Do you have a thirst for learning?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - 18:01

Guest post by Sue-Ellen Watts

American entrepreneur Jim Rohn once said that “you are the average of the people you spend the most time with”.

I love this quote because I have always believed to achieve my life goals I need to hang with those who are where I want to be.

During my professional journey I’ve always believed the best way to become a successful entrepreneur is to learn from those who have gone before me.  So I went on a journey to connect with and learn from as many people as possible. 

Learning has become like the air I breathe, always seeking opportunities that will make me better, make our clients better and make our team the best.

This year I had the most extreme learning experience an entrepreneur could ask for and that was spending four days with Sir Richard Branson and 25 other mind-blowing people on his amazing Necker Island.

I have pages of notes from this unique experience but, I wanted to focus on one key takeaway. Not an easy task, but this is what it was: 

“The ability to learn is the best quality a leader can have, and it doesn’t matter how successful or old you are” 

Sir Richard would come to every session with notebook in hand; taking notes from the other speakers' presentations, Jane Wurwand, the founder of Dermalogica, would have easily asked the most questions throughout the leadership gathering and Matt Mullenweg, 30-year-old founder of WordPress, was always curious to hear how he could learn more from our businesses.

On the island I was surrounded by more success and wealth than I could have imagined, but there was one thing that was common amongst the group.  There was no ego, there was a just a love of business, a thirst for learning and a passion for making the world better.

I am proud to be representing Australia in New York in November at the Virgin Unite People Innovation Gathering, where I will spend time with leaders from companies such as Zappos, Tough Mudder, TED, Nike and Salesforce to discuss how we do better business for people and the planet.  I am so grateful for this opportunity and cannot wait to bring these learnings back to my team, my peers and to our clients. 

As managers and leaders, our biggest people challenge right now is to stop fighting what we are used to and start disrupting our own workplaces by learning and experimenting. 

We need to stop complaining about the difference in generations and let them help us lead our businesses and the economy forward. We need to stop focusing on rules and take the shackles off our employees and let them truly shine. 

We cannot be afraid of what could go wrong but rather let our people experiment, let them be 100% human. 

We are in a new world of work, a 24/7, 365 day hyper-connected, social, mobile, diverse, ever-changing, unstable, employee-led era.  I personally don’t see this as challenging, I see this as exciting and unpredictable. I see it as an endless possibility for us all to create workplaces that change the world. 

It is your job to be one step ahead in your space; so your clients can be one step ahead in theirs. Seek to learn, the world will not slow down and wait, we need to keep up.

Sir Richard Branson says You don’t learn to walk by following rules, you learn by doing and by falling over.”

The depth of knowledge and support I have received from my networks throughout my journey has been invaluable. We all need to spend time around people that are where we want to be, so we can observe, listen, question and grow.

Sue-Ellen Watts is the founder and director of wattsnext, specialists in HR, recruitment, compliance and people performance. 

This article originally appeared on Smartcompany