Author, speaker, philanthropist, entrepreneur and founder of leading, cutting-edge online learning platform Adaptively Education.
After a year of holding on through the pandemic, business leaders are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and looking for opportunities for growth. But the need to make up for lost time can easily lead to tunnel vision on the quest to forge ahead.
As the CEO of a top supplemental education franchise and an edtech company, my approach to growth stems from my perspective as a business leader and an educator. My philosophy is that, in order to grow a company, leaders must see themselves as “professional students” who are constantly learning while offering meaningful professional development. In this model, leading for growth is a two-way street.
Think about powering your business as you would power your house. Your house is likely full of many outlets that illuminate and animate each room. What good is a house with only one outlet? A business whose growth relies solely on its leader is like a house with just one energy source.
Here are some essential practices that help leaders maximize all of their energy sources to power organization-wide growth.
Generate energy with energy.
CEOs who want to grow their companies need to see themselves as Chief Energy Officers. Positive energy is your business’ most precious and powerful resource. How can CEOs sustain that energy, especially when times are tough? By committing to learn from every experience and every person on their team.
Learning is a source of renewable energy and energy is contagious. Leaders who encourage everyone on their team to learn from one another, regardless of their title or role, create a culture where any utility can plug into the company’s power source and illuminate new and better ways of doing things.
Lead by example.
The best way for leaders to encourage personal development is to lead by example. Don’t require your team to do anything that you don’t personally do and enjoy. Successful business leaders understand that some of the most important growth happens outside of the office and encourage their team to grow as people, not just employees.
In addition to regularly attending workshops and professional development courses, I read at least two books a month and several book summaries a week. I always share highlights with my team. Even more important than the lessons I learn by reading is the insight I gain by discussing what I have read with others and hearing what they’ve been reading too.
Create meaningful connections.
Leaders must focus on creating meaningful connections with not just their team members but also their clients and vendors. Creating a meaningful connection requires a consistent, dedicated effort to understand what someone values. When you truly know someone, you will not only celebrate their good news – graduations, holidays, birthdays, etc. – you will also reach out to them when they’re struggling.
Company hierarchies can be the antithesis of growth. Leaders who create a flat organizational culture where all employees are encouraged to communicate with each other will see a palpable increase in their company’s blood flow.
Practice an open-door policy that allows employees to come to you and communicate their personal struggles and successes. Pre- and post-pandemic, I have a monthly lunch (M’unch) where any three staff members can join me for lunch at a restaurant of their choice. We will talk about anything – except work.
Schedule professional development.
Leaders are responsible for scheduling time for their entire team to learn together. Allocate a budget for your team to take advantage of professional development as well as personal growth opportunities.
My leadership team schedules a monthly 90-minute group learning session. We pick a topic, watch or read something together and discuss. We also have a monthly 60-minute sharing session, where everyone has the opportunity to share anything that they recently learned.
Pre-pandemic, we hosted a yearly one-week retreat for our leadership team on a cruise or at a resort. Not only did this event give us something to work toward and look forward to all year long; it was a precious time to bond, learn from each other and simply enjoy each other’s company outside of work. We will renew this tradition in-person, once circumstances allow.
Coming out of this pandemic, many of us are still working from home. Business leaders can help their teams live and thrive, just as they would in an optimal “smart home.” We can create a space where each person is a viable source of energy – learning, giving and growing together on a personal and professional level.