“Each of us are the Chief Executives of our learning.” – Dr. Terrence Roberts
For each of us, the process and opportunities to advance come with some form of a requisite series of achievements. These can be accomplishing advanced college degrees, new certifications, developing and completing complex projects—and more.
The challenge of course is building a set of skills and experiences that widen our perspective and our viability within an organization, and an industry. To do that, we must seek both the formal methods of learning through our accomplishments, and we must find an equally powerful and personally developing strategy to enhance our networking resources.
It is in this arena I wish to focus upon here.
Consider any setting in which you know that you will be seated next to someone for anywhere from 1 to maybe 4 hours. While the particular environment does not necessarily require a dialog to occur between you and this other individual, clearly the limits of the all-too-brief social exchanges that typically take place make for a very long one to four hours.
So, let’s focus on a particularly common such setting for many of us: Air travel. It is neither a phenomenon nor a coincidence that passengers board a plane, arrive to their seats, glance and smile at one another and then spend the remainder of that trip saying almost nothing to one another. What else could be happening?
Well, in my own case, whether it be a flight from Los Angeles to Sacramento or a trek from Ontario to the East Coast, I have found the opportunity meet and have a genuinely interesting learning experience from my next-seat neighbor to be most often very enjoyable and rewarding. The effort is not in ‘trying to find something to talk about’, the opportunity is in learning something from someone new—and maybe even gaining a new ally for the future.
To accomplish this, it is important to understand the powerful reminder at the top of this article provided by Dr. Terrence “Terry” Roberts. Dr. Roberts and I met just a few years ago at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, where he was an established faculty member and I was a newly arriving facilitator. Dr. Roberts offered his personal account of courage and his experiences as a young high school student in Little Rock, Arkansas, where young “Terry” was one of the “Little Rock Nine” in 1957.
Dr. Roberts shared that his experiences underscored for him the enormous responsibility each person has to—as he so succinctly puts it—take and remain in charge of their learning and development. For Dr. Roberts, this was intensified in that year of 1957 as he and his fellow classmates arrived at Little Rock’s Central High School. But his learning, and his deep understanding of why he needed to manage that learning, continued to allow him successive opportunities to succeed academically and socially as he grew older. Dr. Roberts was able to successfully bring these many experiences together to create something much more tangible than a picture of his development—he had soon begun a mosaic that allowed the textures and tones and contrasts of sharp and smooth periods of his upbringing and social maturation.
For each of us as professionals, we owe it to ourselves—if we are truly committed to serving as the best chief executive of our own learning—to engage fully with those we meet and have a privilege to enjoy an extended period of time to share valuable elements of our lives. As we all know, our learning comes not from what we do, but from our time reflecting upon what we’ve done. It is equally clear that the treasures we can gain in ideas, perspectives, concepts and feelings on professional, industrial, social and personal components of the lives we all share should never be allowed to easily drift away from us.
In the process of leadership development, it is essential for us to offer and freely contribute as often as possible a portion of ourselves. And in turn, when we are offered treasures from the serendipitous meeting of a new acquaintance, we should appreciate and utilize this opportunity and new learning at the highest level: By sharing it in the future to those we have the privilege to lead and support.
This article was originally published at http://www.careersingovernment.com