As summer winds down, it is a great time to pause and reflect. I love these questions: What did I learn this summer? How do I want to use that learning going forward?
Having the opportunity to work in China, Chile and Argentina gave me new insights about how global leaders are developing themselves and their teams. I'm asking better questions of my coaching clients and myself because I broadened my perspective with these experiences. Some of the themes I observed were focused on the importance of well thought out succession and development plans for existing team members. I also saw a pattern: businesses that thrive have strong relationships with groups that feed them customers. Referral and word of mouth is vital for every global leader.
When I returned from China one, of my mentors asked me: What was the most significant thing you learned from being there? Without any prior thought about this, I blurted out, "I was stunned by the pollution and the impact of environmental issues on quality of life and health. It is hard to build a strong team when people are not healthy. We saw dead birds on the sidewalks and this has to impact people as they are walking to work. I had heard about this before I went, however seeing it first hand, being in it myself, had a stronger impact on me." His question enabled me to condense a week of experience into my key takeaway. We learn from our experiences and talking them out with others helps us reflect on the learning. I saw leaders doing this with their teams during our meetings as new questions were asked of the team.
While in Chile and Argentina, I had the opportunity to meet with many business leaders and their teams to explore how business is done in South America. I was there with brilliant MBA students from Lehigh University. From our discussions together it was clear to me there are opportunities everywhere for people and teams who have an entrepreneurial spirit. Growth opportunities are abundant no matter the differences in governments and countries; success is about the mindset of the individual and his or her desire to grow.
Closer to home, my 16-year-old son and I had the memorable experience of our first road trip together where he was the primary driver. I led him through the experience of learning how to drive! We did it step by step, confidently progressing from the school parking lot, to the side streets, and then to major highways. Then he did a great job driving us from Pennsylvania to Tennessee, then to North Carolina and through Washington DC. We enjoyed college tours and realized how the Marriott hotel chains look the same no matter where they are. We looked at schools and businesses comparing what worked and what did not work. And through conversations I taught my son to drive! Well, except for that little thing about how I do not know how to parallel park. So even though he can drive a major highway like 95 through Washington DC confidently, he can't park on the street! It’s interesting how the skill limitations of those who teach us can wind up stunting our own growth. Thankfully, my son refused to be hampered by my lack of know-how; he arranged to have a driving instructor teach him how to parallel park. His driving instructor will know how to craft a conversation that I have not yet learned myself because this is an area where I am stuck. Some time ago I let my fear stop me from learning how to parallel park-. But my son will seek out another driving mentor who will teach him to master street parking, and so he will excel as a driver where do not. I’m sure this is just one of the many ways he will grow beyond me over the years to come. That is what successful leaders do - they encourage their team members to grow beyond them in the areas where they themselves are stuck.
As summer winds down it is a great time to pause and reflect. Imagine me asking you these questions: What did you learn this summer? How do you want to use that learning going forward? Perhaps this will inspire you to have this conversation with yourself and then with someone else.