Rebecca Morgan has been a strategic consultant to manufacturing companies for over 25 years. Prior to that she worked in leadership roles for Perdue Farms, Cleveland Trust, Stouffer Foods, TRW and Precision CastParts. We talked about her role as a consultant, asking questions and what lifelong learning means to her.
Start Where People Are
I’ve learned several things in consulting that have helped me become a better person. One, you always need to start where the client is, not where I wish they were. I have to start where they are and move at the speed they can move. I can’t act disappointed because they’re not where I think they should be, or when they don’t reach a certain point by some deadline. Most deadlines are arbitrary anyway.
I have absorbed that into my relationships with family and friends and everyone. They are where they are and that doesn’t make them wrong or bad. The same goes for people who are far ahead of me in certain areas. That doesn’t make them superior to me. We all start where we are. I have become much less judgmental in my personal life by being less judgmental in my business life.
Finding the Best Solutions Starts with Vulnerability
When I was younger and had a “real” job I thought I had to know everything. I thought I was supposed to have all the answers. As I learned what makes leaders great and what makes companies great, I began to understand the power of questions and the power of vulnerability.
There are a lot of people in leadership jobs who believe they have to know everything. They look at a given situation, think they understand the problem and come up with a solution. I used to be like that.
The strongest people I know are the ones
“The strongest people I know are the ones who allow their vulnerability to show.”That belief stems from a resistance to being vulnerable, from a feeling that not knowing the answer makes you weak or less valuable. To ask questions honestly and openly requires vulnerability. You can’t fake it either by only asking questions you think know the answers to. The strongest people I know are the ones who allow their vulnerability to show.
Most questions in business are not 2+2=4 questions, even though a lot of managers think they are. Even if I think I know the answer, there are always aspects to a problem that I have not considered. That’s helpful with clients and with my nieces and nephews, and my great nieces and nephews. They know a lot and we don’t always treat children with the respect they deserve as human beings.
Lifelong Learning Isn’t About Absorbing Facts
I learn and grow every single day. It’s why I’m a consultant and not working for any one company. I have a gold necklace with a quote on the front that says, “I am still learning.” And on the back it says, “Michelangelo,” who reportedly said that.
To keep learning some people go on guided cruises with top thinkers on board, or they take lifelong learning courses at local colleges. That’s very academic. I’m much more about the experience and learning about the place that I’m going to, not about getting all the facts straight.
My international travel is about seeing how other people live and finding out what’s really going on. After going to the Middle East I have a better understanding of some of the issues there than I did before I’d visited. When I went to the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, the guide told us all about this god and that god, this pharaoh and that pharaoh, who married who, and what year such and such happened. I don’t want to drown in facts, I want to understand life then and why the Valley of the Kings is there.
Generally, I look for answers to systemic questions and problems. That’s how I live my life. That’s how I interact with and serve clients and other people. I wonder why he thinks that, I’ll ask myself. I wonder why, I wonder why, I wonder why?
Crossover Wisdom is a series of articles about the management theories, leadership practices, work experiences and lessons learned that have had a positive impact on our lives beyond work.
I am an independent leadership and management writer, editor, researcher and journalist. For the past ten-plus years (wow, has it been that long already?) I have helped business leaders and companies tell powerful stories.
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