The picture at the top is Jessie. He is not with me anymore but spent 14 years as my best friend. He learned new tricks all his life. I will always miss him.
One of the best parts of my job is meeting fascinating people. The past two weeks I met three fascinating business leaders. The first two were young owners of a VERY impressive upstart company. The third was slightly older than myself, running a growing successful business. He is deeply involved in the community and politics. Beyond being very interesting people, these three gentleman are now added to my long list of teachers, even though they are unaware of it. I am 52 years old and learning is still one of my priorities in life. You can teach an old dog new tricks.
I wrote a previous Blog where I presented that there are no new ideas, simply combinations and repackaging of previous ideas. I propose new ideas at Ebsco constantly. They’re not my original ideas. They come from books and from meeting and listening and observing others. I may take a chapter from this book and add something I saw at another business, I will add in things I learned from other business leaders and finally, but most important throw in things I have learned from Ebsco team members. Many times it appears to be something original and never done before but it’s not. Yet for me it is a new trick.
The first gentleman I met is a retired Green Beret. Suffice it to say he had many interesting stories and was fascinating to listen to. I can’t say I learned many lessons I could apply to my life as jumping out of perfectly good airplanes and chasing the Taliban are not activities I think I will participate. But then he invited us to his business. WOW! They had the latest and greatest of manufacturing technology. A very impressive operation. They are our newest customer! They manufacture for civilian and government customers. He offered to help us get in position to do more government work. He offered to share ideas with us and become a business partner. What an opportunity! A customer helping us to expand our business. At their business, I met his partner, a young highly intelligent engineer. He was very cordial and also offered to allow us to learn from them.I was personally drawn to both gentleman and my tail is wagging a hundred miles an hour at the new tricks I am going to learn from my new teachers.
Last Thursday I was invited, with my boss Cheryl to meet an individual who is CEO of a large, small business just down the street. He is slightly older than myself and runs a very successful second generation family business. He invited us to simply share ideas and establish a relationship. He is extremely involved in the community, helping youth stay on the right track and promoting manufacturing. He invited us to join with him and others to address manufacturing’s concerns and be pro-active in the solutions. The boss and myself shared our interest in joining with him. He conveyed his commitment to share ideas with other companies and together become stronger. Excitedly, we accepted an invitation to come back and tour his facility. This gentleman had a true commitment to teaching and sharing. I look forward to getting to know him and his business better and join with him to address manufacturing concerns at large. The tail went into high gear.
Another event occurred last week that is totally unrelated to business but a keystone of learning. I was with an individual who was asked about their parents and how they raised and disciplined them as a child. They asked what was learned and used by them as a parent. They didn’t have a model childhood and their parents lacked in parenting skills. Their response is another key to learning. They said they took everything their parents did and did the opposite. From a bad experience they learned positive lessons. When I was in management with Walgreens. I had the opportunity to train and send on several emerging managers. At the end of my time with them I asked them to take two things from their experience with me. One thing I did that they would always try to do in their career and as important, one thing I did they would never do. If they did this with everyone they worked for they would emerge better than any of those who taught them. Learning form negative situations is as important than learning from positive situations. Observing behaviors that are wrong and never repeating them is one of the best teachers. The tail is doing circles and now the old dog starts panting with excitement.
Another of my teachers is the employees. For the last two weeks and since I began my life in management, is the employees I work with, I learn more from them than anyone else. Sometimes it is piratical work experience. Last week I operated the forklift for the first time since my training and certification. Bryan and Gary were there to offer assistance and support. I was in a close area and struggled but with their help accomplished the job. The team is always there to help me learn a new process or operation. They are great at what they do and I could think of no better teachers. Beyond practical applications they guide me through new ideas. They are honest and tell me when something will not work or help me refine an idea. They listen and offer their opinion of how it will “play” with the team. I highly value their input. Now the dog is wagging the tail at light speed, panting and doing circles.
Last and not least is my fellow management staff and our CEO Cheryl. I can talk openly and honestly with the other managers and they give me honest feedback, even when they know it’s not what I want to hear. They have saved me from several disasters before they started and I appreciate their open and honesty. Our CEO Cheryl is a great teacher. She allows us to make our own decisions. She will offer guidance but not step in and take control. She allows us to fail sometimes, The best teaching tool of all. She will listen and then present questions that lead us to the correct answer. She has saved me from some big mistakes and allowed me to make some small ones. Now the dog is spinning his tail, panting hard, doing circles and jumping up and down.
The dog is excited and happy. It’s obvious as he spins, jumps and barks. Yes you can teach an old dog new tricks. This old dog, with over 35 years management experience is proof. Life is about learning. You can never stop. Read, listen to others, observe and ask questions. This old dog is getting better and better.
Sorry I was unable to add the names and companies I visited. I did not want to do that without their permission. Maybe a future Blog.
Now if you will excuse me I need to go learn something new. WOOF!