Our one constant is change. If you were on the top of the heap five years ago, where are you today? If you haven’t learned how to embrace change, you are now at least 50% irrelevant. The truth is, the half-life for most tactical business knowledge is five years or less.
Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine…
Green & Growing
If you are not continually learning, reinventing your skills, and refreshing your processes, then you are rapidly becoming irrelevant. The problem is that change is accelerating at an accelerating pace.
It is happening everywhere, all the time. It is happening to you, and it is happening to everyone on your staff.
The problem is now so huge that even universities struggle to keep their curriculum up to date. There is tremendous pressure on knowledge workers everywhere because of the tremendous pace of change.
So what do you do as a business leader to keep up with the frenetic rate of change?
One of Three
There are at least three major initiatives businesses must undertake to manage this level of change. Today, I will address only one, but it is fundamental.
A competent leader today must do this:
Create a culture that promotes continual personal growth.
It sounds so simple, but I can count on one hand the number of businesses I have visited that pull it off effectively, and I have visited hundreds of businesses.
Story of Success
One business that promotes personal growth well is Menlo Innovations in Ann Arbor, Michigan
On a recent visit to Menlo, I was talking with managing partner James Goebel about some of the familiar book titles I saw in their business library. It is hard to miss the library because it is prominently displayed near the front entrance and everyone entering and leaving the office passes by it.
“You wouldn’t believe how many of our visitors are amazed by our library,” James remarked.
“It is as if they are stunned by the idea that we freely distribute books.”
The library is not actually visually impressive. It sits on white plastic shelves and contains less than five hundred titles. It is not the physical presence of the books that impacts visitors, it is the message of the library as a whole.
The message is simple:
- Knowledge is important
- Reading is important
- Learning is important
- And if you are going to work here, you are expected to read
Menlo Innovations is well-known for implementing a software development process named Extreme Programming, whose core slogan is “Embrace Change.” Menlo incorporates a whole series of practices to embrace change.
The one practice for leaders to emulate is their library. This provides the fuel for personal and professional growth.
4 Steps to Embrace Change
If you want the formula to create positive effective change, then ask yourself this simple question:
Do you want to embrace change and create a culture that promotes continual personal growth?
If so, then begin with these simple steps:
Step 1: Build a Business Library
Purchase some bookshelves and place them in a prominent location.
Fill the shelves with books that are important for your industry. Fill it with books you would be delighted for your employees to read. If you don’t know what these titles should be, start asking other leaders you respect. They will likely name two or three books off the top of their heads.
Step 2: Talk Publicly about Important Books
The best leaders lead by example.
Speak publicly with employees, contractors, and customers about books that are important to you. Read yourself. Develop a passion for the books that are important to your industry.
A great way to communicate that a book is especially important is to have multiple copies in your library. Form discussions groups to talk about important books over lunch. Read and discuss one chapter at a time, one week at a time. Make it an office event by ordering FREE PIZZA.
Pizza is perpetually underestimated in its mystical power to create a culture of reading, learning, and sharing.
Step 3: Freely Lend
Resist your natural urges to lock the books away, check them out, and track them.
Employee training is very expensive. Books cost about $25 each and are an amazing bargain if your employees actually read them. Freely lend the books. A simple rule: Everyone (employees, contractors, even customers) can simply take a book at any time. The books are not locked up or tracked. You may take a book home and keep it as long as you like, even forever! If you want another book, bring the first one back.
Step 4: Celebrate When Books Disappear
Disappearing books means people are reading them.
If you spend $100 per employee per year restocking books, you a have the most amazingly efficient training program possible. Stamp your name and contact information in the book. Put a sticker on the spine so people can see it is from you, and celebrate your role in spreading information.
Keep a list of the books you most want to stock, and a few times a year order more!
Creating a Culture of Growth
Congratulations! You have just taken your first step in fostering a culture that promotes personal growth. The dividends this tiny investment you make will pay off for decades. You have taken your first steps to embracing change.
If your business does any Internet Advertising, may I humbly suggest a title to add to your library? It is called “Ultimate Guide to Facebook Advertising” by Perry Marshall and Thomas Meloche. I may be a bit biased, but I think it is a fine addition to any corporate or personal library.
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