Who you spend time with, what you read, and who you speak to before making key decisions all contribute to your personal database — your knowledge base. Of course, there are many more factors that go into building your breadth of knowledge. Your professional work experiences, your education, and the ‘norms’ associated with where you came from, all influence what you know. So, why is any of this important?
As the leader of your business, you’re called upon to be the chief problem solver, the coach, the cheerleader, and the person who can anticipate the next set of challenges and opportunities. How well you do in these various roles can be magnified by what you know.
Leverage Your Network
Speaking to an owner of a business, I’ll say, “I’d like to know half of the people that you’ve forgotten about.” That’s meant to complement their network of friends, customers, employees, suppliers, and the various business relationships that they have amassed over the years. The good news is that they have accumulated a vast array of contacts. The bad news is that it’s hard to keep these relationships active.
A tactic a friend of mine shared a few years ago, was helpful in keeping connections active. He’d go through his contacts and select 10 people each month that he hadn’t spoken with in quite some time. He’d send a handwritten note on personalized stationery to each of the 10, wishing them well and hoping that they could re-connect soon. It was just a brief note — nothing spectacular. Once the cycle started, it seemed like each week someone was reaching out to him to connect and catch up.
This was his way of leveraging his network and continuing to learn new things. Try it and see if it works for you. If you don’t have a physical address, send an email, or a text, or maybe just pick up the phone. Ten people each month, try it.
Become a Lifelong Learner
You never really stop learning, it’s just whether learning is intentional or accidental. As a leader of any business, you no doubt have many priorities tugging at your sleeve. You probably don’t spend much time thinking, “I wonder what I can do next.” Making the time to learn on purpose requires a disciplined approach. It’s no different than setting your goals, or as Stephen Covey says, “begin with the end in mind.”
Create a goal to spend a percentage of your time learning something new. Determine how much time will you commit to it, schedule it, and add it to your calendar. If you schedule it during the workday, let your team know that you won’t be available during that time. Some folks prefer to set aside time in the evening or early on a weekend morning. Do what works best for you but decide and commit to it.
Learn It to Teach It
When you are learning something new, it can sometimes be a challenge to stay focused and not be consumed with your hectic schedule looming in the background. One approach that could be used is to learn something so that you could teach it to someone else. This isn’t a new concept and has been around forever. It’s amazing how your attention and note taking skills change, knowing that this is the goal. No one likes to muddle through something, so of course you’ll want to be on your game when sharing these new ideas with someone.
Use this skill in your 1:1 meeting with your direct reports. The more you’ll be teaching, and coaching folks on new skills, the better you’ll understand and retain the information as well.
As the leader of your business, you’re called upon to be the one who can see around corners. It’s a huge responsibility. It’s also a great opportunity for personal and professional development. Leverage your network, learn on purpose, and help develop the skills of those around you.
Any thoughts on this? If you are already doing this, let us know how it’s going. If you want to get started down this path, let me know. Good luck.
Mike Philie can help validate what’s working and what may need to change in your business. Changing the trajectory of a business is difficult to do while simultaneously operating the core competencies. Mike provides strategy and insight to owners and CEOs in the Graphic Communications Industry by providing direct and realistic assessments, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach. Learn more at www.philiegroup.com, LinkedIn or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in Printing Impressions