I highly recommend that you make this the year you work harder on yourself than ever before. This is because last year left little time for many leaders to upgrade and expand their personal capacity because they were so busy with the emergency of the moment. They lost focus on the importance of lifting their own lid so they could in turn elevate the abilities of their team. That being said, what is your plan for personal growth this year? I can promise you that you won’t automatically grow because growth must be intentional and life won’t just come along and improve you. A plan for personal growth has numerous potential components. With respect to the space allowed, I will focus on four areas of personal growth that hold great potential for increasing your abilities and credibility.
Building a strong character means more than being honest and forthright with others. Strong character also covers ground like a strong work ethic, remaining teachable, persisting in the face of difficulties, meeting deadlines and keeping promises. These aspects of character are built or diminished with your daily decisions, and these decisions are rooted in values you’ve chosen and embraced long ago. Building character means that you do what is right and not what is easy, cheap, popular, proximate or convenient. It also means that you do what is right regardless of the cost. Without continuing to make the right character choices, you will nullify the impact of your talent. In fact, a strong character protects your talent. If you’re not sure what your character blind spots are, ask those who know you best and don’t shoot the messenger when they answer. Believe me, they have the answers.
I’ll narrow the scope of suggested competencies to upgrade to that of people skills and working within the disciplines of priorities. Without a doubt, your ability to accomplish much of what you aspire in the coming year will depend greatly upon your ability to get things done through others and to maximize and manage your time each day.
- People skills. Efforts to improve your people skills will take a giant leap forward once you start caring more about people. I know, I know. The economic times have you worried about money. But the more you become obsessed with money, the less you tend to care about people! Improving your people skills means that you engage others by asking more questions and listening to their answers. You take the time to connect with them rather than expecting them to chase you down in order to build or sustain a relationship. It also means that you learn to motivate them as unique individuals rather than as numbers. It also helps if you reinforce them by bringing closure to the things they do well rather than ramble on about what they missed or could have done better.
- Working within the disciplines of priorities. To pull this off, you’ll need to decide exactly what your priorities are. Hint: it’s probably not the crisis of the moment. In fact, if you’d spend more time on your genuine priorities, you’d probably have fewer crises of the moment! Next, you’ll need to decide what to stop doing so that you’ve got time to execute the non-negotiable disciplines you’ve identified as priorities. Finally, you’ll need to catch yourself more quickly once you get off track and begin to major in minor things, and make quicker adjustments to realign your activities with your priorities.
Publicly controlling your emotions, admitting mistakes, listening to criticism and considering points of view contrary to your own are all part of emotional maturity. Over the past year or so, economic upheaval and increased pressure on the bottom line has squeezed the worst out of many leaders. They wear their attitude on their sleeves, publicly complain and blame and overreact to the insignificant. Since the pressures bearing down on your ability to make a profit aren’t likely to disappear anytime soon, it would be wise to practice choosing responses to situations that enhance your personal standing with your team rather than tarnish it. One of the best methods for accomplishing this is to increase the time you take in responding to a provocation, if only by a few seconds. It is normally the instant, impulsive, unthinking response to events, bad news, offensive remarks or unpleasant situations that you must apologize for and take you forever to live down.
Discipline is the fourth area for personal growth and it is the one that ties the other three together. Without a greater level of discipline, you won’t consistently make the right character choices, connect with your people, execute priorities or control your emotions. Frankly, people without greater levels of discipline have no one to blame but themselves because discipline can be developed. You’re not born with or without it. The catch is, you won’t develop greater levels of discipline until you first get serious enough about what you want to accomplish and to begin making yourself do more of what you know is important, even when you don’t feel like doing those things. In other words, you need more and bigger “whys.” Once you have a big enough “why,” what you must do and how you must do it becomes easier.
In order to take your organization to a higher level in 2010, you must first elevate your own performance. Organizational excellence begins with personal development and sacrifice from the leader, and addressing these four aspects for personal development is an essential place to start your journey.