Pursue What Matters
Episode 235: Invest in Growth
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Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Are you investing in your growth? Do you sharpen your skills skill up? Or just like by joining me today to learn why investing in growth can set you apart from others?
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:13
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So if you’ve been listening along this season, you know that we are doing a deep dive into curiosity. Curiosity is foundational for effective leadership. And I’ve been sharing with you the acronym secure foundation, which is really all about those behaviors that help you to thrive and grow in not only your professional development, but your personal development as well. And so the components of secure are those basic non negotiables that we need for basic self care. And right now we’re focusing on Foundation, which are those skills that make you unstoppable, they really take you to the next level. So we’ve already talked about facing your fears, owning your story, understanding purpose, nurturing relationships, developing strengths, accepting and appreciating help, and trusting yourself. And today, we’re focused on AI, which is invest in growth. And this is a big one, this is a really important concept that way too many of us overlook. And so today, we’re gonna first start with really taking a look at how investing in growth will set you apart from your peers, and in very real ways, and very important ways. Second, we’re going to examine how asking, What can I learn here will keep you humble. So we want you to invest in your skills, your expertise, your growth. But of course, to be effective, we want you to stay humble, that’s actually really important when it comes to effective leadership. And third, we’re going to talk about why Leaders are readers. And so if you find yourself rolling, your eyes are saying, but I don’t like to read, I promise, I have a solution for you. But it is very true that Leaders are readers. And so of course, every week with a podcast, my goal is to help you pursue what matters by strengthening your confidence to lead in one of three areas.
Dr. Melissa Smith 2:45
So strengthening clarity, strengthening curiosity, which is what we’re entirely focused on right now. And then helping you to build and lead a community. And of course, the things that we’re talking about today have a lot of application for leading with clarity, and leading and building teams. So definitely, we’re hitting all of those. So let’s jump in and talk about why investing in growth is worth your time. So if you want to be unstoppable, the first thing you need to be focused on is investing in your growth. So it’s not enough just to go to work and do your job, you need to really be paying attention to how you can be skilling up how you can be setting yourself apart from your peers. And this is not about making yourself better than anyone else. But it’s really growing to your potential. And ultimately, it’s contributing at a higher level. And so you know, this, that, you know, one way that you can really look at this is first by having a commitment to life long learning, this will really set you apart, what is it commitment to lifelong learning look like? So it’s it really harnesses and cultivates this curiosity to say, I want to learn more, or I don’t understand that, or, you know, this is an important theory I want I want to understand that better. So sometimes it’ll look like reading up on the latest research or developments within your industry.
Dr. Melissa Smith 4:26
That alone, right that that seems very basic, but so many people don’t even do that they’re not doing anything above and beyond what what’s required for their work. And so we think about some of the small and simple ways that you can do this. So, you know, I really experienced this in my first full time position post graduation, I was absolutely invested in growth. And you know, I do consider myself a lifelong learner, like, you know, I just want I kind of think about, what am I primary identities, it’s student of life, I just I have a curious mind. I love learning, it’s always been something that’s, that’s, that’s been very attractive to me. And I recognize that that’s not the case for everyone. But this is where we want to kind of think about small and simple ways that you can strengthen your skills and invest in growth.
