Growing up my parents taught me the concept of “birds of a feather.” Seems that people tend to think of you relative to the company you keep. Hang with kids that are constantly in trouble and you too will be tagged or labeled as a trouble-maker even if you weren’t involved in the trouble caused. Befriend the kids with the brains and before you know it you could be viewed as one of the class geeks. Right, wrong, or indifferent the truth is that birds of a feather do flock together. And if that’s the case it may be time to take inventory of those you choose to surround yourself with.
A couple of years ago I attended a high school commencement ceremony. The principal of the school gave one of the most eloquent speeches I have heard. Perhaps it’s my age, perhaps it’s the benefit of life experience, regardless, I was jolted by a comment he made at the end of his speech. He said, and I quote, “If you’re in a room, and you’re the smartest person in that room, then you’re in the wrong room.” What am amazing insightful comment. Think about it.
We all need to be encouraged every now and then. To feel challenged. To be pushed, prodded, and sometimes forced to do things we don’t want to do in order to develop and improve. And if you believe that improvement comes from working or practicing with others that are not as good as you but better than you’ve just validated the birds-of-a-feather belief. Sure you can learn things from people who are not as skilled as you or as experienced as you. I learn things everyday from my children that amaze me. But relative to improving your craft, your career, you need to work with others who KNOW MORE than you, have DONE MORE than you, and are currently DOING MORE than you in order to help you improve.
Building a valuable network is the most critical element of success for growing leaders. Of course you could say an individual’s ability to learn is more important that having a network, or integrity, or sense of humor, but those are innate characteristics, your network is an external element that is needed to compliment your innate skills and abilities. Some of the most well-known, effective leaders achieved their accomplishments with the assistance of others in their network. Think FDR and Churchill, or Reagan and Thatcher, or W. and Blair. If you’re a sports fan think Walsh and Montana, or Jackson and Jordan. No matter what the profession, the true professionals understand that they NEED to pull from many other sources to help improve their results. So do you.
I’ll be blogging later this week on best practices in developing a high-value, high-performing network.