Seek more than advice.
I once needed advice on a new business that I had started. At the time, I thought I was only looking for a sounding board. I didn’t really want to admit that I could use some help. Nevertheless, I asked someone I trusted who had the character, competence, and chemistry to give me one hour over a cup of coffee. My expectation was for him to listen to my plan and tell me what to do and what not to do.
That was it!
I am very lucky he had different expectations. Our one hour meeting turned into a year of hour-long meetings every couple weeks. He helped me understand the unconscious tendencies that impeded my leadership. Here are three examples:
- If I’m not careful, my leadership style runs the risk of creating a culture of entitlement. Taking care of people is natural to me, but I have to work to make sure I also bring the appropriate degree of challenge to others around me.
- I have a tendency to ignore quirks in others that annoy me. Ignoring these behaviors means they tend to repeat themselves until I become contentious. This compromises the development in others and risks relationship.
- I could not stand (ok still can’t stand) the guardian voice that picks apart my ideas. However, that is the exact voice that builds the systems and structure to see a plan to completion.
The point is, I had many unconscious tendencies that impeded my growth. By the way, we all do. I’m just lucky that the voice I found went deeper than strategy and didn’t care if it hurt my pride.
Everyone needs a guide. Don’t look for someone who validates you. Look for someone who challenges you. Discuss more than just business details. Trash your pride and admit your weakness.
Ask him or her what it’s like to be on the other side of you. This is the question all of our leaders in the Executive CORE are forced to ask early on because until you know the answer, you will not know where to start growing as a leader.