Every leader needs to be able to grow, learn, and adapt on ever changing world. If you are in leadership position you need to expect the unexpected, and you need to understand how to work with various types of people. If you work in multinational environment you need to understand different cultures and customs and if you want to grow your business, be innovative and creative you need many different perspectives. There are many ways how to achieve the state of complete openness, the state of eternal learning and enjoy it. The technique that works like a charm for me personally is something you would call “going out and trying something new”.
The same old stuff
Office, home, office, home, weekend in the countryside and back to office. It might be a nice life but it gives you very little to think about, it gives you very few opportunities to see life in other perspectives and it gives you a little chance to prepare for a change. If your office and your home are your whole world you are robbing yourself of the opportunity to see and meet the rest of the universe. It keeps you within your comfort zone and makes you less able to cope with change. And ultimately it robs your team of opportunity to grow as you are not in a position to open their eyes if yours are closed.
Travelling the world
The easiest way how to expand your horizons is travel. And I mean real travel, not going to the city in the neighborhood or to a beach in the same country. In my mind real travel means going somewhere really different, see something you have never seen before, talk to people who are just very different from you and see how they live and hear what they believe in. I’m from central Europe so when I decide to travel to learn I go to places like South/Central America, Africa or Asia. I try to go to countries that have a very different culture from my own. I travel and I watch and I listen. I don’t judge, I don’t dismiss other peoples points of view or customs. I take it as I see it and try to understand. There were couple of trips to South East Asia and East Africa that really changed my perspective on life and I believe made me a better leader.
Meeting new people
Get out of office and meet new people. And I don’t mean at a bar (though even that may work sometimes). There are many activities that allows you to meet people with different backgrounds and perspectives both from and outside of your industry. You can join a sport club, professional association, or some other free-time club.
Trying new things
Make a habit of regularly trying new things. These might be small one time activities or more long-term learning opportunities. Since we were talking about travelling that is a great way how to try new stuff, not just see it. For example, when I went to Indonesia I really wanted to try to clean up a bit of jungle with a machete in my own hands to understand what it takes. When I went Tanzania I really wanted to climb that volcano at night just to test what I can endure. When I went to Australia I really wanted to learn scuba diving to see what is hidden below the surface of the ocean. I did all these things to get new experiences and to live.
Aside of these short one time activities I come up every year with a new hobby that requires some focused effort and that should ultimately help me to become better at my job. When I look at the last couple of years I always had one major learning hobby. I joined Toastmasters International in 2013 and actively participated in building one club, a year before that I decided to start writing a blog and eventually a book, a year before that I took couple of training courses in coaching and since then occasionally coach clients on business and career topics, a year before that I enrolled for law courses at university with the idea to study for a year and cherry pick the topics I find useful.
So next time you feel like being in the rut, go out and try something new…
What is your recipe for keeping open mind and understanding others? What was the out of office experience that helped your leadership skills the most?