Dr. Melissa Smith 5:25
But, you know, back to when I had my first full time position after my doctoral program, I really invested in my growth, right, I did not see the end of my PhD program as the end of my learning. And I think too many of us do see the end of our formal education as the end of growth or education. And it really, you know, it, we put a block up, we put a wall up in front of us. And so one of the things that I did in that first position is I looked for opportunities, I actually actively sought out opportunities, including research, speaking, marketing, business development, you name it. And in most organizations, people are thrilled when someone comes wanting to contribute and wanting to help out. And that’s exactly what I experienced in this first position is people were so excited to have someone who had energy and excitement for some of these activities. And so, you know, I definitely was not trying to get ahead. It wasn’t about a competition, I genuinely wanted to learn. And I wanted to contribute. And I saw that there were so many additional activities outside of my role, that were related to my role that it was helpful for me to understand. And I saw that it was like a wealth of knowledge and opportunity where I could skill up. And so, you know, I was proactive about that. And I can tell you that all of those efforts, over the years, absolutely set me apart from my peers, because I, you know, I stood out. And as a result, I advanced in that company, while beyond my peers, because I was proactive, I was engaged, and I was passionate about the work. And I was willing to do things that other people weren’t willing to do. And I think that’s a really important factor to pay attention to. If you want to grow, it’s going to require you to do things right, you, you’re going to need to go above and beyond. And so here in my first position, I got so much more experience with research, right, so I got published papers. While I was working at this place, I was the assistant director of research. And that was really exciting, because I’d love that in my in my schooling. And I didn’t want to lose connection to that. But it was a great way to interact with research in a less intensive way, right, I didn’t have to write a dissertation, I’d already been there, I’d already done that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 8:11
I also got incredible public speaking opportunities. I spoke all across the country, at professional conferences to groups, and really honed those public speaking skills. And really, you know, got to travel, which was really fun at times, I kind of got to do it on my terms. So I didn’t, I wasn’t traveling all the time. But I got to make a lot of connections. And so I was building a network beyond the confines of my job. And that was really helpful because in the specific specialty that I was working in, it’s a pretty small community. And so if you put yourself out there, you do some speaking, you’re going to make some connections. And that’s what happened for me, I also got a ton of great experience in marketing and business development. So thinking like a business woman. And that’s really where I first had my sparks around business and wanting to learn more about that. And of course, eventually, I went back and got an MBA. And it’s been something that’s been really valuable to me, every day of my life. And so we want to, you know, when we think about investing in growth, the other thing that really stands out with this is being curious about the world around you and cultivate interest in diverse areas. This will strengthen your skills in a specific industry. And so like I get pretty geeky about a couple of topics. And so, you know, following that curiosity thread and learning more and then thinking about how I can apply that at work, how can I apply that in other areas?
Dr. Melissa Smith 9:59
Here’s what we think about when we really think about the ability to think critically. This is a skill that we are losing. In our society, when we have answers at our fingertips we have Google, it’s like, nothing is unknown, right? Like, like the whole world is known, which is definitely not true. But if we’re not careful, we become very, very lazy thinkers. And so we want to cultivate interest in different areas and integrate across domains. That’s the real powerhouse. When we think about investing in growth, it’s learning about something but then taking that next step and looking at how can I apply this at work? Or does it Are there patterns here that are helpful for me, right, and that really hones those critical thinking skills. We also want to carry on conversations with people from diverse backgrounds, and with diverse perspectives. It’s so valuable, because you don’t know what you don’t know. And so inviting others perspectives can be so helpful. And it can really strengthen your commitment to really inviting and cultivating a diversity of perspectives. And of course, we know in the world that we live and work with that this is increasingly important, as a leader, leaders must be able to integrate and hold multiple realities is one of the most important tasks of your job, you must be able to hold the field of play that your team is on, while also appreciating what is on the horizon. What is just beyond the horizon.
Dr. Melissa Smith 11:42
This skill set requires critical skills of integration, and holding in balance, perspective, and focus. And it also requires a broad understanding across fields domains and industry. So if we do this, right, if we make this business choice, what does that mean, in our community? What does that mean in our industry? What does that mean for our team. And so it is not enough to just have deep industry knowledge, as a strong leader, you must know how to think critically and integrate, broadly, this is the task of leaders.
