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There’s Always Room For More

My mother died in 1991; I was 21 years old and, for all intents and purposes, I should have no longer needed my mother.

The problem was, I had been a schmuck of a kid, a wench as a teenager and an arrogant young adult. I offer those depressing nuggets to suggest to you that my mind was not open for her advice, her counsel and her upbringing. I realized when I turned about 20 that my mother had something valuable to add to my life but unfortunately, I only had a year or so to capitalize on it.

Thankfully, I did manage to learn something from my dear mother that has served me very well in my adult life, both personally and professionally, and I am happy to honor her by offering it to you now:

Never be satisfied with what you know; always seek to learn more.

This has served me well as a student, as a mom, as a friend, as a Human Resources professional, as a leader, and as a business owner. I’d like to think my mother’s words have helped me:
a) keep my mind open to learning, Mom_Budapest 1990
b) keep my heart open to seeing someone else’s perspective, and
c) keep my soul open to understanding the needs and desires of others.

Could you benefit from the advice of this 6ft. tall redhead from Oklahoma? 

As a professional, do you:

Continually seek to learn new things?

  • Do you catalog your competencies and deficiencies and make plans to develop needed skills?
  • Do you participate in training courses or events even though you attended something similar years and years ago?
  • Do you read the news and force yourself to think about or draw inferences on what this may mean to your organization or team?
  • Do you keep track of your competitors…how they are doing, what markets they are pursuing, what products or services they are adapting?
  • Do you engage with your customers to learn what they need, what they are satisfied with, what they are afraid of?
  • When was the last time you asked your staff how you were doing and what, if anything, you could learn to help make their jobs better, more productive, more efficient, etc.?

Consistently force yourself to see someone else’s perspective or otherwise try their shoes on for size?

  • Do you regularly solicit input, thoughts, or concerns from others and, if you do, do you ask them WHY or WHAT brought them to that conclusion?
  • Are you likely to invite someone to play the devil’s advocate?
  • Are you judgmental and, if so, have you ever considered why?
  • When was the last time you actually made a pro/con list before making a decision and, if you have done it recently, did you do so in a vacuum or did you invite others to help you with the list?
  • Do you intentionally invite a diverse group of individuals to the “think tank”?

Regularly listen or solicit intent, influence and emotion?

  • Are you satisfied with data and data alone?
  • Do you solicit the “background story” from the people providing you with information?  (Why do you think that?  What are you worried about?  What led you to that conclusion?  How does this situation make you feel…how might it make others feel?)
  • Have you ever encouraged open discussions about data, trends, etc. (Why do people believe the result was X? What could have happened to make the result Y? If the trend changes, what might this mean to us?)
  • Do you regularly ask your team if they have anything else to add to add to the discussion?
  • When was the last time you asked your team how they thought things were going?

I won’t lie to you – I don’t always do the right thing.

I find myself complacent with my own intellect. My “inside my head” voice will say, “I already know about that.” I’ll look back on yesterday and realize I failed to ask a single question before I made a decision. I’ll intentionally exclude those who are likely to disagree with me. Worse yet, I’ll catch myself passing immediate judgment on a training opportunity because I don’t believe I can learn anything from “the weirdo” presenting it.

EGADS!  My mother, were she still with me, would kick me right in the shins!

She’d say,

Heather, how dare you shut your mind down to learning! 

Never, ever be satisfied with what you know.

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