One of the most critical aspects of leadership, especially in an ongoing talent shortage, is the ability to develop oneself and others. In fact, it’s so important that it takes up an entire quadrant of our LEAD Now! Model.
Genuine development involves more than taking a short class, reading a book, or pursuing a formal degree. Think about pursuing a fitness goal. You may set out to complete a triathlon or marathon, but you will have to sacrifice time, learn new skills, and endure sore muscles.
Keys to Successful Development
To achieve sustained personal growth, development must be:
EVERYDAY PRACTICE:: Genuine development goes beyond formal events or training. It requires effort and ongoing practice.
ALIGNED: Development efforts need to align with the team, the boss, and the organization so they can be supported and sustained.
MOTIVATED: Sustained development happens because you want it, not because someone told you to do it. Motivation must be internal, not just driven from outside.
POSITIVE: Development is an investment in the future and should be a positive experience. Of course, “positive” does not mean “discomfort-free,” but it does mean that the net effect shows results that make you want to continue.
TAILORED: Development must be fitted to the needs of each person; it should build on individual strengths and address individual weaknesses.
DISCOMFORT: The best development pushes people beyond their comfort zones. This discomfort stimulates growth and development.
A Five-Step Personal Development Model
The Stewart Leadership Personal Development Model is a five-step process built on these foundational principles. Each step builds on the previous one to produce sustainable growth. As you develop an Individual Action Plan, build it around this five-step process to get the most out of your development efforts.
Awareness is the beginning of any development effort. Before pursuing improvement, you must first know what you need to develop or learn. Perhaps Awareness is simple because you already see gaps in your leadership capabilities or knowledge, but sometimes, there can be gaps you aren’t aware of. A trusted colleague or coach might help you see these blind spots, or you might gain awareness by asking team members, mentors, or a boss to help you know where you can improve your skills and abilities.
Desire is key to sustained growth. It’s one thing to be aware of gaps or shortcomings, but if you have no desire to change or grow beyond them, development isn’t possible. For example, a leader can be aware that a habit of interrupting others is hurting key relationships, but if the leader doesn’t have the desire to change, nothing will happen.
Look back at our fitness example for a moment. Achieving a goal of participating in an event like a triathlon or marathon requires not just the desire to begin a training program but sustained motivation throughout a long process. Though we can get a boost in motivation from positive feedback—a new personal fitness record, perhaps, or a compliment from a friend—ultimately, the motivation to complete an event such as a marathon has to come almost entirely from within oneself.
3. Skills and Resources
In a development-oriented organization, Resources for personal growth and development will be ample. Smart companies will offer all employees multiple avenues to pursue development—everything from mentorship programs to budgets for formal training.
But development also requires baseline skills, and training and development must meet people where they are. For instance, a frontline worker who wants to become a CPA eventually may have to begin formal education at a different level than someone who already works in accounts payable or bookkeeping. And for the potential CFO in training, accounting education may not be necessary, but developing other business-related skills may be vital in moving into a C-level role.
It may be obvious, but we’ll say it anyway: development requires action. It does no good to download training programs, buy new running shoes, and sign up for a race if one never actually hits the track. To be sure, those initial steps are actions in themselves, but progress toward a goal must involve concrete, challenging, ongoing activity.
The final step in a Personal Development Model must come from outside the individual. Achieving development goals and sustained growth requires Support—from mentors, bosses, colleagues, team members, and even people outside the organization. Don’t be afraid to ask for support.
Taking steps to grow and develop new skills is vital to long-term career growth and your general health and wellbeing. People who pursue new skills and develop their existing skills tend to avoid boredom at work and reap a host of other personal benefits. By basing your Individual Action Plan on the above Personal Development Model, you will create a framework for positive growth that produces results now and well into your future.
- What is one skill or ability that I need to develop in the next year?
- What is one action I can take today to start working on that skill?
- Who is one person I can count on for active support during the process?