I took my first leadership training course back almost 20 years ago, and out of all of the education that I worked very hard for in High School and College, all of the seminars that my former employers provided me, all of the conventions, and all of the books and trade journals that I have read, I have to say that the very first leadership seminar was, by far, the most valuable for me. We all have those “One moment in time” situations that change the whole direction of our lives. For me, this was my moment. Here’s what I learned. I hope that you get as much value out of it as I did.
I grew up in a very poor, rural town in Arkansas. Even though I was poor, I was taught that education was the key to getting out of poverty, so I worked my way through college, qualified for a couple of scholarships, and took out massive loans hoping that, some day, my education would make me rich. A couple years out of school though, I was making a whole lot less than my friends who started working right out of high school, I had a ton of new expenses like insurance, rent, car payments, and college loans to pay back. I quickly realized that the amount of money that I was pulling in after taxes was less that the minimal expenses that I had. I was going bankrupt one paycheck at a time. That’s when I got angry. I was told that I would be wealthy if I went to school, but I was actually getting poorer every week. I figured that there must be a better way, though, so I started looking for people who were succeeding, and I started to try to model what they were doing.
That’s when I invested in my first “leadership course.” The tuition was $795, which was about half of my monthly salary at the time. I was terrified to “spend” the money, but the coach who was leading the program guaranteed me that the course was an investment and not an expense. She was right. Within six months of taking the class, I had tripled my income. Within a year, I had doubled it again. It was slow and steady, but within 10 years (before I was 35) I made my first million dollars. It only took me another six months to make the second million…
Here’s what I figured out and what has helped me and thousands of others get to a higher level of financial success. Knowledge is vital to getting ahead, but it’s just the ticket to get into the game. What you do with the knowledge is much more important to your success. The most highly sought after skill in business is not accounting, or engineering, or computer skills – it’s public speaking. Folks who reach the highest level of every institution typically know less about the day-to-day operations than the newest employee; however, they tend to excel at leading and motivating people. The very best leaders in any organization are not the people who grow their own stature. They are the people who grow other leaders.
Once I figured this out, I realized that just about everything that I was doing to get ahead was absolutely wrong. For instance, I used to work from early morning into late in the night to make my productivity high for the company. I was working really hard, but I never got promoted. The reason why was that I was so productive, that the manager couldn’t afford to promote me. If he did, he’d have to hire two people to replace me. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not saying sluff off and you’ll get promoted. Instead, I started to teach the people around me how to do what I was doing to increase their own productivity. Many hands make light work. When the next promotion came around, I was the obvious choice. In my early days, I always wanted to make myself look good and make my “competition”, my coworkers, look bad. I figured that was an effective way to get ahead. Instead, that just made my coworkers mistrust me, and when I needed their help, it was very challenging to get it. After the leadership course, I realized that people who build up their coworkers are seen as “natural” leaders, so I took a different approach with remarkable results.
These are the skills that will help any person in any industry get ahead:
- Public Speaking and Communication Skills – The better you carry yourself with confidence, the more persuasive you will be.
- Conflict Resolution Skills – anyone can start an argument, but only an elite few can resolve conflicts in a way that both parties feel as though they have “won”.
- Building Leaders – The success of a person is not determined by hoe successful he/she has personally become, but by how successful the people around them become.
- Problem Solving (in groups) – Most of us feel satisfied when we come up with a perfect solution to a problem, but then later, we have challenges getting the team to buy-in to the solution. Group problem solving is a skill that is highly sought after in every industry.
- Persuasion – It doesn’t matter how good your ideas are if you can’t win people to your side. People who are persuasive are very valuable to organizations.
If you are looking for a way to get to the next level in your industry, focus on developing these leadership skills, and you’ll see opportunities present themselves very frequently. When the next round of layoffs come down the pipe, you’ll have an stark advantage.