomes you didn’t like, or didn’t expect. This is “failing forward.”

Thomas Edison was an incredible inventor, and very wise in how he applied his knowledge to his exploration of science. As happens often anymore, the internet clouds the source and exact text of some of the greatest quotes from history – and this one is no different. I’m going to borrow a version of this quote heard on the movie “National Treasure.”

“I didn’t fail. I just found 2,000 ways not to make a lightbulb; I only needed to find one way to make it work.”

There was a lot of risk in this work, wasn’t there? The risk of electric shock being the most obvious, followed perhaps by the risk of his credibility or reputation if he wasn’t able to succeed in time. He took responsibility as well, didn’t he?

He spent his time diligently taking notes, learning from the past, and failing forward. He didn’t repeat the same mistakes, he gained from them, learned from them, and applied the learned knowledge to the next iteration. Eventually, he succeeded.

Let me add one more thing here. There’s a new book out called “I Am” by Bruce Kasanoff and Amy Blaschka that can be very empowering in this area.  It speaks to giving yourself permission to do things, like take risk.

“I am… giving myself permission …to try …to stumble …to fail (many times) …to fall short of my own high expectations …to confront my weaknesses …to admit I am human …to learn from my mistakes …to not have all the answers …to acknowledge my strengths …to be kind, even when it’s hard to do so …to not worry about what others think …to let go of elements of my life that aren’t working …to be unapologetically me (and to be okay with that) …and maybe, to succeed.”

The authors speak from personal experience when they say that giving yourself permission can be scary and tough, but so worth it. The stories we tell ourselves have tremendous power; so choose them wisely.

I’m sure we all have at least one example or one story in our past, of a time where our risk paid off in a success, right? A time where our success was earned not by luck, but through our hard work? A favorite practice of mine is to keep a journal or log, maybe a file folder of these success stories. Keep them tucked neatly away, not to feed your ego, but to rescue it from despair. You will undoubtedly come to a point in your risk-taking where your responsibility will begin to weigh heavily on your shoulders.

It is at this time that you need to look in that file – and remember. THESE things are possible, THESE things are in my power – THESE things are DONE, they’re in my past, and I did them. Not only that but you gave yourself permission to do them. The file is here to give yourself a pat on the back in a time of need – but it’ll help to see some thing in there about the team you lead as well.

This TEAM did these things, this TEAM brought this change, this TEAM lead the way to these successes.

After the moment of doubt has passed, close the folder, get some rest – tomorrow you race. Tomorrow is the big run – the main event. Once you’ve had your rest, get to work. Going into your rest on a happy note will help you be refreshed for your workday.

Pay it forward

The last concept I want to share about your personal development is this: when you’ve figured out some way to get work done, when you’ve figured out how something works, why something works – share it.

Teaching another person is one of the best ways to learn. You will gain a working knowledge on a subject though study, of course – but when you want to take that step toward becoming an expert – go teach it to someone else. You’ll never know the depth of knowledge and expertise of experience that you’ll gain in an area until you begin sharing it with others.  You’ll not only learn from them other tidbits that you didn’t encounter yet on your own, but you’ll be able to understand and describe the ins and outs of the process or the ideas so well, once you’ve begun explaining it to others.  You’ll learn not just the topic itself, but how to share the topic. This is your chance to change the world around you, the world around SageNet.

You’ll get a lot further down the road if you’ll think, not – how can I take home more money, not – how can I get these people to like me, not – how can I do this thing for me…but rather, “What can I do for others?” “What can I do for my team?”

Or maybe even, “Is this good for the company?”