Born Grown Leader
You hear a lot today about having a fixed mindset versus having a growth mindset. I was fortunate enough early in my career to have worked for a company with a leader (or rather, leaders) who lived out the growth mindset. They believed that instead of leadership being a trait you were either born with or not, it was a skill that could be grown. As a result, they invested heavily in training and developing more leaders. By writing this, I am not trying to establish myself as a leadership expert. But rather, to share a few things I’ve learned over the years from personal experience and from the investments my employers have made in me.
Never stop learning
This applies to every area of your life. Have a voracious appetite for learning! Learning how to be a better you. Learning how to be a better leader, employee, wife, mom, husband, dad, brother, friend and the list goes on.
In your industry of choice, be a student of the business. Ask questions to learn. Set up informational interviews with people leaders across the business — not for the purpose of getting a job on their team, but rather to learn from them. You’d be surprised at what you can learn just by sitting with people who have years of knowledge and asking about their area of the business, what challenges they’re facing, what big projects they’re working on, etc.
Read industry articles and blogs. If you understand the challenges, opportunities and key levers of your business, you will be a better steward of your time and efforts. It will also help you to develop skills and champion initiatives that will be the most impactful.
Admit when you’re wrong — especially to yourself
Ouch. This one is hard. But the only way to learn from your mistakes is to recognize when you’ve made one. Spend time thinking about why it happened and how you could do things differently if faced with a similar situation again. Rather than beating yourself up for making a mistake, give yourself a break and make a conscious effort to acknowledge that you can experience significant growth by learning from your mistakes.
The same goes for your team. Create a safe environment where they can tell you when they’ve made a mistake without fear of losing their job or causing you to blow up. If they’re given the chance to learn from their mistakes, it’s likely they won’t make them again.
Listen to your customers
This means both internal and external customers. You need to know what matters to the people you’re serving. This could be your team, your peers, your boss — or it could be the customers who keep you in business.
And when I say listen, I mean really listen. Not just to the words they’re saying – but listen for what they mean. What’s the root cause? Don’t just think about the one example they’re giving you, but also what caused it to happen in the first place. What could be done to ease dissatisfaction? If you really listen to feedback and are open to what you’re hearing, not only will your customers end up more satisfied, but likely you will, too.
Serve your team and invest in them
All of these lessons are important, but on the topic of leadership, I think this is the most important. We spend a lot of time with the people at work. And as employers or leaders, we often ask a lot of our team: sometimes long hours, sometimes to work on a mundane task or sometimes to work with personalities that are challenging. You can probably think of many more things that either you’ve been challenged with or someone on your team has faced.
But you know what’s a great way to motivate your team? Let them know you really care about them and their future. And this cannot (and should not) be faked. People can see right through it and you’ll do more harm than good.
Get to know your team. Spend time understanding what’s important to them, what their career goals are and what makes them feel valued and motivated. Then, you’ll be much better equipped to be their champion. This could mean developing them for the next level in their career or helping them learn a new skill that improves performance in their current role. Each person — and therefore each need — is different.
Learning and growing never ends
I’m so grateful for the many amazing leaders I’ve worked with and for throughout my career. My hope is that I’m always able to learn what to do and what not to do from their actions as well as the things I’ve experienced on my own. I’m certain that I will continue to make mistakes, but by intentionally learning from them, I will be a better “me” every day. How about you?
Lori is Vice President, Customer Experience at ArcBest. She leads a team dedicated to meeting and exceeding customer expectations through consistent growth and innovation.