Learn to Observe and Grow

growing plate

People are impressionable.  Every day we see things, notice things, observe the actions of others and take mental photographs or notes on what happens around us. Some of it is immediately processed, some of it takes time and is quietly digested into our unconscious minds.  You watch a stranger sip a cup of coffee in an odd manner, and it sticks with you.  Someone treats another employee in a way that ruffles your moral compass, and you begin to look at both in a different light.

We forget that these instances occur from the early ages of elementary school or high school. A teacher observes that a student is having a difficult time with one particular topic or situation, and they are gifted enough to help that student make adjustments necessary to help them feel successful. It is truly amazing to watch. I watched the other day, as my son was having a great music lesson. He was working out his difficult areas, proudly demonstrating his hard work on the pieces he really enjoyed.  Then came the one he didn’t and it showed. Our teacher recognized it with a fluidity that you wish all managers possessed. She spoke to him about finding another new piece that he would select himself, and take further ownership of.  He may not realize it yet, but she knew the right buttons to press in order to keep him moving forward, progressing in his lessons, and keeping him interested. He’ll learn to work on the pieces he doesn’t enjoy as much by learning to work on the difficult areas of the pieces he likes.

Most people don’t realize how good of a manager they have until either the manager has moved on, or they’ve chosen to move on to another position (either by their choice or someone else’s).  Employees tend to ‘blame’ or put the accountability on the company or manager for not doing enough for them (most people relate this to a category of employees who feel “entitled”).

What’s the answer for this? Think back to what the teacher above was trying to accomplish. She was trying to instill a sense of ownership - to help him learn that he needs to find opportunities to keep himself motivated.  At his age, it probably doesn’t sink in, but in the long run, it’s one of those messages that we absorb, and process later (unconsciously).  Here are a couple of suggested tips to help you learn from observing.

  1. When you see a teaching moment occurring (where a manager is trying to provide knowledge/experience), think and process from a positive perspective. Think about, “what are they trying to teach me and what can I take ownership of?”  Great managers have a way of having a reason for doing things a certain way, in a certain time frame.  Trust that there’s a rhyme and reason to you doing something THIS way or THAT.
  2. Stop being defensive. We see a lot of people who don’t like to take direction. (No, it’s not an age thing.).  Some people are overconfident that they can learn anything, and do things better than anyone else.  Other people just don’t seem to want to take the initiative to apply the lessons.  They approach these situations defensively and think that they’re getting disciplined or treated unfairly (compared to others).  Just because you have good (or a lot of) experience doesn’t mean that we do things the same way.
  3. Look for areas of improvement in yourself.   Ask for a set of expectations built around what levels of competency you should have within a certain time frame. This will help you recognize what you need to learn, and how quickly.  If you’re behind, you’ll know it quickly.

The key point in all of this is that you can either play the blame game, or you can be accountable to yourself.  It’s easy to blame someone else or some situation or factor, but at the end of the day, it won’t change the fact that a negative result has occurred. The flip side of this is taking ownership and initiative to learn and do more. The best analogy I can give you is to think of yourself like a battery. Either you’re doing things to keep yourself recharged with new and better ways to contribute, or you’re letting your energy drain away to the point that eventually your battery has no more juice.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t tend to keep drained batteries.  I replace them with new ones. Wouldn’t you?

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