Have you ever wondered what you could do to be a better leader? Ever questioned what steps you could take to improve your own performance and benefit your team?
You’re not alone. Most leaders want to be good leaders and even great leaders. But as with many tasks we say are important, personal development falls rather quickly to the wayside amongst the chaos of the day-to-day. Rather than focusing intentionally on improving our leadership skills, we become bogged down and struggle to invest any real time and effort into personal development.
So, how do you make sure you really do it this time? First, you need a plan.
How to Write a Leadership Development Plan
1. Begin with the end in mind
First, think about what you want in life, who you want to be, and who is most important to you. It’s not uncommon for us to get to adulthood without consciously considering our own motivations, which means we may float along spending time, energy, and effort on things that don’t really matter to us. A Life Plan can help you figure out what you want from your life and how to get there.
Great leaders aren’t great simply because they’re good at their work. Their strong leadership skills are also a function of having their priorities identified and aligning their actions accordingly. This intentionality helps them keep their mind focused on work when they’re at work and on other aspects of their lives when they’re not. It helps to lower stress levels and increase satisfaction, which means stronger leaders both day-to-day and long-term.
2. Understand who you are
Humans have an amazing ability to think they know who they are without actually having any idea how they are perceived. Behavior assessments such as DISC allow us to get a better feel for how we interact in the world and why. By understanding your default action settings as well as how other people see you, you can drastically increase your awareness in a way that allows you to modify behaviors as needed.
Further, great leaders know the value of real feedback from their team at all levels. A 360 Assessment provides perspectives from individuals at your level, at higher levels of the organization, and those people who report to you. It’s a powerful way to identify blind spots and make a real change in relationships and communication styles.
3. Create SMART goals
There’s a reason inspirational speaker and author Harvey MacKay is often quoted as saying “A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline.”
It takes action to make things happen, and study after study has shown that those who write down their goals are far more likely to accomplish them. But just writing down a great idea doesn’t make it a goal.
Well-written goals will generally follow the SMART format. Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. A well-defined goal provides specifics that are challenging yet doable, and that will allow you to accurately measure results. An example of a poorly written goal: “Improve communication skills for meetings.” A SMART version of that might be: “Attend 3 workshops or training programs per quarter which are focused on good facilitation and leadership skills in meetings.” The specificity allows you to tell at a glance whether or not you’re on target to achieve your goal.
4. Talk About It
Great leaders know the value of encouragement and buy-in. If your team doesn’t know what it is that you’re trying to accomplish, how can they possibly help you?
Team members who know you want to get better at something will likely get behind your efforts and offer support and praise where they can. Most people do in fact like to see others succeed, and even more, they like to feel they had a hand in it, so asking your team to rally around and help provides the potential for a very real win-win.
For some, this sort of transparency can be intimidating, and they may struggle with feeling vulnerable. But it’s important to remember that you’re likely already far more transparent than you realize, and people are rarely completely oblivious to the struggles and weaknesses of those around them. By bringing them in on the process, you provide the opportunity for real, honest communication and building a new kind of relationship.
5. Seek Accountability
Another key factor in the success of executing a leadership development plan is having people around you who will be honest and forthright with you.
When facing a tough process, such as personal development, we all do better with someone there who can hold our feet to the fire a bit and keep us honest. We need encouragement when we’re frustrated but also someone willing to kick us in the proverbial rear.
Think of this person as you might a personal trainer or fitness coach. Their role is to help you push yourself, course-correct as necessary, and ultimately achieve more than you ever thought you could. Great leaders seek out people in their personal and professional lives who can play that role for them and help them be their best selves.
If this is an area where you struggle, or if you feel you need someone outside the organization to serve this role, consider a business coach.
6. Review and Refresh
Another thing great leaders recognize is that they’re never done. They know the accomplishment of a goal is a reason to celebrate… and then to get started on the next one.
It’s also critical to review your life plan regularly to determine you’re still on target. It’s quite easy over time to drift off course without even realizing it.
Further, things don’t always stay the same. Life happens, seasons change, and priorities can shift. By reviewing your life plan on a regular basis, you can be sure you’re spending time on those things you identified as important and also verify that those are still the most important things.
Focusing on Your Personal Development
Now you have a blueprint for creating your own personal leadership development plan and executing it successfully. It’s time to get started!
Still think you could use some help? Check out our webinars and read other articles on our blog. They address key issues like communicating effectively and will help you in your quest to become a great leader!