Monday, August 13, 2012

Always Learning, Always Sharing

When I became president of PSI, the company sent me to “utility school” at Edison Electric Institute. I traveled to Leesburg, Virginia and lived there for five weeks, attending classes on EEI’s beautiful campus. The training course was an education experience designed for up-and-coming utility executives, to help them learn what they needed to know in order to lead an electric company successfully.

As part of the introductions on the first day, we went around the room, and each person said what company he or she worked for and what his or her particular work was. When it was my turn, I introduced myself and said, “I’m president of Public Service Indiana.” My fellow participants looked at me with surprise. One student said, “Well, what are you doing here? This training course is for people who hope someday to be president.” All week, I was the standing joke.

I told them I wasn’t asked to do this job because I knew a lot about utilities, but because I had a public persona that had some respect around it as well as some management ability. All week we learned fascinating things—like the physics section on how electrons flow—as well as practical things, like what type of power each of three lines on a utility pole carries. It’s an important  difference to know if you ever plan to get up there on a ladder--climb up on an aluminum ladder, and you’re gone.
Toward the end of the training session, we did a battery of tests—mainly vocational testing--with a staff psychologist. Then we had private conferences to hear the results. One of the things the psychology told me was, “John, you’ve been around so long, you have insights. You ought to regularly make those insights available to your people.” I took those words to heart, and in my role at PSI, and beyond, I’ve tried to keep listening—that is, being a learner—in balance with sharing my thoughts with others.
When you share what you’re thinking, you invite others—maybe your staff, your managers, or your family and friends—to better understand how you see the world. And when you listen to them in return, you may hear a subtle but important alchemy happening as your idea inspires thoughts of their own and becomes something new. This learning and sharing is how relationships grow, how companies flourish, and how our society adapts, expands, and evolves.

That type of growth just doesn’t happen if you stop learning and sharing. If you’re feeling like you’ve “already arrived” in an area of your life, maybe it’s time to learn something new. Challenge yourself. Listen to a new perspective. Try to master a new skill. As a learner, you’ll bring more energy to your team and experience more energy in your life. You’ll find you have more to share with others, as well.