For the first time in six years I missed a blog post last week. I was traveling to do a job and I simply forgot. By the time I remembered I was already delivering and had no opportunity to write anything, so I let it go.
I was delivering a two day session on teamwork and leadership for a well established leadership team in a business. The team has largely been intact for 20 years, a pretty remarkable achievement, and were in a moment of confusion about how to deal with a very challenging profit target that they had been given. At the beginning of the session several key members of the team were demotivated by the target and believed it to be impossible.
After two days we had managed to shift the dynamic, put the target into a bigger context, with a positive, authentic and inspiring vision and a mission for growth, which included the target, in order to deliver on the vision.
The target, that was set from outside the team, was a profit of $55 million for the next financial year. Although the team had been successfully growing the business over previous years the changing economic climate meant that their projections showed a reduction in profit from $45 million last year to $35 million next year. The $20 million gap looked unbridgeable.
We used the session to articulate the vision and to examine their ways of working and their opportunities. By the end of the session there was palpable excitement about how the team could succeed. If the team hits their target next year that will be a $20 million difference as a result of that shift. Clearly there are many, many things at play here and it is entirely impossible to credit two days of training with all of the potential upside. On the other hand the training will clearly contribute to the teams success and not just next year but for years to come.
Shifting our perception and enhancing our capabilities creates the potential for enormous value. What learning opportunity is available to you or your team that could help you succeed?
My own example of this is that finally, after four years of living in Spain, I have committed to learning Spanish. The way it came about was that I asked a client of mine if there was any chance they would let me loose on Spanish teams if I learnt Spanish. I expected my client to say “maybe”, but what she actually said was “how about November?”. There is nothing as motivating as a deadline, so now I am doing my best to learn Spanish.
The neural pathways for learning a new language, especially the ones associated with conjugating verbs in multiple tenses, have had little or no use in my brain for around 45 years. I find it hard to file the new information I am given in a place where I can also retrieve it – at all, let alone at the speed of conversation. But, I am making progress.
The point is that once I have made the investment, it will continue to pay dividends for the rest of my life, not just in work, but socially and in ease of managing life in Spain too.
There are few personal investments that we can make that offer anything like the return of learning. Learning something valuable will continue to reward us for the rest of our lives, whether it is something practically, commercially or spiritually rewarding.
What could you learn that would be rewarding for the rest of your life?
If you put the decision entirely economically you might look at the cost of the training (plus your own time) and then compare that to the increased income or reduced costs or risk associated with it. In my case it will probably cost , me about £1000 to learn Spanish in total (I am a slow learner), plus the time. On the positive side I have six days work already booked this year and more to come in the future as well as the other non commercial benefits.
What are you investing your time and money in, that offers such potential returns?
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