Want to Grow Your Business? Invest in Growing Your Employees First

This article originally appeared in AllBusiness.

The following quotes are my favorites to articulate the importance of learning and personal growth:

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”—Nelson Mandela

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”— John F. Kennedy

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”—Mahatma Gandhi

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more than you learn, the more places you’ll go.”—Dr. Seuss

Yet, despite the wisdom shared from history, far too many leaders simply don’t make the time to invest in personal growth. They choose to focus on the urgent, consumed by the day-to-day, deferring the important. Even for those leaders who do make the time, many are still unable to effectively transcend this DNA through their organizations.

As leaders, not only must we be learners, but we have a responsibility to inspire our teams to THINK and GROW. Here are a few practical and simple ways to do so:

Build a library

Creating a library in your work environment, where stacks of books are front and center, makes a big statement about what is important at your organization. Don’t be intimidated—it does not have to be the Library of Congress or the New York Public Library. You can expand and beautify over time. Set up some simple rules for checking out books and consider rewarding and recognizing those who use it.

BetterBookClub

The BetterBookClub is an easy to use, web-based book club that encourages professional growth within your business. The application’s functionality allows your team to see who is reading (or has read) what, along with the opportunity to rate and provide commentary about the books. Each team member gains points for completing a book, which establishes an environment of healthy competition, recognition, and reward.

3 Solutions Rule

Early in my career I realized that solving my team’s problems for them was shortsighted and didn’t build my desired culture. When folks would come into my office asking for help, I would give them the answers and send them to execute. Over time, this became a crutch for them and created more work for me.

Eventually, I created the 3 Solutions Rule. The rule is as follows: My door is always open to help with any/all challenges, but if a team member seeks my assistance, they must come prepared with up to three potential solutions for solving that problem. This change allowed my role to transition from doing most of the work on behalf of my team to encouraging them to flex their own critical thinking skills. This simple idea inspired a culture of THINK and GROW.

Innovation exchange

For many companies, innovation is not a focal point. The business is paid to produce a product or deliver a service, and the attention is focused on doing so.

I believe, however, innovation can come from anywhere, at anytime, if you encourage it. Consider a structured, recurring, innovation exchange where folks from all areas of the company come to a meeting to present ideas for improving the business. The benefits of this activity are twofold: first, it allows the team to take a break from their daily rituals and second, it encourages creative and critical thinking.

Your job starts on day one

Articulating the importance of culture is an essential component of the hiring process. Whether THINK and GROW is expressed in the core values of your organization or not, emphasizing the importance of continual development right from the start sets the tone for all new team members. Make a commitment to inspire your team to keep moving forward. There is no better ROI equation than this one.

When leaders are constantly thinking and growing and encouraging their team to do the same, the entire company will improve. You will see increased morale, productivity, and profits—and that’s definitely a win-win.