When I first came to Iowa, I had the most unique job possible. I was a high school history teacher and taught one period of Western Civilization history to tenth graders every day. I also was one of two boys dorm sponsors at the boarding school where I worked. And finally, I was head of the entire physical plant. I worked with two people and numerous student crews to get things done each day.
Some days, I fixed a broken toilet, worked with a contractor or made sure all of the grass got mowed. Other days, I was trouble shooting a broken furnace, plowing the school out on a snowy morning or attempting to keep up with all of the burned out light bulbs across the entire campus. Whatever day it was, there was always way more to get done than hours in the day. And, of course, there were numerous emergencies that took place. It was a high school and teenagers can be hard on doors, windows, bathrooms and just about everything else.
One day, my boss, the head of the entire school, came up to me and said, “Geery, you are doing a good job of staying on top of things here at the school. The physical plant shows it.”
“Thanks,” I replied.
“I want you to consider taking some in-depth one day seminars at Iowa State University this year. In particular, I want you to consider taking classes in energy efficient construction. There is a lot of new research in this area and I think it would be good for you to know more about it. I will take the first class with you but then I want you to take the rest of them.”
I was stunned by the offer. Our budgets were tight that year and he was offering to send me back to school. Before I could question his offer, he continued, “I believe in learning and in particular I believe in your learning.”
I accepted his offer and regularly traveled to Ames, Iowa to participate in some fascinating, one day classes on energy efficiency taught by top professors and researchers at Iowa State. While I knew very little about construction and was not a builder, I did learn a tremendous amount of great information on this subject.
But most important was that I learned something about leadership. The simple statement of “I believe in your learning” transformed my problems into challenges and empowered me to want to do even better. This act of support meant the world to me and helped me through many difficult and complex problems.
This week, I challenge you to find someone on your team and to invest in their learning. And if you are a team of one, then I challenge you to give yourself permission to invest in your own learning. Over time, it will give you the ability to transform your challenges into achievements, too.