When you begin a career or a relationship, you begin as a student. You have a manager or a mentor who teaches you the ropes. You discover who they are. You ask questions, study books and learn as much as you can about the field you have chosen. You make mistakes, learn from them and move on to the next lesson. And time goes by.
You get more opportunity. Becoming more experienced and more knowledgeable, you rise through the ranks. And years go by.
One day, you turn around and find that you have become the teacher… the mentor. People ask you questions. They learn and you lead.
And leadership can be lonely. There’s not a lot of positive feedback. Sometimes, it feels like you give more than you receive, and you are still grateful to do it. Perhaps you feel unappreciated or bored. You love your opportunity, but yearn for something more. You’ve stopped asking all the questions, because you know most of the answers about your business. So you begin to search for new questions to ask, new lessons to learn and new places to grow.
I’ve spent a long time learning what I know. I run my piece of the business, and at times, it seems quite easy. I’ve felt restless. I’ve been searching. At times, I’ve felt unappreciated or undervalued. (Don’t we all sometimes?) I still ask questions, but not as often as I did before. And yesterday, I was reminded how valuable – no, how critical – it is to always remain a student, not only of your business but also of your life.
Positive change is coming for our Company. Yesterday, I began to share it. I reached out to each of my team members to discuss the change, the implications and the opportunities. The focus of each call was to talk about what this meant for them. I learned what it meant for me.
I thought I knew who I was and what I did. I thought I understood my relationship with each of them. But we only see ourselves through our own eyes. You don’t know who you are in someone else’s eyes until you ask. Frankly, I didn’t really ask as I made each call. That wasn’t on my agenda. I “knew” my answers, until my students schooled me yet again. And as I spoke with each of them and learned who they believe I am, I was floored, humbled and deeply moved.
I’ve been feeling unseen, unappreciated for a while. But that wasn’t the truth. It was what I saw in the mirror – a one way dialogue with myself. My team… my friends… reminded me that communication is a two way street. If you want to know how people feel about you, then ask. If you want to know what you’ve taught them, ask. If you want to know what you mean to them, ask. And if you want to find out what you still have to learn from them, just ask.
There was a hole in my heart, and my team filled it.
There was a question in my mind, and my team answered it… and more.
They created new questions for me, and taught me that I still have a lot to learn.
I am grateful.