What a formula issue taught me about leadership

Several years ago while talking with an intern who was working on a project for me, I realized that she didn’t know how to use formulas in Microsoft Excel.  I’d been teaching myself through trial-and-error and reading the Excel Help section for years, so I developed an introductory class for all the interns in our department.  It was a huge hit! The effort on my part was minimal but the benefit to our team (both in greater productivity and morale) was huge.  That experience helped me realize how important it is for leaders to continually learn and then share that knowledge with our teams.

Like most leaders, you’re probably dealing with a full schedule and plenty of challenges to manage each day.  So why should you take time out for learning and teaching? Here are a few reasons:

1. Learning stimulates the brain, helps us develop problem-solving skills and encourages creativity.

2. People want to follow someone who will help them grow and who will lead them to places they couldn’t get to on their own. Demonstrate that you’re a leader who develops others, then watch your team’s morale and dedication increase.

3. If you’re not developing yourself, you have less to offer.  Taking time out to learn is not a selfish pursuit, especially when you use that information to develop others.

Thankfully, learning doesn’t have to be terribly expensive or time-consuming.  Here are some suggestions to get you started:

1. Read – Books, magazines, and blogs are easily accessible and the blogs are free.  Take your favorite e-reading device to work and read during lunch.  Use an RSS feed to follow several blogs all in one central location (on your phone and/or computer).

2. Listen – There are several excellent (and free!) podcasts available.  A few that I subscribe to include Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership Podcast, Michael Hyatt’s This is Your Life Podcast, The Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast, Catalyst Podcast, and the Perry Noble Leadership Podcast.  You can download these onto your phone and listen to them during your commute (Bonus: This is a great way to avoid getting frustrated with traffic!).

3. Attend conferences – Find a conference or two each year to attend and consider taking your team as well.  These are opportunities to get exposed to new information or ideas and meet new people in your field.

4. Join Professional Associations or Networking Groups – Find a group in your area where the members are in your field of interest (non-profit organizations, church leaders, etc.) and attend some of their meetings.  The productivity of these groups can vary, so it may take a few tries to find the right one.  Meeting with a group of leaders who share ideas, offer suggestions, provide contacts for resources, etc. are all potential benefits from this type of interaction.

5. Get a coach – Find someone who you admire and respect to be your leadership coach (and in turn, take the time to coach others).

Learning cannot stop when we walk across a stage and get our diplomas.   We must continually seek out knowledge, develop new skills, and then share that information with those we lead. Your team is depending on you to be at your best and to teach them along the way.  How are you developing yourself and how do you share that knowledge with your team?