My dad is a big believer in the value of leadership development and executive coaching. He, like a lot of folks, took the stuff he learned during coaching home (my brother and I may or may not have been as enthusiastic about this spillover as he was….). A lot of things he learned stuck, but one thing… one question, actually… really stuck with him:
Tell me what you learned.
Return from a trip. Tell me what you learned. Dealt with a colleague’s dishonesty. Tell me what you learned. Finished pouring my coffee at 5:30am with my eyes still closed. Tell me what you learned. What else did you learn? Any thing else? What else? What are the three most important things you learned?
He was relentless in his interrogations. You can imagine in gets old quick when your 13… even quicker when you’re 17. Especially at 4:45am.
It’s one of the best things he ever did for me. Like a damn Pavlovian dog, I immediately try to answer that question even following fairly mundane experiences. And I keep trying to answer that question about the same experience after more time has passes because time has a way of bringing new perspective. Obviously, this was his plan all along.
We expect that our experiences (sans interrogation) will grant us wisdom. For the most part, that’s bull. We don’t grow and develop through osmosis. We have to be proactive about it.
So, here’s your leadership development tip of the day:
Ask yourself what you learned from situations and conversations, especially when they’re uncomfortable or incredible. And ask it often. Then keep asking it. Sometimes the answer will make your feel like a badass, sometimes it will make you feel like a doofus (yes, I whipped out “doofus”). If you never feel like a doofus, you’re doing it wrong. Or a narcissist.
But wait, there’s more free advice!
Don’t ask someone else that question at 4:45am and their eyes are still closed. They will glare at you. (Who do you think got me that coffee cup? 😉 )