Dr. Melissa Smith 12:25
So second, I want to, I want to talk about the importance of humility. Now I’ve done a whole podcast on this. But I just want to I just want to touch on it here, because it really is important. So when it comes to leadership, leaders are not meant to have all the answers. And sometimes I think leaders and also their team members fail to get that memo, there can sometimes be an assumption, to defer to a leader that they must know what’s going on. And they do, you know, they need to have a broad perspective, but it doesn’t mean they have all of the answers. And so as a leader, your ability to approach life humbly, can be one of your best qualities for leadership. And the research really supports that that humility, humility in leadership, it actually conveys a lot of confidence. And people, people trust these leaders. So you can approach life as a student, it will greatly aid your leadership, right? So you’re in a meeting and some, you know, a big challenge is brought up and people look to you, as you know, maybe the hierarchical leader to be able to say, I don’t I don’t know the answer to that. Let’s let’s talk about that, as a team. Let’s get curious about that. Let’s maybe do some research on that. That also, you know, puts the task on the team that we’re all in it together to find an answer. When we defer to the leaders in the room, the hierarchical leaders in the room.
Dr. Melissa Smith 13:59
If we’re not careful, we set up a pattern of learned helplessness for the other team members, that they’re like, Okay, my job is done here, the thinking part and the solving part goes to the leader. And that’s a really dangerous dynamic that we want to stay away from. And so leaders who can be humble, who can turn questions back to the team to say, let’s look at this together. Who can ask, What can I learn here? It will not only open you up to growth, learning and development, but it will open up your team to more success.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:30
And you know, you, you don’t have all the answers and you need those. You lead to help you lead well. So you need to be humble. You need to be approachable, you need to be inviting, and you will make yourself more approachable, and others will come to rely on you and see you as a resource that they can count on. And that’s not for giving you giving them all the answers, but you’re a resource in grapple your resource in the rumble in terms of like, let’s, let’s, let’s really apply some critical thinking to this. And in that way you become a really trusted resource for others. And so the third thing that I want to talk about today, it’s one of my favorite topics. But have you ever heard the term that Leaders are readers? This is absolutely true. And one of the ways that we invest in growth is through reading. Of course, it’s not the only way. But it’s something that’s really accessible to almost all of us. Right. And if you think about schooling, right, and curiosity, reading is probably at the foundation of that for most of us, whether that’s reading board books with our parents, when we were young.
Dr. Melissa Smith 15:55
So I want to tell you just a little bit about about my experience with reading growing up, and how it really sparked in me this lifelong,this lifelong learning approach. So growing up, I would visit my grandparents, no Saturday afternoons, and they are a treasure, I just adore them. And I would sit on the stairs that overlook their sitting room, as they, you know, often visited with my mother. And before too long, I’d inched my way up the stairs toward my grandmother’s attic, which was full of the most remarkable treasures, books, books, and more books.
Speaker 1 16:35
So my sister recently reminded me that my grandmother also had a full Dewey Decimal card catalog up there, so it was a pretty legit place. So why did she have a Dewey Decimal card catalog in her attic? Well, my grandmother was the county librarian. And so she literally had stacks of old books from the library up in her attic that they could use no more that, you know, they couldn’t, they couldn’t get rid of other places. And so for a quiet girl like myself, who loved to read, it was having it I you know, when I think about it, I still have these feelings of love and comfort and, and nurturing. So each week, I’d stuff a canvas bag full of books, and take them home to read in the coming week, and then write I come back the next Saturday, and return them for another collection. And so I loved it, because you know, I would visit my grandmother at the library. And that was pretty cool, because I could help she’d let me help restock books occasionally. But I also had this personal library, which was my grandmother’s attic. And this began my lifelong obsession with reading. And so you know, of course, my grandmother, being a librarian was a voracious reader. And I recall one time my grandfather teasing her and saying that she was typically reading four to five books at a time. And he didn’t know how she kept all the plotline straight. But then he continued on and he said something that’s really stuck with me. All of these years, he said that she could join any conversation seamlessly, anywhere they went in the world, because she was a reader, she was so well read on so many topics. And she was curious, she was curious about life. And reading was one of the ways that she explored that and it made her it made her very adept socially. It helped her to engage with people and to meet them where they were at. And, you know, as I think about that statement that my grandfather made about my grandmother, first of all, is absolutely absolutely true. It was