I am a strong believer that everyone should be constantly looking for learning opportunities around them every single day. For leaders this is often in the form of reflection – with a coach or writing in a journal, it doesn’t matter how the learning takes place as long as it does. One can either approach learning from a passive perspective – hoping that the right learning will find you or cross your path. Or you can be more structured around it and plan for it. The latter gives you the opportunity to plan for the learning, track the learning and review the success of your learning actions and activities in order to update your planning or make a new plan.
The best way to have a structured learning approach is to have a Development Plan. The attachment is a good start to creating your own development plan. It is always a good idea to have someone who can work with you on your own learning goals and planning to give you a different perspective and help you with feedback as you aim to prioritize your planned actions. This could be your manager/supervisor or it could be someone assigned to you as a coach/mentor (some companies do this). A coach/mentor could also be someone whom you have selected and asked to meet with you on a frequent basis to help guide your learning.
In the process shown above the reference is made to an employee’s supervisor, but a mentor or coach can also fill that role in the process.
- Don’t choose too many development goals for a 12-month period. You typically have other activities which also require your attention during a normal day or week and this would be only one portion of your discretionary time. Too many goals may make you lose enthusiasm as you feel overwhelmed or failing in meeting your expected goals.
- Be patient with yourself. If your development goals include soft skills and behavioral changes, this can take time. Choose maximum 3 goals and just work with those.
- Celebrate successes to help motivate yourself to keep going. When you have completed a goal and have received feedback that you have learned something new and/or have successfully demonstrated new behavior – do something that you love doing.
- Create an environment that helps you succeed by telling others (that you trust) about your development goals. Ask them to observe and provide you with feedback when they see you demonstrating new behaviors and/or skills.
- Be active in your coaching. When you plan to meet with your manager/supervisor/coach/mentor… first review your own plan and update where you are with regards to actions you had committed to take the last time you met. Come prepared with specific questions or specific situations where you were not sure you had made the right choices given your development goals and learning how to do things in a new way.
- Remember to thank others who are helping you on your development journey. Most of them may be giving you feedback and advice without getting compensation for that. A sincere thank you from you will go a long way to helping them feel that their investment in your learning is appreciated.