Here is a concept I adopted a long time ago: Train Up, Train Down. I really wish I could remember where the idea came from, although I am certain I simplified it into this phrase as a teen while training in martial arts. The concept is really quite simple in practice; you train to learn what those above you know and you pass down what you know to those below you.
In the martial arts world, wisdom and techniques have lived on for thousands of years utilizing this principle. There are very clear lines of delineation in terms of rank that make it easy to see who the higher ranking and more advanced practitioners are. You know what belt you are and the belt you want to be and then you learn what is required to attain the belt and train until you know it. Then you take what you have been taught to get your current belt and teach it to those behind you. Very simple and effective construct.
This works in most areas of life still today. The difference is that is not always clear who is ahead or behind. Sure, there is the boss and those in command at the top but they are not necessarily the functional experts in the area you are trying to grow. The boss should be the expert at helping the team work together towards a goal. He or she does not need to know how to do your job to make this happen; they just need to know how to set you up to succeed.
So then, how do you find the person above you? The student-teacher relationship is not defined in the real world. Once we are effective in our jobs, we rarely have a trainer take us through tasks. It is now up to us to do this. If you want to be better at something, it is up to you to grow in that area. We have to accept responsibility for our own paths and take the initiative to become better in our craft.
The way we do this is taking an honest assessment of our own abilities. Then we need to look at those who are more successful than us in that area. For me, time management has been a constant revolving door. It is an area I have been striving to improve upon for many years now and I am always on the lookout for someone or some product that could aid me in this endeavor. When I see an opportunity to grow into a better time manager, I ask the person how they do certain tasks, I read reviews about the product, etc.
It is usually very easy for us to spot those doing something better than us. It is not always as easy to spot those who are trailing behind. However, when we take a step back we can see those in our organization who are making or are about to make the same mistake we have made at one point. Pull him aside and ask if you can offer a piece of advice. I find most of the time people are all ears especially when they are trying to dust themselves off after taking a tumble.
We get better by aspiring to be like those who are better than us in certain areas. We become better by humbling ourselves to learn and practice their teachings. We continue a legacy when we teach others the lessons we have learned. Train Up and Train Down.