To help others develop, start with yourself! When the boss acts like a little god and tells everyone else they need to improve, that behavior can be copied at every level of management. Every level then points out how the level below it needs to change. The end result: No one gets much better.
- Marshall Goldsmith
Growing ourselves becomes so much more important when we take a position responsible for others.
If your organization offers great development opportunities, take every one of them. Fully embrace each one.
If they offer you projects and positions, take them. With each experience you will grow.
You may ask yourself, “what if I fail?” You might. Actually, you most likely will fail at some point. But in failing there’s learning. Winston Churchill said that success is simply moving from failure to failure without losing heart. Few people would call Winston Churchill a “failure” right?
There’s a process to grow. It requires us to be in tune with where we are, be clear about where we want to go and then push ourselves out of our comfort zone, practice, and keep trying, then get feedback, reflect on the experience and try again.
The most important thing to start with is understanding where you are today and where you want to go.
Use every source of information at your disposal to evaluate this. Start with yourself. Take the time to ask yourself the follow questions:
Where am I today?
Am I where I want to be?
What are my strengths as a leader?
Where am I weak as a leader?
What things do I like to do most in my role and on my team?
What things do I not enjoy doing?
What do my team, peers and boss think about me?
What are my goals and aspirations for the future?
How will I get there?
Once you've answered these questions and feel you have a gauge for where you stand, start to get feedback from others. Start by asking directly. And don't just ask people who like you or will just tell you all the good or only what you want to hear. Also ask people who will tell the gentle, but honest truth.
Some people won't be honest with you. Especially if you have room to grow in receiving feedback, like me. So you will have to find another way to get feedback from everyone. 360 feedback surveys are a good way. Many companies offer them, or at the minimum you could print copies and have people fill them out anonymously if that better enables real honesty.
An important side note, if you tell your team what you are doing, that you are wanting to grow as a leader and need everyone's help, then they will give you so much respect and appreciation that chances are strong they will help you however they can.
Feedback from others is the best place to start because its real time, relatively easy to get and leadership is about people so how you affect others is the most important thing to measure.
There are other sources to leverage too like past performance reviews, team results (of course the primary ones that the organization places emphasis on are important to start with but include others too like historical employee turnover, talent sharing and promotion out of your team,
There are ton of books out there on leadership, management and self-development. The way I choose books typically is based on recommendations of authors I know I already like and I look in the back of their books at their reference list to see who they've quoted or leveraged as a resource. This will give you an endless stream of already vetted books to choose from.
And you could even narrow your reading list by honing in on your specific area of developmental focus. For example, if you need to grow in coaching there are tons of great books just in that space alone but most likely fewer than leadership and management as a whole.
Personally, I like reading as much as I can, but a couple friends recently turned me on to audiobooks. One friend uses Audible and leverages his Amazon library while the other uses Overdrive and taps into the library which is the cheaper way to go and now I use both. This way I can listen to a book while driving, running, walking the dog, doing laundry, etc. Or what my Audible friend calls "windshield" time. And then if I hear something I like, I use the note app on my phone to write it down.
Podcasts are a great source of learning too and are easier to leverage. I rotate between podcasts and listening to books on my commute.
And of course, you can take formal classes too. Hopefully your organization has some internally or send people out regularly to some sort of class or seminar. If not, you can and should take the initiative to sign up for some. You may even get your organization to agree to pay for it. If all else fails, sign yourself up for one. There are lots of great options out there. And you can even go pretty cheap with online courses too on sites like Udemy.
Even cheaper is watching YouTube or Ted talks of your favorite authors. Many of them do speaking events too and hearing their messages directly may help the concepts sink it, like I know it does for me.
Unfortunately, there are not many options yet for more leadership-based programs in formal academia but more are popping up and are being increasingly offered online if you want to go a more formal, comprehensive and credentialed route.
As you learn new things about leadership and people management try them out. You can start small. If you read something relating to how to give feedback in a different way that you're doing it now, try it.
Just realize that it's going to be uncomfortable. You're not a master at the thing you're practicing yet. You may have not even had to stretch yourself in other capacities that much if you've job your job for a while. So, the feeling itself may not be as familiar.
But don't let any of these things stop you.
Make sure to allow for enough time of practice to see it you get better at the area you're trying to improve in. When we're not comfortable or its not lending to results immediately it can be easy to assume that it's not working. But don't abandon it yet. You will get an idea of when it's time to step back and reevaluate once you feel more comfortable with the tactic or strategy you're trying and based on feedback from others.
I already pointed out the importance of feedback, so I won't rehash it. And this is more about live feedback about your growing process right now as you practice and try new things. But the same principles apply.
Feedback can and should go hand in hand with practicing, growing and trying new things.
Without feedback from people and as live as possible data, its easy to feel lost or over or under assess what's working or not. Plus feedback can help us adjust quickly and get better faster.
Find feedback partners with differing perspectives but with similar willingness to be thoroughly honest with you.
Not all experience is created equal. Experience without reflection is all but wasted. I know it can be challenging to take the time to stop and think thoroughly about something that just happened or finished. Especially if the experience wasn't that fun.
But all that time you spent studying and practicing could go completely to waste if you don't think about what happened and why and what, if anything, you will take with you into the future.
I know I feel like I'm wasting time or company money when I'm not actively doing something, but once I realized that by stopping to think I'm saving myself and my team a ton of time from wasted processes or ineffective team interactions now I'm on board with "wasting time well".
So give yourself time and space, ideally everyday, especially if you're in the midst of change or practicing a new management or leadership skill.
Now do it again. And again. And again.
Growth is a journey, a process and a messy one at that. It is not an event or destination.
Eventually you'll come to love it. We're all built to grow, develop, and become better versions of ourselves. So, once you start you won't want to stop. And don't, no matter what. You deserve it, your family and team deserve you at your best.
So good luck to you on your leadership growth journey!
Devin W. Craig