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  • Writer's pictureKeri Schwebius

Grow as a Leader

My father often says, if you’re not growing, you’re dying. He’s a small business owner and when he says this, he’s referring to the work it takes to stay relevant in whichever industry you’re operating. From my perspective, this statement can also be applied to leadership.

Our world is changing every day. Our employees are growing and learning. New employees with different experiences and perspectives are joining our workforce. Our customers are changing, their needs and expectations are evolving. The technology we use to help our employees serve our customers is transforming. Change is persistent, happening concurrently in many areas of our work and lives, and accelerating.

As leaders, if we are not working to keep up with all this change, we will no longer be effective as leaders. This takes work and here are some things to consider as you work on leadership.

Get better at listening. I recently observed a meeting where two executives wanted to hear from a small group of employees. They had good intentions. They knew the team was under pressure and wanted to make sure everyone was doing okay. However, they did not give the employees the space to talk. When one executive stopped talking, the other would start. Even when the team could get a word in, one of the executives would quickly jump in with a response. A week later, one of the employees, feeling the pressure of the workload, walked away from work in a fit of frustration. The irony is that these well-intentioned executives believe they are effective listeners. If you want to be an effective leader, you must learn how to listen. That means, you need to get comfortable with the discomfort of silence. Listen to your employees and your customers so you have a better understanding of what they want and need. When you are learning from them, you are better able to serve them.

Give yourself the gift of time. As leaders, we have a lot on our plates—talk to the employees, manage the budget, strategize for the future, meet deadlines and meetings, meetings, meetings. Then go home and deal with everything else going on in your life. It’s when we get caught up in all the work coming at us that we don’t take the time to consider if we’re really focused on the right things. Many times, we’re so busy being reactive that we don’t make the time to be reflective and proactive. Give yourself some space in your calendar for reflection and learning. It’s just as important to invest in yourself as it is to invest in your work and your team. Make yourself a priority.

Many hands make light work. You will never be able to keep pace with all the changes, which is why you must surround yourself with others and trust them to do their jobs. It is not your job to know everything but rather to leverage the knowledge and experience of others. When you do this, you have the added benefit of empowering your team and making them feel like they’re making a valuable contribution. Added bonus, you’ve just given yourself more time.

Stay Curious. Just when you think you have it all figured out, things change. Assume there’s something new to be learned from any situation. Now, take two minutes and consider this:

Which of these things do I do really well?

Which of these things could I be doing better?

What is one small thing I can do today to grow as a leader?

Guess what? You just took a few minutes to grow as a leader. Give yourself a pat on the back.

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