My MBA In Life Part II: Being A Constant Learner

Having challenges of various kinds thrust upon me over the years gave me a chance to learn a number of key insights regarding people. I've learned a lot about the importance of appreciating people, the way we connect with one another, and the value of each individual's contribution to a group effort. Perhaps not surprisingly, these lessons and insights have not only helped me with personal struggles but they can also be directly applied to the workplace, as I discovered during my career in the business world. Now, I’m enjoying sharing those lessons with others, to spare them some of the pain that I’ve experienced over the years – and also to provide a few "short-cuts" to the success they envision.??In Part II of this essay series, I’ll share my thoughts on why it’s important to recognize and appreciate employees at all levels of a company, and why loyalty is such an essential quality. I’ll describe how the lessons I learned when facing a variety of personal challenges in my life turned out to be extremely useful in the business world. ??

I soon discovered that it’s all about people – connecting with them, appreciating them, and really making an effort to understand and help them. As you’ll see in part two of this article, looking at challenges from this perspective can help managers and company owners handle some of the toughest business hurdles we face today.??The respect that business leaders have for each individual member of their team can also make a huge difference internally, especially when challenges arise.

In my work with the U.S. Tennis Association, for example, I not only ran the organization’s membership department but I was also asked to assist in the delicate process of closing one of their departments. In mergers and consolidations, employees often feel shortchanged and mistreated, and I was determined to do everything possible to treat the employees in this department humanely and support them in finding fulfilling ?jobs outside the company. In a department of 24 people, the organization was only planning to retain three of those employees following the consolidation. Over an 18-month period, I retrained all two-dozen of these employees so that they each had a strong and competitive resume and were better equipped to find a new job once they were let go.

Another important lesson is that we all need stimulation and variety. It's important to have a change in our routine every once in awhile, especially in jobs that are very repetitive. Without breaking things up a bit and giving hard-working people a chance to catch their breath, there's a greater chance for mistakes -- and employee "burn out" is almost inevitable. In addition, the most fulfilling jobs are those that allow an employee to be "a constant learner." We all need to grow and evolve. (I certainly never thought that I'd be a writer, yet that's the role I find myself in today!) Also, when you give employees a chance to grow and learn new skills, it lets them know that you have faith in them and that they're appreciated. We all flourish when we know that someone believes in us.??

Just as everyone likes to be appreciated, no one likes to feel inferior -- that they're less important than the executives they report to. In my work with the call centers at various companies, I made it a point to really get involved in the work that was being done at each center. I'd handle customer calls myself, and join the employees in the lunchroom and in their training classes. This sent the signal that we're all on the same team and lets them know that their work is respected and appreciated. Also, when the employees see that you can be flexible, they're more willing to be flexible too -- and accommodate changes that allow the company to grow and succeed.??Growth and flexibility are essential if a company is to remain successful, of course -- especially when it comes to customer service. The decline of the once mighty Kodak corporation is a great example of what can happen to a company when it fails to evolve with the times, and fails to keep in tune with customer needs and desires. ??

We all need to evolve on an individual level too, not just as a department or as a company. When I began working with the companies I mentioned earlier, the emphasis was on catalogs that were sent out to the customers on a mailing list. Now, of course, that information is handled by computer. The importance of caring about the individuals on that mailing list hasn't changed, just the way that we handle that information. The goal is still effective communication and a rapport that results in sales. It's still just as important to let each and every customer know that they matter, and that they haven't been lost in the shuffle. ??In Part III – the final part of this article -- I’ll explain why it’s so important to remember that each and every person who comes in contact with a customer or client shapes that experience, for better or worse. I’ll also discuss why it’s essential that we create opportunities for young people where they have a chance to bring their unique talents to the table and have a voice in the work that they do.