Workplace psychologist Dr. Chris Allen helps organizations and leaders develop the “people” side of the business. As a Forbes Coaches Council contributor, Dr. Allen offers regular insights on topics such as changing organizational culture, aligning cultural values and team building in Forbes.com articles and offers quick advice via the Forbes Q/A feature.
Read this article on Forbes here: How To Improve Your Leadership Effectiveness Even if You Are Not ‘High Potential’
Organizations often sort employees into categories such as A, B, and C players. They also identify “high potentials,” referred to as “hi-po’s,” for investment in leadership effectiveness coaching and development programs.
Does your organization have a “hi-po” program? Have you been identified for development? If yes, good for you! I have ideas on how to maximize the benefit of any leadership development and coaching program your company may provide.
However, in this post, I want to focus on strategies for developing leadership skills for those who may not have an opportunity for a formal program, either because there isn’t a budget for one or because they have been passed over for one reason or another.
A Plan To Develop Your Leadership Skills
1. Figure out what gifts and talents you bring.
The first step in becoming a more effective leader is not to focus on what is needed and valued in your organization, but rather to figure out who you are. Here’s how to start:
Who have you always been? Often who we are as leaders is who we have been for our whole lives. Think back about interests and qualities you had as a child. Which of these characteristics and behaviors still come naturally to you? What do you do that others cannot keep you from doing?
For me, natural curiosity and a desire to learn have always been a part of me. I spent the better part of my childhood up in a tree reading books. While I may not do my reading in trees anymore, I think I would wither up and die if I couldn’t read and learn anymore.
Who are you now? Make a list of five or six times within the past two to five years when you were your absolute best. Make a list of the personality traits and core values that you demonstrated in each instance. For example, if you felt energized and empowered the last time you managed a project at work that brought different stakeholders together, that may tell you something important about your natural gifts and talents.
Take an online assessment or two to understand yourself from another perspective. You may be able to find a career or professional coach who can set you up with targeted assessments to help you fine-tune or discover your innate personality, emotional intelligence and character strengths, like an online Meyers-Briggs, DISC, Strong Interest Inventory or the like. But you can take these on your own too.
2. What behaviors or competencies are needed for success in your organization?
Figure out what leadership competencies are essential to your team or company. There are many places you can get a list of relevant leadership competencies, such as the Society for Human Resource Management or the Harvard Business Review.
Make a list of key categories and the behaviors that correspond with them. Each competency should have three or four “behavioral anchors.” For example, if being highly ethical is a leadership competency (and it should be), then behaviors such as “practices what they preach,” “demonstrates honesty even in difficult situations,” or “takes responsibility for one’s actions” are examples of demonstrating integrity and being ethical.
Look at your performance review, your company’s mission and values statements, or ask your immediate manager for core leadership competencies in your organization. Kouze and Posner have listed five primary leadership behaviors that you could use as a rubric for self-development, no matter what position you hold in your organization or what your company is about. Their leadership practices are: (1) model the way, (2) inspire a shared vision, (3) challenge the process, (4) enable others to act, and (5) encourage the heart.
3. Conduct a self-assessment.
Once you have identified key competencies or leadership traits (no more than 8-10), conduct a self-assessment on how well you perform each behavioral or leadership competency. Rate yourself on a 7-point scale, where 1 is very poor and 7 is excellent. Be honest with yourself. Also, answer the questions, “What do I do uniquely well at work?” and “What could I do differently or better?”
4. Come up with a stakeholder map or advisory board.
Identify three to five individuals from your personal or work life to rate you on the same set of competencies on which you rated yourself. Give them the opportunity to do it anonymously if they prefer (e.g., they can type it up and slide it under your office door). Ask them the same questions. These should be people who will be both candid and constructive, not people who will tell you what you want to hear. If they prefer, do it via personal interview and take notes.
5. Identify your professional goals for the next three to five years.
Identify one to two improvement goals that will make you a better leader or performer at work. Take your unique set of strengths, weaknesses, your self-assessment feedback, feedback from others and think about how you can apply your strengths toward achieving these goals.
Think about your unique weaknesses — how might these prevent you from achieving your goals? What strategies might you devise to correct for these weaknesses? Any significant blocks to achieving a particular goal may suggest that you have a competing commitment (e.g., You want to be in a leadership role but feel you need to be liked by everyone).
While you may have the most success on your development plan with a trained executive or personal coach, you can enlist a friend or colleague (and potentially do the same for them!) and make significant strides on your leadership development goals. Hopefully, your boss will notice your growth and changes but, either way, you will be well on your way to increased leadership effectiveness.
Originally published on Forbes on 10/25/2017. Photo credit to Shutterstock.