I have the privilege of working with many people who want to be better leaders. It’s one of the most fulfilling parts of my job. I also get to observe some of the key differences between those who simply want to be better leaders and those who make steady, consistent progress towards accomplishing that goal. Often, the biggest difference between the two is creating a definition of success for themselves as a leader and then building a detailed plan that helps them progress towards their goals. Leadership is complicated in many ways, so it’s helpful to have a specific plan for each of the areas you want to improve upon and a roadmap for progress along the way. Here are three areas that are helpful to work through, and create plans for, as you continue on your own leadership journey.
Coaching is an area where leaders can have enormous impact but we often do it in a completly reactive way. Coaching is all about the conversations you have and the thoughts, choices, and behaviors you affect as you work with others. This plan outlines who needs your help, how you can help them become more successful, and what questions they need to think more about in order to reach their full potential. What are the key things they need to think differently about or take more accountability for? What goals does the person have that they need your help to achieve? Developing a coaching plan helps you think beyond what your natural leadership style might be and focus more and what you need to do in order to have more impact on others, even if it’s not your normal pattern or habit. Keep in mind, coaching is never about planning what you need to tell others, it’s about planning for how you can help them, and that involves much more than just instructions from you.
Your development won’t happen if you leave it to chance. Wanting to to be a better leader, or better anything, is a good start but by itself, bears no fruit. Your development plan should consist of the things you want to learn and practice, as well as the sources you’ll use for that learning. Learning can happen in a lot of ways; through books, other leaders, even family members or those closest to us. (My kids seem to teach me things daily if I’m paying attention.) What feedback can you glean from others that helps identify your current behaviors with more clarity and what areas do you most want to improve upon? Plans have to be specific in order to work, so choose a particular area, such as your ability to give feedback to others or your ability to clarify and create excitement around a goal or new direction. The more clearly defined your areas of improvement are, the easier it is to identify sources for learning.
The majority of leaders I work with want to be more influential. We have even developed a specific workshop dedicated to understanding what influence really means and how to make it happen. Unfortunately, most leaders don’t have a plan for who they need to build different or better relationships with and how they are going to go about that. Your influence plan should include a list of names and actions that will help you redefine the way those people perceive you and respond to you. It’s not manipulative at all, that’s a common misperception about influence, but rather a shift in the relationship that helps others listen differently, collaborate differently, and react differently to you and your conversations. Influence doesn’t happen without effort but even with significant effort and no clear plan, you may not get very far. Being a leader, at any level, requires some degree of influence and no one accomplishes the impact they could without being effective at it.
Wanting to lead differently, accomplish more and be more of a catalyst for the growth of others, is important. By itself though, it’s like wanting to be more physically fit or have more money in retirement. Leader development requires a plan, a process and a clear set of priorities that guide growth. Putting your own plan in place gives you a much greater chance of success and is the critical ingredient for turning desire into results. That matters for you, and everyone you lead, or could lead, along the way.
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