I was leveraged into a position of leadership in 1962 upon graduation from the first of two graduate school experiences and after a 50-year career, here are a few lessons I learned along the way. The lifelong learning piece is further documented in my book, Seven Decades: A Learning Memoir (2013) a brief collection of watershed learning experiences that shaped and influenced me and my work.
- Keep learning alive – Commit to becoming a life-long learner and whether or not you are an early adopter, consider how the world has changed and you along with it. If you are not growing and changing you are falling behind because to stand still is to lose ground. You can participate in learning challenges whether through webinars and courses offered online or actual, real time group learning by topic, subject and issue. Find the fuel for your passion and exercise mind, body and spirit to stay on the growing edge
- 2 Step out of your comfort zone – Whether in learning something new, understanding and appreciating the opposing point of view, or becoming more facile with technology, just do it. Try an area outside of your expertise, something totally different from how you spend the majority of your time. If you’re an engineer, consider something in the social sciences and if you’re in the world of business, have a look at art and science, unless that is your business. Venture outside the confines of your profession.
- 4 Practicethis until it is ingrained in the fabric of every day. “Tell the truth, be kind and remember to say thank you.” It is a simple, straightforward reminder and a litmus test to determine if you are on or off course with regard to your moral compass. How you treat other people will help determine how they will respond to you. You get what you give and sometimes you receive even more than you offer. Courtesy is contagious.
- 6 Set realistic goals and empower others to help achieve them. Success is achieved when people share a common vision, a common purpose and common goals. There is strength in numbers and Margaret Mead had it right when she said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world, for it is the only thing that ever has.”
- 7 Attend to matters of your spirit, your soul, your psyche and make frequent deposits in your savings account. If you haven’t needed to draw on those inner resources in a significant way, you will. Because change is inevitable, and because there will be occasions of unwelcome and uncomfortable change, it’s best to be prepared with the mental, emotional and spiritual resources to deal with the change.
- 8 Consider each new day as a gift, to make of it what you will. Neither you nor anyone else has walked in this new day and made any tracks. The question is what kind of tracks would you like to make today? How do you want to interact with others? What will you say and what will you do to make a difference in their work or their lives?
- 9 Design and plan the change you want. A clear and detailed action plan provides a strong foundation for moving forward. A plan can be adapted to changing needs and desires and very often the results are no better than the plan that helped achieve them. If you are not satisfied with an outcome, go back and look at where you might have gotten off track and recalibrate. Pay attention to active verbs such as create, collaborate and communicate.
- 10 Take care of yourself often so you are better able to care for others. Give yourself time to reflect on what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and recharge your energy, commitment and resolve. Rest, breathe and learn from nature by getting closer to those seasons of growth and renewal. One word that sums it up well, recreate!