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Committing to our own self-development

Recently I was privileged as a coach-facilitator, to assist a group of middle managers to begin their 12-month journeys of self-leadership.  With gusto, they got stuck into developing their self-leadership plans and vowed and declared to get traction on them by the time we saw them in four weeks time.  No surprise that when we caught up with them, most participants ‘hadn’t done one thing’ because they were so busy.

So how do we get traction on our self-development?

As obvious as it sounds, we need to make time for it.  Easier said than done.  Firstly though we need to be very clear about why we’re on the journey of self-development.

Each of us has our own unique motivators for becoming committed.  For some of us, it’s about tying it to a bigger purpose, for others it’s about the course itself and what we are able to tangibly do as a result, whilst for others still its about how people will benefit from our learning.  Choose self-development activities that connect to the way we learn.  People normally think of the word ‘course’ when they think self-development, and yet there is a raft of other options that can be far more effective than ‘chalk and talk’.  For example, journalling is great for more reflective souls; peer group discussions inspire our more outgoing peers; whilst job shadowing plays more into the hand of our action men and women.

Once clear on why we’re doing it, we then need to make time for it.  Commitment has an emotional component to it, driven by a deeper sense of what really matters, with the consequence of easily saying ‘no’ to what doesn’t.  We have become so attuned to the tyranny of urgent texts and emails, that we quickly lose sight of getting traction on those important ‘projects‘ such as our development.  It requires a large dose of continued self-discipline to make our self-development a priority.

It also helps to connect our plan to our values.  To do so can be truly transformational.  Here is an example.  Jane came to see me because her manager wanted her to be job-ready for a senior position in two years’ time.  Polite and respectful towards her manager, Jane thought that her development plan was the end goal and something to be ticked off.  What quickly unravelled was that Jane held some deeply held values of respect and authenticity.  As an exercise, when she reviewed what she was so proud about having achieved in her career, it all boiled down to ‘letting people be themselves, thereby increasing discretionary effort’.  Jane was ‘brought home’ to her true leadership style.  She resolved that the company’s commercial mandate had overtaken her natural servant leadership style.  This realisation motivated Jane to start her journey of ‘finding her true north’ by initiating self-study and reflection.  In doing so, she was ‘putting meat on the bones’ of her personal beliefs and was gratified to find that there was indeed a wealth of literature to confirm that there is such a style as servant leadership and that it has its place, that of encouraging authenticity and high ownership in employees.  Jane’s motivation to do her best, meant that she did indeed get a more senior role, and it took just one year, not two.

Making time for our own self-development is gratifying and beneficial for all concerned.  So when we catch ourselves saying ‘I don’t have time,’ think on.

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