By Mary Porter
Master, teach, learn is one of our core values and I have always believed that you can never be too old to learn. However I have also recently learned that you can never be too young to teach either. Or to think of it another way, your ‘Master’ might be a lot younger than you imagine.
And the person who taught me this valuable lesson? My three-year-old daughter.
She hasn’t got an MBA or years of experience working with internet companies (in fact she doesn’t even have a Facebook account). She is not a skilled orator, she doesn’t read the Economist (The Gruffalo is her preferred read) and she has no idea who Herbie from The Goal is, let alone the importance of Genchi Genbutsu.
However despite her lack of years and experience in business, I believe she too (or indeed any three year old) can teach us valuable lessons in how we can optimise for Growth.
I hope this post might remind us all that sometimes we should embrace our inner-child (minus the tantrums) and be open to the fact that inspiration, business lessons and masters come in all shapes and sizes.
Have a thirst for knowledge
“Mummy, why are they doing that? But why do they need to? But why were they taught that? But why is that important? But why? But why is that just the way it is?!” Yes, as many parents will testify, children’s constant questioning can be tiring — but you have to admire their thirst for knowledge.
How often have you ignored an email, blog post or a meeting invite because you didn’t feel the need to ask why? Indeed, you didn’t think the learning you would gain would be essential? And of course with busy calendars we are right to prioritise, but sometimes maybe we should all stretch ourselves to find out more about other, similar businesses, what our colleagues in other squads and tribes do or how a skill your colleague has could benefit you or your squad. So read, watch TED Talks, follow blogs, attend training and find out what your colleagues in other departments are working on. Who knows how that knowledge might help you in the future.
My daughter is never afraid to ask for something she wants — be it chocolate before dinner, sparkly new wellies, one more bedtime story, her own pony etc. The list is endless. And nine times out of 10 the response she gets is no, but very occasionally one of her requests is granted (I caved in on the sparkly wellies).
And like her, we should be bold and ask for what we want in business too. Whether it is a partnership, or asking a colleague to help with a problem, time to work on an innovative idea, a request to attend a training course or for someone to mentor you — we should never forget that, if you don’t ask you don’t get.
Don’t fear failure
My daughter is not scared of failure. In fact she is not scared of very much as she has not yet learned to be. She is up for giving pretty much anything a go (often to my horror!) and if she falls, or fails, she usually gets up and tries again, this time with a little more knowledge or experience fueling her towards success.
As we become adults we become more scared or ashamed of failing and have more fear in general. If we could learn from three year olds, we would find it far easier to take risks and learn from our mistakes, ultimately resulting in success.
Copy those you look up to
At less than a metre tall my daughter physically has to look up to most people, but she also copies exactly the behaviour and traits of those around her who she aspires to be, be it mummy, daddy, her nursery teacher etc — this is how she, like all primates, learns.
And in business we should remember to copy those we admire too. So if you have been impressed with someone’s career progression, their throughput, the way people are motivated by them or how quickly they solve problems then study their behaviour, learn what they do differently and copy it. Do they read a lot, take risks, face their fears, listen more than speak, play chess, blog regularly, smile frequently, show compassion etc. etc.? If so, give it a shot too.
Finally, have fun!
My daughter smiles and laughs A LOT. Often about songs with poo in them or words that rhyme with poo, but other stuff makes her happy too. And we were all happy, smiling, laughing kids once — but then working life came along and many of us found ourselves stressing more than smiling.
Of course I appreciate that this is work and it’s not expected to be as fun as bouncing on a trampoline — but we shouldn’t be miserable at work either. And if you are then something is not right. You should not just accept being unhappy at work — you need to look for the solution. You are in control of your own career, to one extent or another. If you think training, a more flexible working arrangement, working from a different place or a new challenge might reignite your passion for your job and make you smile more often, then do something about it.
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About the Author
My name is Mary Porter and I was one of the first 100 employees to join Skyscanner back in 2010. A huge amount has changed since then, not least the fact we now have over 780 staff across 10 offices. Despite this we have retained our start up culture which allows us to experiment with new channels and ideas. I love that Skyscanner supports this without any fear of failure.
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