Every year around this time, I get a new crop of interns. Fresh faced, motivated and eager to learn, they are in turn an inspiration and a challenge. Their first week comprises of a training week, introducing our software, our systems etc. The training produces questions, a little controversy and of course new ideas. Often they ask the questions we would not dare to ask, or the ones that are right before our eyes but we do not even see. As a result, procedures are updated and improvements made. Some ideas seem crazy or too expensive, others we incorporate but either way the interns bring a new perspective and add value to the team. The training week is expensive and the time taken and energy involved is extensive, but it is worth it.
Every single one of those interns sees the world in a completely different way to most existing members of staff. They are all expecting a bright future, they embrace new things, they are inventive and innovative, they challenge the status quo and they aren’t afraid to ask why. It’s challenging and yet inspiring. The challenge of course is to see the workplace the way the interns do, with fresh eyes and boundless curiosity. I’m reminded of a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt:
When someone new joins a company it’s because they believe it’s a good place to work, they believe that they will be successful with that company and they want to get on board. At what point does this belief disappear? When does a worker change from being innovative and eager into cynical and afraid of change? Even more importantly, how can we as leaders help prevent that change? How can we turn back time and get people back involved, back invested?
I read an interesting blog earlier The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, a Leadership Perspective 6 of 15. I particularly liked this part:
While leaders can’t force the individuals of a team to change their ways, they can encourage personal development and performance improvement by finding ways to connect and explaining the benefits of continuing to improve.
There’s no growth without a proper challenge. As leaders we must look for opportunities to push our staff out of their comfort zone and try new things.
That said, we have to remember “outside of the comfort zone” does not mean out of the strengths zone. For example, if someone is great at technical projects and programming but not good in public speaking, sending this person to give a presentation to Sr. management is not a good way to stretch him/her.
When interns / new workers arrive, they expect to be out of their comfort zone, they expect to have to change and adapt. They expect training and development.
Another post I read: Developing talent in 2013
We think of leadership too narrowly – the captain of the ship, the lead quarterback, the head master, the president! True leaders develop leadership in others. Each person has something unique to offer. Leaders draw out these strengths, help polish their presentation and build up their self confidence. Leaders encourage Initiative – whereby others lead in helping others, solving problems, and teaching others.
Perhaps instead of developing workers, we should instead believe that we are developing leaders! Can you imagine that? A workplace full of leaders who are all as eager and motivated as new interns, with the knowledge, confidence and experience to bring the team to even greater heights. All I can say is wow. I already have my plan in place for this year’s interns and for my existing team, however, having been bombarded with strange questions, having seen my workplace through their eyes, I feel inspired once again to challenge my preconceptions, to challenge both myself, the new interns and the rest of the team. I’m dreaming of a team full of new leaders. What about you?