The Best Investment You’ll Ever Make

Sep 12 2010

EmployeesEver since I was young, my dad always told us he was raising adults and not children. He viewed my siblings and I as the people we were destined to be, and raised us to become the independent, driven, passionate adults we are today. He invested in us, and as a result, we’re all now on our own and thriving.

For my dad, parenthood has not been the only stage where he has played a leadership (or, co-leadership, in this case) role. He has held a variety of leadership positions at numerous companies, and in these roles, has reiterated that his goal in each has been to work his way out of a job. This goal is not meant to be taken literally, but is intended to describe his responsibility as a leader to continually teach others what he knows. By developing his employees’ skill set and broadening their knowledge base, he is empowering them so they may be continually challenged and motivated in their work.

Whether we’re the CEO at a Fortune 500, the head organizer for the annual Relay for Life, or a mid-level manager at a construction company, acting as a positive force and working well with people is paramount. Stephen Covey, the leadership expert and author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People defines leadership as the act of investing in people.

An investment is more than simply time (though, that, itself, is a hot commodity these days), and working with any individual and developing them is a gradual process. Investing can take numerous forms and can range from the grandiose to the minute.

One example comes from one of the most highly regarded leaders in history, Abraham Lincoln, a pioneer in needing to make difficult decisions and align groups of people around a common idea.

One technique he drew on for investing in his people was his use of thought-provoking riddles. One example was a question he posed to the group, “If you called a dog’s tail a leg, how many legs does the dog now have?” The group, inevitably would shout out answers, usually the majority agreeing the dog now had 5 legs. Lincoln would smile and then respond, “Actually, the dog still only has 4 legs. Simply calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” (Highlighting the suggestive power of language.)

This is just one small example of what it means to invest in others. Also note, Lincoln isn’t simply lecturing, but utilizes the means of a riddle to share a lesson and provoke his employees to think on their own, challenging how they define words. This idea of investment is key in business, and easily transferable to all other aspects of our lives.

Investing in others is the foundation for what I’ll be exploring in future blog posts, whether that be investing in those individuals we oversee, senior management we report to, or ourselves.

We’ll explore leadership on numerous levels and over time build an archive of stories, tips, techniques and sound advice pertinent to any leader.

I second Alexia’s warm welcome – thanks for joining us and we are thrilled you’re along for the ride. Let us know – What are you doing to invest in those around you?

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About the author

Teri has navigated her career from the nonprofit to the corporate sector, working currently in business development at the global public relations firm Weber Shandwick helping to secure work with many of the world's leading brands. Follow Teri on Twitter: @TeriLeavens.

5 responses so far

  • Teri, a beautiful introduction to your beat packed with great content on how we can invest in our development. Love the reference to ole Abe and his penchance for riddles!

  • Sarah Sarah says:

    Teri – thank you for the thoughts in your first post. I am new to the world of managing and supervising, and I like your reference to Steven Covey’s statement “leadership is the act of investing in people.” While our jobs as managers mean doing what’s best for the business, I think it’s also important to remember that our employees are still individuals looking to develop their skill sets and improve in their careers. As managers it is part of our job to support and guide them in this process. As I begin my new role supervising others on a day-to-day basis, I am trying to figure out the best ways to approach different situations and to motivate my team – how to be a manager while still being a colleague. I look forward to the upcoming posts!

  • Pat Murray Pat Murray says:

    A colleague shared your site and I’m glad she did. I found it not only well written and insightful but it contained a ‘human’ element which I found engaging. Too often self help articles are boring and the reader is left with little or no value. Thanks for providing this informative and most enjoyable insight into managing the human element.

  • Teri Teri says:

    Thank you for your comments! Pat and Sarah – so glad it helped. It is really hard walking the tight rope between manager and colleague…needing to be respected as a manager, while having the history of being colleagues. People are complex, which makes managing and leading some of the most difficult, yet rewarding tasks around. So excited you found the blog and I look forwarding to future thoughts/conversations.

  • Greetings! Very useful advice within this post!
    It is the little changes which will make the most significant changes.

    Many thanks for sharing!

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