Be the worst player on the best team

This past weekend I spent time watching my daughter play volleyball with her team. She’s going to be a freshman in high school next year and has played volleyball throughout most of her middle school years. As an upcoming freshman, she’s now playing with the starting varsity high school team and has left her younger, less-experienced group of girls behind to play JV.

Much like athletes, business professionals must place themselves in environments where they can improve their skills with the guidance of those better than you.

Here are three ways to pursue personal improvement.

1. Be the dumbest person in the room.

My daughter is no longer one of the best players on her team. She’s surrounded by a team of girls that are playing at a higher level than her. This inevitably forces her to improve.

Look around your organization and ask yourself: “Am I surrounded by people that are smarter than me, or am I the smartest one?” If you’re the smartest, you’re in the wrong room or you have the wrong team.

2. Model the masters.

There are players with far more experience than my daughter on the varsity high school team. I’ve encouraged her to find a “master” -– someone she wants to be like -– and spend time with her so she can learn how to be a better player and teammate.

Likewise, it’s important to find a “master” in your organization. You’d be surprised how open others will be to sharing with you if you just ask. Watch, listen and learn how to improve. This is also a great way to shortcut your learning. The “master” has already made mistakes and can help you avoid them.

3. Be OK with failure and criticism.

My daughter isn’t going to complete every serve or block every shot. At some point, she’s going to fail. And that’s OK.

In both sports and business, you must have tough skin if you want to be the best. You are not as good as you think you are or as great as you could be. There’s always room to grow.

Find people that will give you the hard truth about the areas where you need improvement, and ask them to offer this feedback. To get the most out of it, ask for specific scenarios or examples. “Tell me two things I can do right now to improve” is a great question to ask your fellow leaders, industry peers or family members.

Use these three tips above and grow yourself regularly to new heights.

This article originally appeared in the Tennessean.