How learning from others can impact you as a leader
Have you ever met someone that you knew would have a positive impact in your life, from the moment you met them? Someone with a story so powerful that it made you reflect on who you are and where you are going. A person you would like to spend hours talking to and become friends with. Hopefully you have, because it’s an amazing opportunity and experience. And it happened to me recently.
While attending the BIMFA 360 Leadership Conference, I had the pleasure of meeting Ernest Shackleton. His story is amazing, his impact immeasurable, his commitment to his people aspirational, and his legacy is one that will be told for years to come. Ernest is a courageous leader that lead his team through turbulent times and created an atmosphere of commitment and loyalty by putting the needs of his team first.
But here’s the issue, Ernest Shackleton died in 1922. I would have never met him or learned about his amazing journey and impact, had it not been for one of the guest speakers at the BIMFA 360 conference, Nancy Koehn. Nancy is a historian at Harvard University and powerful story teller. Her topic was “Forged in Crisis” — focused on how today’s leaders can learn important lessons from the journey of leaders in history, that lead their people through crisis and turbulent times.
Shackleton was an explorer from Ireland, who, after years of trying, did not accomplish any of his goals related to the exploration of Antarctica. But the lessons we learn from Shackleton are not from his accomplishments (or lack thereof) but from his journey and his leadership.
However, this column isn’t about Shackleton, it’s about my 3 key takeaways from his story and his leadership. It’s about showing you how to implement and employ strategies to lead your team and grow your business. It’s about today!
Takeaway #1: Hire for attitude, train for skill!
In an economy with the lowest unemployment rates in decades, filing your open positions with good people can be a challenge, especially when your focus is to hire for skills. Takeaway #1 from my buddy Shakleton is a strategy that allows for the new employee to come into the role and make an impact quickly. So many times, companies pass on great people because of a lack of “required” skills. The sad part about this is that you are likely passing up on some amazing talent with a great attitude and a desire to learn new skills.
What if you changed this strategy and hired for attitude and trained them to the skills you needed? What would the impact be on your organization? I believe you would develop a team of people working together in a positive environment, committed to the success of the organization with the attitude and skills to set you apart from your competition. Why? Because you invested in these hires, you trained them, you gave them an opportunity to learn new skills and become a valued member of you team — you made them better!
At the end of the day — we need new people in our industry. We need companies that are willing to step up and invest in the development of new employees. Because without that, you’ll keep hiring the skills you need but the people and the character you don’t.
Takeaway #2: Your ambiguous behavior is interpreted negatively!
Your team is watching you, even when you don’t realize it! Yes, that’s correct — they are watching you and your actions. They are looking for cues or signals of how you feel they are doing in their job — they are looking for positive reinforcement, encouragement, and even connection... with you! So, the next time you walk down the hall and don’t make eye contact, smile, or even acknowledge them — think of the impact you are having on your team. Is their negative reaction to you beneficial? Absolutely not. In this scenario, your impact on that employee is the exact opposite of what your company needs. You are their leader, and your ambiguous behavior will be interpreted negatively — and only you have the power to change it.
Takeaway #3: If you believe, they believe!
As a leader, you have the power and the ability to make your team believe in themselves — that they can accomplish anything, overcome obstacles, and complete complicated or difficult tasks. But for this to happen, you have to communicate with them; you have to tell them that you believe in them and remind them that they are capable. They need to know they have your confidence and support and that you are willing to do what it takes to help them get to the finish line. Empower your people by believing in them — speak it to them. Lead from a place of authenticity and encouragement. You’ll be amazed at the impact and the results you’ll see when your employees know you are rooting for their success — and they will succeed!
If you open your mind, you can experience the power of learning from people you’ve just met, whether they are with us today or not! So to Ernest, thank you for your journey and the lessons we can all learn from you and from the other powerful leaders in history.
Nancy, thank you for your investment in history and for introducing me to Ernest, and in turn, introducing all my readers, as well. You’ve introduced us to an amazing leader, and I really appreciate how you shared all of the things that can be learned from the past! It helps us all become better leaders and better people!
If you want to learn more about Ernest Shackleton, I would highly encourage you to get Nancy Koehn’s book, “Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times.” In addition to Shackleton, she also explains the lessons we can learn from Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
Be sure to join the conversation and share your thoughts on these leadership tips and the power of learning from history! Visit our blogs and let’s keep this conversation going. www.sidmeadows.com and www.embark-cct.com.