It can be tempting to assume upon reaching a key career goal that learning can now take a “back seat” to practicing the leadership skills we already possess. Yet, yielding to this temptation carries significant risk. It can place our career and the organizations we lead in jeopardy.
Unless we continue to learn, challenge ourselves, and stretch our skills, we are likely to find ourselves ill-equipped to deal with the challenges and obstacles ahead and unable to take advantage of opportunities that come our way. So how might we best attend to our leadership development? One way to assure we continue a growth trajectory is to break down our goals and progress into three categories: by year, by month, and by week.
- List the most important challenges you faced over the past year and how well you were able to meet them. Examine what skills served you well and where you felt most uncertain or uncomfortable. These likely are areas in which you need to build your learning and skills. Also review areas in which you were successful and consider what skills and strategies served you well.
- List the most important new skills and knowledge you gained. The growth may have come through formal channels such as courses and seminars or through less formal means such as experience and your own reflection and investigation.
- Consider emerging trends and new ideas you’ve heard over the past year. Ask yourself what knowledge and skills you will need to address or take advantage of what may be ahead.
- Reflect on your professional network. What are you learning from those with whom you associate? Research is clear that our learning grows and slows based on who we spend time with. Is it time to expand your network in new areas and trim it in others?
- What happened this month that might be considered a “win”? What skills helped you succeed? What knowledge, skills, or insights might have led to an even better outcome?
- What over the past month has left you frustrated or disappointed? These are areas and incidents that may signal the need for new learning, new strategies, and new ways of thinking.
- What lies ahead in the coming weeks that will demand your leadership? What skills, experience, and knowledge will you tap to support your efforts? Becoming conscious of what you will need can help you prepare. It can also surface areas where you need more information, new strategies, and need to ask for help.
- What can you do in the coming weeks to influence events in support of your goals and desired outcomes? Take time to think through how best to employ your influence and balance the amount time and effort you spend reacting to others against pursuit of what you value and seek to accomplish.
- Reflect on the past week. How much time did you spend reacting to events and the agendas of others compared to time you spent initiating, leading, and coaching? How might you have shifted the balance? What knowledge or skills might have helped you be more successful?
- Consider what’s left from the past week that will need attention and follow-up. How might you leverage these elements to align with goals and priorities and provide more influential leadership? Who needs coaching? Who needs feedback? Who deserves recognition?
- What one or two new insights, skills, and pieces of knowledge did you gain this week? What do you wish you had known or been able to do?
- Looking ahead to the coming week, how can you best spend your time to make the greatest difference? What are you planning to do that someone else could do, thus freeing you to provide more leadership and less task-level doing?
- When the coming week is over, what’s most important to have accomplished? How will these accomplishments align with what’s most important for success this month and this year?