such a great compliment. And it really speaks to this truth, that readers are leaders. Now what you do with that, right is, is on you. And so we can make choices to use that knowledge and understanding and lord it over people, which obviously we don’t want to do, or we can use it to engage people tend to be curious about life. And so, you know, even as an adult until my grandmother’s death, when I would travel home to visit her. She always had a bag of books in her study for me that she thought I would enjoy. And so over the weeks, you know, between my visits, she would put some books aside in a bag that she came across that she thought, Oh, I think Melissa would like these books. And I miss those visits and those bags of books. And the other thing is she was always right. She was a great librarian because she knew the kind of books that I liked, and she was always thinking about that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 19:54
And so there’s this lesson around the love of learning and curiosity. But I hope that you can see, there’s another lesson here, which is around connection, right? That when we invest in growth, we’re investing in relationships, because our growth, and our learning can be a bridge, it should never, you know, take us to an island where we’re set off from others, but it can be a bridge that connects us to others, you know, in the, in the way that my grandmother put people at ease in social situations, in getting curious about the experiences of other people. And so, you know, the the love of learning, and the investment in growth was something that was instilled in me from a very young age. And, you know, I found that my interest and engagement in learning growth and development have, have opened up so many opportunities for me, and have helped me to, to really thrive and to reach my potential in different positions and different opportunities that I had. And so reading connects you to the experiences of others, it helps you to nurture empathy and compassion.
Dr. Melissa Smith 21:09
Reading connects you to diverse places and time. It cultivates an appreciation for the experience of others, and it keeps you humble, you don’t know everything about the world, right? And isn’t that a beautiful thing.
Dr. Melissa Smith 21:22
Reading also connects you to vocabulary, writing, words, memory and comprehension. So in a nutshell, this is very true. Reading makes you smarter, it makes you more eloquent, you’re able to communicate effectively. And so I’ve gotten a lot of compliments over the years about the quality of my writing skills. And I absolutely know that that is a direct result of me being a reader. Because you learn vocabulary, you learn proper sentence structure, you learn the proper, the proper use of apostrophes, which is something that makes me crazy, when I see that showing up for other people. But the last point that I want to make is that reading connects you to humanity. You see what is true for all of us, even though we are so unique, our situations are unique. But you see that your problems are not new, there’s nothing new under the sun, you see familiar patterns and potential solutions to your challenges. Reading offers perspective. And, and like I mentioned before, reading connects us to others. And so it’s so much bigger than just reading a great book. Reading is about connection and perspective. And so in that way, it is something that really helps us to invest in growth. And so I just want to finish up with this quote from Lemony Snicket who you know, a profound philosopher of our time. And what he said is never trust anyone who has not, who has not brought a book with them, boy, that I love that that’s so true.
Dr. Melissa Smith 23:06
So I came across many years ago, an article or something, and they said, a reader is never bored, as long as they have a paperback book with them. And that’s really true. And you can ask my family, they can attest to the fact that I almost always take a book with me, because who knows what’s going to happen? Who knows if I’m going to wait, you know, be waiting for five minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes, or, you know, something else comes up.
Speaker 1 23:35
And I want to have something to read. And that helps me to be really content in a lot of different situations. And so, today, we talked about investing in growth, we talked about how lifelong learning will set you apart from your peers. By asking what can I learn here, you will be more approachable and others will come to rely on you. You really do build trust with people. And then of course, we talked about how Leaders are readers because your commitment to ongoing growth expands perspective and connection to the larger world. And so I hope that this podcast has been helpful for you, I hope that it has inspired you to you know, consider how you might strengthen your investment in growth. Maybe that is, you know, picking up a book for leisure or related to your work or reading up on the latest updates in your industry. It doesn’t have to be big, it doesn’t you know, no one’s asking you to write a thesis. But what can you do maybe just one thing to invest in your growth, your personal and your professional development.
Unknown Speaker 24:45
So head on over to my website to check out the show notes with the resources for this episode at www.drmelissasmith.com/235-investingrowth. And you know, I have lots of resources there. I also would love to connect with you on Instagram @dr.melissasmith. Everyday. I have more resources tied to the podcast and I’d love to hear your thoughts there. In the meantime, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai