One core competency for all leaders is understanding how to coach and develop others. This is a particularly challenging skill for any individual promoted to a leadership role based on performance as an individual contributor. Many individuals become first-time managers and have never had any formal training for how to coach and develop others, so they miss a critical step in learning how to lead. Another key step in the process is remembering to prioritize self-development. We can’t develop others if we’re not also developing our own skills.
It’s easy to become so overwhelmed with day-to-day responsibilities, that we neglect our own development needs. Week after week, we put off starting a new book or listening to the latest leadership podcast. With the best intentions, we still fall short of achieving our potential, and ultimately the whole team suffers the consequences.
But prioritizing self-development doesn’t have to be an exhausting task that dominates our time. Choosing to be deliberate about growing a skill-set and establishing a routine towards accelerating growth is critical to any successful leader’s career. In addition, becoming a role model for lifelong learning will inspire others to join you and share in the development process.
Here are a few self-directed ways to sharpen your skills:
- Read, read, read. Many CEOs boast about their reading routine; some even say they read up to 1 book per week. While this is aspirational, it may not be realistic. Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting the goal too high. Instead, focus on opportunities for micro-learning such as reading a blog post or LinkedIn article. Pick one author or site that you enjoy, and block time on your calendar to read the latest from that source. Also, don’t be afraid to look beyond your typical focus area. Reading the perspectives from people in other industries or verticals can help you flex your learning agility muscle and apply new ideas to old problems. Finally, if you find that the article was helpful, don’t forget to share it with your colleagues so everyone can benefit from the content you’ve discovered.
- Stop and think. Taking time to intentionally process the world around you can be incredibly valuable. Whether you practice mindfulness exercises or just prefer to block out the world for a bit to think, the idea is to sit with your thoughts uninterrupted. You may even find value in journaling while reflecting. Think about a current problem or recent interaction. What happened? What is working? What isn’t working? What would you do differently in the future? What can you learn from the experience?
- Listen to a podcast, Ted Talk, or audiobook. Take a long walk and commit to listening to one new podcast each week. The combination of fresh air, new environment, and fresh ideas can help your brain process information in unique ways. Additionally, by listening to ideas delivered in the form of a conversation, you may be able to internalize that content easier and apply it more easily in the future. Remember that learning doesn’t have to happen while sitting. Be active even when while passively listening.
- Create a community. Whether you engage with a coach/mentor or just connect with leaders across the organization, be sure to set aside time to talk with one another about your experiences. Share your ideas, challenges, and successes with one another to start a dialogue of continuous learning. The challenge that is keeping you up at night may be the same one your colleague previously overcame. You’ll never know until you start a dialogue and an open exchange of ideas with a trusted group of colleagues/associates.
- Sign up for a workshop. While it’s always a privilege to receive formal learning through your organization, it’s important to remember to invest in yourself as well. Take control of accelerating your growth by signing up for workshops, classes, and seminars that will help you reach your goals. Devise a personal action plan for your own development and take responsibility for identifying the best resources for helping you build your capabilities. There is no greater opportunity for a return on investment than by investing in yourself.