Wow! Can you believe it? This is already the third installment of the crowdsource book Milk to Maturity. In the last post the effort was launched to describe the road a leader must travel as they progress to milk and cereal. This series started with the pure milk phase which reflected on an individual’s selfish and inwardly focussed characteristics. Last week focussed on the milk and cereal phase and described how even though attention is still focussed inwardly, the person becomes open to advice they perceive to be beneficial to their own personal growth. Your feedback so far has been great and has already helped to reshape some of our concepts.
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The third phase on this leadership journey from Milk to Maturity is what is referred to as the Fruits and Veggies phase. As the body matures so does its need for increased nutrients. What sustained the body as an infant is no longer enough. Just as the rapid growth rate of a child cannot be sustained on pure milk or even milk and cereal, to grow as leader there must be the addition of more knowledge (nutrients) to professional diets. Any parent knows that a toddler cannot start off with a whole banana or an entire apple; the fruit must be cut into small bite size pieces. That is the same way for budding leaders. In this phase the person is now ready to take on just a bit more responsibility – they are starting to crave bigger tasks. Combine this desire with the inquisitive nature displayed in the Milk and Cereal phase and this individual is starting to see the value their position brings to the company. Authority to them is no longer a bad word, but one they are starting to embrace as an ally. This phase is still very much about what is in it for me, but they are beginning to see their part in a bigger picture. How can I grow and become more important in the eyes of those who control my career? This question introduces a shift in thinking as they become more channelled into a career path rather than working for a paycheck.
IF YOU ARE IN THIS PHASE: Applaud yourself, embrace your growth you are on the right path. Continue to seek out counsel from your immediate supervisor. Ask for more responsibility, but do not bite off more than you can chew. Take small steps such as leading an internal project or volunteering for cross functional projects. This phase is a great time to secure a mentor (if you do not already have one); look for someone who can observe you and give you immediate feedback.
IF YOU ARE LEADING SOMEONE THROUGH THIS PHASE: As a mature leader, encourage, encourage, encourage. Focus on the growth you see during this pivotal phase. This phase can be a jumping off point for some. In other words, the person is going to start showing some vulnerability. How so you might ask. In this phase the person will want to step up and out of their comfort zone just a little and as leaders we must be open to letting them try. A word of caution with leading a person in this phase, as a mature leader we have to listen more then we talk. We have to guide but not dictate. Small portions of increased responsibility and a slow release of the reigns will allow a person in this phase to blossom.