William Glasser, the psychiatrist who founded Reality Therapy, said that the best way to retain anything is to teach it. His research showed that the highest memory of material occurred when someone had to teach that material to others. Teaching and sharing is a growth experience.
What I find about those who grow in their own lives is that they are also always investing in the growth of others. They not only subject themselves to mentors and people further down the road than they are, but they are also the ones further down the road for someone else. They give away what they possess and invest in others becoming more.
I have a partner who was part of the management group that bought Coldwell Banker Residential. At the time he first went there, it was owned by Sears and was losing a lot of money. His task was to turn it around. One of the first things that he surmised was that it needed to grow its people and its leaders. That is where he put his focus, even more than on the “nuts and bolts of the business.” It began to turn around. Then, Sears decided to get rid of it, and so confident that he could grow it, he and four managers partnered and bought it with outside investment and debt totaling $ 150 million. Being oriented toward growth himself, one of his primary focuses continued to be to grow the leaders. They invested in helping others develop. They had established Coldwell Banker University for leadership training, seeing the development of their people as the best thing that they could do to grow the company.
Now here is the magic. One year later, they paid the $100 million back that they had borrowed and, three years later, sold the company for $650 million. It was a great turnaround story, but one in large part fueled by the investment in the growth and development of their people. Where did this come from? From a business-strategy book?
It came from the character of the principals. The one who drove it was just executing the pattern that he has always executed as part of his makeup. Beginning as a mentor of youth in high school and college, he continued to see helping others develop as just another part of being alive. Along the way, it turned into hundreds of millions in profit, but that was not the reason it was there. It was there as an aspect of his character.
Now, ten years later, you can find him doing the same thing. He gathers young businesspeople under his wing who he thinks are doing interesting and helpful things that have social value and mentors them in how to do whatever they are doing better. His two guiding questions are always “Why are you doing what you are doing?” and “How can you do it better?” Growth is motivated by the right “whys” and by growing into someone who can do that better. But, for him, business strategy was not what led him into growth. Growth led his business strategy. It was an expression of character. He must build into other people growing as well as himself. It is just a part of who he is.
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