We all have things we can improve upon; these are nothing to be ashamed or concerned about. The problem comes for those who are working to climb the corporate mountain – at some point, some behaviors, no matter how seemingly minor become unacceptable at worse or career stallers at best.
Perhaps you’ve struggled for years with an unappealing behavior you’d like to improve upon. Or you’ve received feedback from your manager that tells you that there are some things you need to get better at if you want to climb that mountain. Often, these changes will fall under the heading of “leadership behaviors” or competencies; influencing others, delegating better, implementing the vision for example .
Good leaders often say they aren’t surprised by the “gaps” (or opportunities for improvement) they hear when they get feedback; they’ve heard them often through the years from their parents, spouse, friends, and colleagues. So why haven’t they made changes?
Most often they simply lack the discipline or a methodology for doing so. Allow me to help you to get started:
Set aside some quiet time: You need serious thinking time. Block it out on your calendar and keep it free of interruptions; an hour is a nice chunk of time to get started. This is important, so stop making excuses (“I don’t have time” is the worst!) and make this your priority. Put a sign on your door, turn off your phone and computer alerts and really think – see below.
Set an intention: Some call this a goal. Whatever you call it, it’s the positive behavior that you want to have. If you want to hire better, delegate with more ease, or be more collaborative – write it down in a declarative present-tense statement that begins with “I am…..” (for example, “I am hiring great people with great attitudes who are ideally suited for the work in our organization”). You already know what you need to improve; now you’re declaring where you need to be.
Visualize: Imagine filling that gap from where you are today to where you want to be at some point in the future. What will you be doing? How will you feel? How will others be responding to the change in you? How will you know that you’ve made the right changes? Try adapting the “Day in Your Life” exercise for this purpose.
Create the action steps: What are the action steps you need to take to get to your goal? This is where a lot of leaders get stuck. Sometimes it helps to observe someone else you admire doing what you want to do. What specifically are they doing that you’d like to try?
P.S. write the above intentions, visualization, and steps down. I’m a firm believer that what gets put to paper (or Microsoft Word) gets done!
Start the action and have someone hold you accountable: For a lot of leaders, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the daily fire drills, allowing your own developmental goals to last place. Set up regular meetings with a manager, mentor, coach, team, spouse, friend, or all of the above to make sure you do what you say you will.
Keep it up and adjust as necessary. Repetition is your friend in developing new behaviors. As Dr.Seuss would say, “You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!”.