The second installment on the road from milk to maturity brings small progression but before the details of that are released, just a quick reminder about what is happening here. In the last post we launched our efforts to describe the road a leader must travel as they progress from milk to maturity. The pure milk phase has an individual being very selfish and inwardly focussed. The post before that launched the idea of the book and encouraged your feedback as we progress through the phases. A genuine thank you goes out to those of you who have provided some of that feedback. That feedback is important and some of it is already being incorporated into our thoughts. As a result of your feedback some of the phases are being renamed and the number of phases has been reduced by one. Thanks again to those who have contributed. Please be encouraged to provide feedback in the form of comments on the post or via email at email@example.com.
Back to the story … Eventually the budding leader on pure milk will progress. They will start looking at what is next, what is in the future. Sometimes this happens in college, in the military or through delivering pizza every night but the natural progression will be to start thinking a little bit bigger. Their focus is still very much self centered as they observe their peers perhaps getting married or taking on additional responsibilities. They will maybe look at college if they haven’t gone yet, or maybe some industry specific education or certification. In this phase they start to think about saving for a rainy day. These thoughts are seeds, that when watered properly, will help this person grow into a great leader. In my journey through leadership, I remember being in this phase, it happened when I was in the U.S. Navy. The Navy has a very complex maintenance program that is strictly adhered to and is vitally important to keep all equipment battle ready. As a young technician, the maintenance work was assigned to me and I completed this work for one reason, I wanted to collect my check on the 1st and 15th of each month. After a couple of years I started to look around me and think how are these tasks perhaps bigger than just what I’m doing. I started asking questions about the maintenance schedule and who put it together and why the system existed. The leading petty officer in my division didn’t waste this opportunity to mentor me and he began to teach me about the complex world of the 3M maintenance program. Eventually this lead to me running the program for the entire division and learning all I ever wanted to know about maintenance schedules. This was the first time in my career that I thought about something other than my own little world. The characteristic a budding leader will display in this phase is simply curiosity. They are growing and want to know what is happening in the world around them.
IF YOU ARE IN THIS PHASE: Congratulations, you are growing. Continue to be inquisitive of what is going on around you. Ask a lot of technical questions about what else happens in your department and what happens in other areas of the organization. This act of asking questions will be a key trait that you will bring with you as you mature in leadership. You may read in articles that one of the most important things a mature leader does is ask questions. That practice will be honed over time but it starts here.
IF YOU ARE LEADING SOMEONE THROUGH THIS PHASE: As a mature leader, you encourage, you start to articulate the potential you see in them. Maybe the person is not ready for more responsibility yet, talk about what additional training or education can do for them. Since they are still focussed on themselves, they will listen because the advice will benefit them. Be patient with their questions and start asking some of your own to them, questions that will get them thinking even more about their surroundings. A good questions to ask a budding leader in this phase is, “How is what you do every day tied to the mission of the company?” This is a great launching pad questions that can help catapult them to the next phase in leadership development.