Archive for October, 2010

Preparing to lead

Posted on October 3, 2010. Filed under: expectations, leadership response, personal leadership | Tags: |

It has been a while between posts – and this has provided some room for reflection on the purpose and content of these posts. While it may seem that the theme of leadership has been covered almost ad infinitum in the literature and consulting space, questions still arise in almost every situation about “what is this thing called leadership?”

Having been involved in the usual amounts of work, delivery and development and reading it has struck me recently about how important professional and personal development is. and not just because many professional bodies and even some firms require the completion of a set number of hours of skill development and training to occur over an annual or tri-annual period. There is no doubt that professional membership requirements do provide some attention and priority to professional development. However it remains apparent that many sectors and individuals have a lower level of commitment or belief in the value of the development.

I certainly agree that development needs to be relevant and appropriate to the individual and their career/work requirements. However this question of relevance when posed by those reluctant to participate seems to be originating from a wider principle that questions the relevance and importance of skill development as a whole. Many of people appear to believe that they are where they are in their careers because of what they have achieved in the past and that as expert practitioners or specialists there is no need for them to develop. In fact how can leaders in their field develop when they are the ones forging the path ahead?

And herin lies the essence of this post: development needs to be of all the skills that we as individuals apply so as to be ready for what may come next.

What I mean there is that professional abaility and especially leadership capability is far more than the technical skills associated with the core business or area of practice. These skills also include how we research and investigate new developments as well as how we manage and lead people. It must also include how we process and communicate information as well as how we personally and professionally adapt to change. Other skills would relate to how we influence others and prepare ourselves for what lies ahead.

These are merely a few suggestions abotut the skill areas that need to be developed and maintained to a high standard in order to be an effective operator regardless of the field.

Part of a conversation I overhead last week related to Brad Sugars who is a well known speaker. The comments that I heard were about his response to the question of how much time, effort and money he puts into his own continuing professional development. His answer would have shocked many: quickly and precisely he stated that his professional development over the years has cost $400,000. That appears to be an astonishing amount, however he clearly sees the value in it and so do the people who seek out his advice and input.

Reading a book a week is one of his strategies – so development is not just about attending workshops. In fact workshops may be one of the worst ways to develop skills depending on what skills you need to develop. Taking time out from business generating and delivery is also one of the most common objections presenter to the case for continuing professional development. This example I am providing here showcases that there are other ways.

Having a personal interest in professional development I am committed to the cause of encouraging and supporting continuing professional development. However I am not blind to the key issues and here is a summary of what I believe needs to occur for effective and ongoing development:

– set a budget annual of time and money that you are willing to set aside. This is an investment in yourself and you are worthwhile. By planning out the exercise you also give yourself structure and goals which are essential to achievement

– define what skill areas you wish to develop or refine in the coming 12 months. This may be an area you are already expert in and you may be seeking to polish the edges or to develop even further. There may be some stretch goals in your business plan in the year or two ahead and you need to extend your own skillset in order to effectively deliver those expectations. Preparing yourself for future demands is a very rational and reasonable reason to continually refine your skills

– understand the expectations and requirements of any professional bodies you are a member of and ensure that your plan incorporates activity that will satisfy those requirements. Do not attend events just to gain the points or the hours for continuing professional development. All that will do is frustrate you and limit the value you get – as well as possibly preventing someone else who really needs those skills from having a seat or a place in that learning

– continually review the effectiveness of your plan and how well the planned activities are meetingyour own expectations and needs. There is no point sticking to a plan if it is not delivering what you need. Likewise if your needs change during the year then change the plan.

– remember that practiicing on its own does not develop skills unless there is some form of reflection or review. The process of professional supervision or collegiate meetings to discuss and debrief can be an excellent way to develop skills. Sadly how often to leaders meet purely as leaders to discuss and debiref their effectiveness? Most leadership meetings remain tactical and operationally oriented and would not be considered skill development

For those who have read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People you will have recognised this post as being about sharpening the saw. As leaders we need to remember for ourselves and others that continually using the saw is not sharpening – how many saws become sharper with use? There is always a need for leaders to be prepared for what lies ahead and that is our call to action with regard to leadership.

What development are you undertaking to maintain and extend your skills to be a leader?

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