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  • Writer's pictureAnnie Frisoli

"Where's the Shovel?" - How Seeking New Experiences Makes You a More Agile Leader

Today’s blog is motivated by a trip home to snowy Ohio. I flew home so I could facilitate a team retreat (cancelled due to weather) AND be a first time exhibitor at the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association Annual Conference (Ohioan’s come see me :) - but it also provided me with an opportunity to hang out with my oldies at home.

Well the snow came in heavy and I was happy to assist with keeping the driveway clear - fortunately my dad still has my snow pants from high school in the basement, LOL! My dad and I went to the garage to provide me with instructions on how to start and maneuver the snow blower for the first clearing of the day. We approached the apparatus and he began giving me instructions (see all three photos below).

As he completed the numerous directions, while pointing at all the different buttons, levers, knobs, etc. - all I could think of was, “Where’s the shovel?” By the time he was on the third lever, I honestly didn’t care if this new technology was going to save me time, I thought let me just do it the way I have known since I was a kid and give me a shovel.

Well, long story short, once I relaxed into the situation, the new technology was actually very easy to use AND took barely anytime to clear the driveway. So….as always, I am thinking about all of you and how this applies to work and life. Thus, I will share the leadership reflection I had while handling the snow.

I thought to myself, something leaders should always keep in mind is, remember to keep learning. More specifically, to be an agile learner—someone who extracts lessons from their experiences and is able to grow from them.

An agile learner is someone who can adapt to increasing changes, make quick decisions, and find solutions where others see only problems. (That's the formula for a pretty strong leader, don’t you think?)

Part of what makes strong leaders successful is the ability to learn from their experiences. They don’t always have the answer right away, but they are able to pull on past experiences and make a decision based on their reading of a new environment.

In the best-selling book Learning Agility: Unlock the Lessons of Experience (which I use as a resource for presentations and workshops), George Hallenbeck walks you through the four steps learners can take to become more agile - but to keep this reading to a manageable length, I will share only the first step.


Most people have a routine that makes their days fairly predictable. They might run into traffic or decide to try a new restaurant, but there aren’t huge shifts in their day-to-day routine.

Here’s what sets agile learners apart from other people—not only do they learn from new experiences, but they actively seek them out! They don’t just go for the shovel. So, instead of trying a new restaurant simply because their go-to choice is closed, agile learners plan and enthusiastically choose new experiences.

And it makes sense—the more independent experiences you have, the stronger your understanding of different environments, situations, personality types, and the world at large becomes.

Let’s just take a moment to acknowledge how great this news is… It means you have permission to go try whatever you’ve always wanted to try!

AND - Here are Some Practical Tips for Pushing Yourself Outside of Your Comfort Zone

1. Go into New Experiences with an Open Mind - Whether you’re learning a new method for keeping yourself and others accountable, or you’re trying to learn the steps to a complex game, embrace the opportunity with an open mind and see where it takes you. If you tell yourself you won’t learn the rules of the game because you’ve never been able to before, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

2. Try Something That Scares You - You don’t have to go jump out of a plane (unless you want to, it’s quite fun!), but you should definitely sign up for the dance classes you’ve always wanted to try. If you’re worried about looking silly or not learning the moves quickly enough, play through the possible outcomes in your head. What’s the worst that can happen? You might not get all the moves right. Once you realize that the only issue is something minor like feeling silly, you’ll be able to try more experiences with confidence.

3. Surround Yourself With Adventurous People - If you only hang out with people who want to always do the same things, you can fall into a pattern of never trying anything new. The problem is this can make you less likely to embrace new ideas. Instead, seek out people who try new activities and look at multiple angles to solve a problem. After all, innovative thinkers embrace a certain amount of risk. If you don’t try new ideas, you can have no breakthroughs.

In the past few years, it’s been harder than ever to seek out new experiences. You might have had to cancel plane tickets and spend less time exploring your surroundings. The good news is, you don’t have to go somewhere new to find new experiences. You can find them at work and at home.

Ask people to tell you their stories about solving problems, read books that transport you to new places, and watch documentaries about innovative ideas. I also just found this cool platform called Heygo where you can visit places all over the world with a LIVE tour guide! I was in Poland last Thursday! And had a Reiki session in my own home with Joe S! It was amazing!

Interested to learn more about increasing your agility so you can have more influence as a leader? Sign up for Leading with Agility. You’ll be in a class full of seekers just like you! And who knows what this NEW EXPERIENCE will do for you!

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