Learn from your peers

In today’s world, a strong knowledge base plays a key role in professional success – and, in many cases, just plain survival. In business, a leader must always remain committed to learning. There is no easier way to learn and strengthen your knowledge base than to engage intentionally with your peers.

Take a step back and try to quantify the amount of information your brain has absorbed since you began your career. Imagine all of the mistakes made, lessons learned, and relationships formed. Now, look around and remind yourself that each of your peers has a brain full of knowledge, too. They, like you, have accumulated tremendous wisdom over the course of their lives! Some of that information will match what you already know, but much of it will not. I say: let’s put it all in one pot and stir it up. Sharing what we know, and maintaining an open mind to the learnings of others, is a sure-fire way to grow and remain sharp as a leader.

Have I convinced you? Consider this three-point challenge to learning from your peers:

  1. Networking inside your organization

If you are having lunch with same people every day, you are shutting yourself off to new knowledge bases. Make it a goal to have lunch with someone different at least two days every week. I promise you will discuss topics you’ve never considered. Plus, the new information you pick up in conversation will make you a more interesting person overall!

Of course, the lunch example is just one path to consider. There are countless other opportunities to associate with those who are not typically a part of your normal work pattern. Make it a point to seek out those individuals you see the least in your regular comings-and-goings. Remember, the learning will likely go both ways.

  1. Networking in the community

We all hear and read about accomplishments made by others in the community; why not take advantage of that information? Don’t be shy — make a cold call to a person you would like to meet. Tell that person that you would be honored to learn how they accomplished such-and-such. In my experience, the person on the receiving end of that note will feel honored that you’ve singled them out, and may be willing to share some of their time with you.

I suggest a goal of at least one cold call per month. Before you know it, you will have accumulated a raft of new friends and, most importantly, plenty of new learnings.

  1. Attending professional events

Industry conferences are a fantastic way to learn from your peers. Though you may all represent the same industry, you likely hail from different companies and different parts of the country.

Recently, I had the honor of speaking to an association of about 700 business school deans from across the globe. The professionals in attendance spent the better part of three days in large and small groups learning all about the world of business education. With dozens of sessions to choose from throughout the convening, everyone had the opportunity to share and learn from others – both those presenting on stage and those sitting beside them at breakfast.

Even the most respected and accomplished leaders should consider themselves a work-in-progress. There is always more professional and personal learning to do; and in my opinion, reaching out to peers is the easiest way to expand your base of knowledge. Take my three-point challenge and see for yourself.

published Nashville Business Journal

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