Being a good leader means always pushing your own boundaries. I’ve found when you make a commitment to educate yourself in new ways, you discover more opportunities to be creative and innovate. If you’re looking to grow in your role as a leader, here are four steps I’d encourage you to take.
Make yourself uncomfortable
Right now I’m listening to an audiobook by Alex Banayan called “The Third Door”. It’s about his quest to learn how some of the most successful people in the world launched their careers, overcame the early challenges, and broke through the barriers. A phrase he shared was “in order to earn more you have to learn more.” In other words, we have to make ourselves uncomfortable, whether that’s tackling new topics or skills that are relevant to your career, or just introducing yourself to different groups of people with differing backgrounds, cultures or perspectives. We all get too comfortable interacting with the same people at work and in our social lives. Go to an event where you might be the least experienced or least knowledgeable person in the room and see how you can learn from the people there. By putting yourself into uncomfortable positions regularly, it gets easier over time.
Become a radical listener
Radical listening is a concept that was developed by Joe L. Kincheloe, a scholar of education at McGill University. It’s about listening without judgement and giving someone your full and undivided attention. I’ve had the privilege of getting to know former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who is someone I’d call a radical listener. When you’re engaged and speaking with him, you feel like you’re the only other person in the room. By listening intently, what you begin to hear is not just what someone is saying, but how they’re saying it. After hearing someone’s response to my question, I’ll often ask myself “Why did they answer that way? What do they actually want to talk about and what do they want me to hear?” If we truly listen to people, we stand to gain a lot of insight both by what is said and by what’s not being said.
“Eat the frog”
We’ve all been there. There’s something tough that you know you have to do, but you somehow keep kicking that can down the road and never get it done. It doesn’t get any easier and the outcome doesn’t get any better by kicking the can. In fact, it probably just brings down your mood and takes much of your concentration away from other tasks. Bad news isn’t like wine. it doesn’t age well, so tackle the problem, and thereby free up the headspace and the energy to become more productive doing all the other things you actually want to do. Mark Twain said, “If you eat a frog first thing in the morning, that will probably be the worst thing you do all day.”
Own your role
We all make mistakes. Sometimes they’re by commission (things that we did ourselves) and sometimes they’re by omission (things that we left undone). We all need to think about what our role is in letting these situations develop. The omission part can be more difficult to see and sometimes take responsibility for. If you see someone making a bad decision or wayward move, ask yourself, “Did I provide the appropriate guardrails for them to realize this was a bad decision?” If you don’t provide any guardrails or framework for people to work within and they do something you don’t agree with, it’s way too easy to blame that individual. Perhaps instead we should step back and practice some introspection about our role in that situation. Be quick to own your mistakes, and do it publicly if the situation allows.
Whether you’re a CEO or an intern, everyone has the opportunity to develop their leadership skills. These four tips will help you find different ways to challenge your beliefs and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Nobody has all the answers, but making a sincere commitment to growth will have a lasting impact on you and your entire team.
About the Author:
As Sparq’s Chief Executive Officer, Monty Hamilton leads the executive team and drives the company’s overall strategy. Sparq is a unique digital engineering company focused on helping its clients realize their digital transformation strategies and creating thousands of technology careers in places where they otherwise would not exist. Monty has helped grow the firm through two private equity investments to become the largest privately held digital engineering firm with colleagues across the US and Latin America. He is a sought-after speaker on the outsourcing and domestic sourcing topic and has recently been featured on CNBC, BBC, NPR radio and at various industry conferences including IAOP, Gartner, Digital Georgia and others. In addition, recent articles depicting Sparq’s innovative outsourcing model have appeared in Business Week, CNN Money magazine, CFO magazine and CIO magazine.
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