If you are a regular reader of my blogs, you’ll know that I’m highlighting the four major areas where great leaders need to grow continuously, taken from my new book with Mark Miller called Great Leaders Grow. I’ve already covered the first two parts of our GROW model—Gain Knowledge and Reach Out to Others.
The third aspect of growth we’re going to focus on is to Open Your World. It’s so easy to get into a rut, both in our work life and our home life, and just stay there. One of the greatest ways to ensure your own continual growth is to expand your mind and your life through new experiences—both at work and outside of work—that light a spark within you. Mark Miller likes to use the analogy of an artist with a palette. When an artist puts paint on the palette, he can then use that paint to create a masterpiece. As we open our world, we’re putting different colors of paint on our palette. We won’t be able to use all the colors immediately, but they are now at our disposal because we’ve had that experience or we’ve established that relationship.
What are some ways for you to open your world—and open yourself to growth—at work?
- I love the idea of having lunch with different people periodically. I have lunch with different groups or departments at our company every so often. I’m always surprised at how learning a few new things about someone can give me a whole new perspective on that person. And then I have a better connection with that person. Try it!
- Take advantage of the opportunity to lead any kind of group at work you can, whether it’s a cross-functional team working on a new company initiative or a weekly book club. Any time you lead, you learn more about being a leader.
- Shadow someone from another department or team. If you are in Finance, learn more about Marketing. If you are in Marketing, spend an hour with a person in Shipping. If you are in Shipping, hang out with someone from Human Resources. It can be eye-opening to see the view from a different side of the organization.
It’s just as important to open your world outside the workplace. A balance between interesting professional work experiences and exciting personal life experiences is essential if you are going to keep growing. This still counts as paint on your palette, because all of these experiences impact you and fuel your point of view. Here are some ideas to open your world outside work:
- Take a class at a local community college. Learn a new language or become proficient with a new type of computer software—this will add something to your resume that wasn’t there last year.
- Volunteer at church, a local Boys and Girls Club, or an animal shelter. Volunteering not only expands your mind, it can make your problems seem less important.
- Travel. It doesn’t matter where you go. Whether you take a day trip to a nearby town or plan a three-week European vacation, growth and learning can happen anywhere.
- Expose yourself to the arts. Get out of your comfort zone if you have to. Listen to a classical music CD, attend a local play, go to an art museum, or take guitar lessons.
Remember, leaders are learners. Every time you open your world, you grow a little. Whether it be meeting with a new colleague, helping at a food bank, organizing the company picnic, or whitewater rafting with friends—you’ll be a more well-rounded person, a more interesting conversationalist, a more critical thinker, and a more confident leader. Take advantage of every opportunity to open your world and you will continue to grow as a leader for life.