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  • What’s On Your Tool Belt?

    shutterstock_213863566Everyone brings their own tools.

    Everyone wears their own tool belt.

    It’s how we address challenges.

    Whether they are business related, technically oriented or social in nature.

    Everyone has skills they bring to the table.

    In today’s modern society everyone has instant access to information. However, that’s not enough! Just knowing about stuff, just having information, is not the same as knowing how to solve the challenges that we will face. We need to experience things in order to learn.

    Case in Point:

    • You CANNOT learn how to ride a bike by reading a book.
    • You need to get ON a bike and learn.
    • We learn by Trial and Error … and a few scraped knees.

    So, where do you go to get experience?

    Well, most of us just slog it out in life and learn via the school or hard knocks. Of course, many people have documented what they have learned so that we can stand on the shoulders of giants. So that we don’t have to literally and figuratively re-invent the wheel every time. Whether that’s brain surgery or how to fix a leaky faucet or change a spare tire. Those skills have been documented. We can learn from them.

    These experiences from others can help us to hone our tools. However, we generally also need to experience these efforts to gain a true proficiency.

    Are you going to trust a doctor that has only read about brain surgery?

    In business and in life we all need these tools to get our jobs done. Some we can read about. Others we need to experience. And, of course, some are physical tools that require us to complete a task and others are more mental.

    The reason we want these tools sharpened and honed is because these are the things that we will use to build our reputations. Those that can bring a wide tool belt that has a collection of sharp tools will stand out in their careers and be sought after for future projects. Take the time to sharpen your tools and take the time to keep them sharp.

    “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

    How can you grow your Tool Belt?

    How can you make it wider so that it can hold more tools. Should you ever drop some tools off or pass them along to others that need them more?

    The answer to both is the same. Education combined with mentorship.

    As you continue to educate yourself … whether directly from an area of study or involuntarily from things that you were required to respond to in real-time you will sharpen your tools and widen your belt.

    Very much like apprenticeships for a lot of different roles you can and should seek out mentors and be willing to be the mentee. If you need help seeking formal and informal mentors take a look at my fellow PBB co-writer’s post. If you need help understanding what you can do as a mentor take a look at my post Mentors and Inspirators – The Need for Both.

    A mentor / mentee relationship can help you widen your tool belt while developing a plan for offloading some of the tools you have sharpened and honed.

    Learning Today for Tomorrow

    What should you educate yourself about today so that you’ll be ready for what comes up tomorrow. This is a tough question, but one that can and should be seriously considered. Consider what makes you happy and what you want to do with your time and who you want to do those things with and for what period of time.

    For example, if you want to become a CPR instructor you can likely set a fixed timeline to accomplish that skill. To hone that tool while widening your toolbelt.

    Or, let’s say you want to become a manager at work. This is something that in many ways has no end. This is a set of skills that you hone over time. As you get better at hiring you may be able to pass some of those skills on to your team so that they know exactly what you are looking for in people. As you move up the chain in the organization you will be able to delegate (hand off) some of those functions (tools you’ve honed) to others.

    Consider the United States Navy Seals. They are said to practice every possible scenario that might come up in a specific operation. They want to make sure they are ready.

    Guess what? Conditions change and they often need to improvise. This is the same with your tools and tool belt. Everything will not always go to plan. Be ready to improvise. Be ready to adapt your tools.

    There is no fixed plan that is going to work every time. The idea of having an ever widening tool belt with a selection of tools is to insure that you have a place to start when a situation occurs. Will you be ready for everything? No. But, you will have a place to start.

    Educating Yourself – What Should you Learn?

    • Collect ideas – What do you want to be known for?
    • Ask yourself – What do I need to learn to get there?
    • Ask your friends – Ask them the same question. And, ask for their help in helping you get there.
    • Ask your mentor – Allow them to provide their guidance which may help you avoid a speed bump or dead end path.

    Then … take what you’ve learned and decide which tools you will hone into a sharp skill. It may be too early to decide which you will discard or hand off to others at this point, but you will be ready with a collection of tools

    Finally, take the time to schedule yourself some homework. Whether it’s a physical classroom or a virtual classroom.

    Lastly, take the time to evaluate how things are going. Then, as necessary:

    • Reset – If it’s not what you had planned consider the options
    • Re-sync – Goals and plans change. Consider if you need to change with them.
    • Re-ask for guidance – from yourself, your friends and your mentors.
    • Repeat as necessary (practice makes perfect)

    The end result should be an ever widening tool belt with a collection of sharp tools that can help you advance and stand out in your career. When done right you will be able to hand off some of these tools (skills) and help those that are up-and-coming. In this way you can pay it forward for the next generation and help them widen their tool belts.

    Jeff is an expert in the Enterprise Content Management industry. He brings over 20 years of Channel Sales, Partner Marketing and Alliance expertise to audiences around the world in speaking engagements and via his writing. He has worked for Microsoft, Kodak, and K2. He is currently consulting with Microsoft and partners to drive Community Engagement and Alliances. Follow him on Twitter @jshuey or on LinkedIn: in/JeffShuey

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