Habits are comfortable and sticky. They’re hard to change and even harder to turn loose. That’s why bad behaviors are difficult to break and good practices enjoy a long and prosperous future. Though if all we ever did was depend on habitual behavior, life would be bleak. Fortunately, as human beings we’re innately curious, constantly stretching and innovating. Even Abraham Maslow recognized our need for self-actualization at the top of his pyramid in 1949.
That means we have a psychological need to develop our talents and pursue goals. It’s what makes life fulfilling. More specifically, it’s our “why.” It comes as no surprise then that knowledge-seeking adds greater purpose to our lives and to our whys in the workplace, including:
When you seek out an innovative method for accomplishing something and you share those learnings with your team and your peers, you create bonds of trust—a trust that is most often reciprocated. In that vein, Patagonia CEO, Rose Marcario, has formed a brain trust of like-minded companies with whom she and her team share best production practices so peers can model them. For instance, when Patagonia released its Yulux brand of wetsuits, it made its patented “biorubber” available to the whole wetsuit industry rather than keep it proprietary.
Inspiring and motivating teams
Knowledge-seeking helps people see long-standing problems in new ways. Even revisiting prior input with fresh eyes can motivate your team to renew their efforts. Former Home Depot CEO, Frank Blake, looked for guidance from his son, who was managing a store in Colorado when Blake became CEO. His son liked to start his store meetings with excerpts from the founder’s book, Built From Scratch. Blake found the idea equally inspiring and did the same. Soon the ideals upon which the company was founded resurfaced and recharged its people.
Pursuing input also feeds the mind with information and allows you to mull over your best options. I recall having difficulty with a C-suite decision before I became CEO at Prologis. To my predecessor’s defense, it was a complicated scenario, and not everything that happens in a company has 100 percent consensus. That still didn’t prevent me from seeking advice from as many trusted sources as possible. I also spent a considerable amount of time waking up early to read and reflect. This input I gathered over a period of time gave me greater clarity about how I would support the leadership decision while making my position known.
If you find yourself safely making choices from the comfort of your wheelhouse, I challenge you to borrow the mindset of a voracious learner. Look for ways you can gather new input from untapped sources. Seek out advice from trusted allies and new collaborators, or read that book you suspect will give you a fresh perspective rather than affirm what you already believe. Curiosity is the stuff of great leadership and an interesting life. As the Italians like to say “Vivi la tua vita nel migliore dei modi!” Loosely translated: Live your life in the best way!
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