Lately, I’ve been focusing on how important it is for all of us to move forward along a path of consistent growth if we want ourselves and our organizations to continue to thrive. This is a critical need, personally and professionally, for employees at all levels.
No matter how long we live, none of us is ever finished learning. One of the greatest ways to ensure your own continual growth and learning is to open your world. This doesn’t necessarily mean international travel — although that’s one way to do it. It means expanding your mind and your life through new experiences that light a spark within you. If you are heading up a team, opening your world will make you a better leader. For those of you who are contributing at an individual level, opening your world will expand your knowledge base, setting you up for success as you move toward your goals.
When you stop learning and growing, you become stagnant. At no place is this more obvious than at work. We have all seen that person — or perhaps even have been that person — who is simply not engaged in the workplace. So how do you open yourself to growth?
Shadow someone from another department or team. It can be eye-opening to see the view from a different side of the organization. If you are in finance, learn more about marketing. If you are in marketing, hang out with someone in shipping. If you are in shipping, find out more about human resources.
Serve on a cross-functional team. This is a great way to learn how different departments can work together toward a goal.
Interview recent retirees and seek their counsel on current issues. This seldom-tapped resource can have tremendous value. Everyone can benefit from the wisdom and experience of those who have “been there and done that.”
Have lunch with someone different every day. Get to know someone with whom you have had only a passing acquaintance. Connecting with your peers will not only expand your network, it will also help you feel more engaged.
Attend open enrollment training events that will broaden your perspective. You will usually discover something you didn’t know about your organization through employee enrichment training.
As you move forward on the path of continuous growth, equally important to opening your world at work is opening your world in your personal life. A balance between interesting professional experiences and exciting personal life experiences is essential to keep growing.
Travel. Where you go is not important. Just go.
Do regular volunteer work. Again, the type of work you do is far less important than the act of serving others.
Start a new hobby. Choose something intriguing that you will need to study and learn about, which will compel growth.
Learn a foreign language. You never know when knowing a second language might come in handy. While you’re at it, learn as much as you can about the history and culture of the people who speak that language.
Spend time with interesting people. Listen to their stories about their own diverse experiences. Find out their opinions on current events — even if you disagree, there is a lot of growth in listening to another person’s perspective.
Read widely. Read a biography of someone whose life you know very little about. Sit down, finally, with that classic novel you have always wanted to finish. If you are already a voracious reader, choose a genre outside of your usual taste.
Create your own adventure. Try skydiving or white-water rafting. Take scuba diving lessons so you have an excuse to go to Belize. Expand your hiking skills and equipment, and try low-elevation mountain climbing.
Think of these new experiences as if they were different colors on a painter’s palette. The more experiences you have, whether at work or in your personal life, the more colors you have at your disposal and the more likely you are to create a masterpiece.
Ken Blanchard is a best-selling author, speaker and chief spiritual officer of The Ken Blanchard Companies. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.