Most of us want to develop skills and behaviors that will qualify us for career advancement, but how much personal forethought and ownership do we really put into it? There is a huge difference between taking a passive approach to life and taking an active approach—one in which you are defining your own development needs and pursuing the best course forward.
Most organizations today provide employees with opportunities for personal and professional growth, including training programs, performance conversations, challenging assignments and assessments that help you learn about yourself and how you relate to others. If you find yourself on the management or leadership track, you are given access to even more specialized tools and processes. These help you optimize your contribution to teams, customers, and bottom-line results. They also prepare you for more complex job roles.
So, how does an individual strategically utilize his or her time and effort to make the most of these options? The answer is to take an active role in thinking through areas of desired improvement. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Character Matters – Begin with a deep reflection on the type of person you desire to become and why. This is about the inner professional who exhibits a genuine set of defined values, principles and a moral compass. Aligning what you say with what you do and how you treat others will help you influence others far more effectively than your perceived position of power. If your sense of character isn’t locked down, little else matters.
- Sense of Purpose – Analyze and share the type of work activity that gives you pleasure, fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment. Consider which behaviors or competencies facilitate success and which ones mitigate effectiveness in doing this work. Expressing these strengths and weaknesses to others can clarify deep-seeded dreams and the commitment level needed to forge and compel change.
- Identify Areas for Improvement – With brutal honesty, select three behavioral areas in which you wish to advance. Describe your current level in two sentences or less. Then, briefly describe the future level that you want to reach in one year. Finally, brainstorm how you plan to accomplish this goal; be sure to include any resources needed.
Behavioral Area – Managing conflict in my work group.
Current – Can clarify policies, practices and intent to one or both parties.
Future – Can diffuse emotionally-charged situations through listening, probing for clarification and facilitating a productive conversation so that all parties take ownership of a fair path forward.
How – Will take an assessment that will give specifics in how I approach conflict, risks to achieving resolution and point out strengths that can be used to address weak areas. In addition, I will attend the ‘Crucial Conversations’ training course and find a skilled mentor to coach me.
- Ownership – Seek development resources that will intentionally address your critical growth needs. Focus on models, templates and specific practices that will accelerate the application of thinking and acting differently. Create a plan and stay on track, reassessing progress every couple of months.
By following the above steps, you have essentially created a target, put time and resources toward meeting it, and defined what that achievement looks like. The best part is that you will be invested in your success and will have the commitment to persevere and endure the challenges of getting to the next skill level.
Socrates aptly stated, “Let him who would move the world first move himself.” Consider a learning path to foster self-awareness and discover what is important and meaningful to your future. The results will be priceless.