What’s Your Plan for Leadership Development?

A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.
William G.T. Shedd (1820-1894)

2014 is almost here.  Just a few more days and you’ll be back in the thick of work — meetings, programming, planning — back in the safe harbor of organizational routine.  But wait a minute: Is that the most beneficial or strategic place for you or your institution to be?   If you want to learn or hone skills, develop meaningful mentoring relationships, or move to a new level of leadership capacity, then there’s no time like the start of a bright, shiny new year to set sail and begin your journey.

In order to do any of those things, you’ve got to have a plan — a plan based not only on needs, but also on wants that help make your vision for your work a reality.  Perhaps you’re one of the very few who’ve developed a professional development plan based on your most recent performance evaluation.  (If so, we hope you hit the ground running in 2014!)  In reality, we know that neither personal development plans nor regular conversations about performance and professional growth are standard for the vast majority of nonprofit cultural organizations, so this post is for the the rest of us.

Before the strains of “Auld Lang Syne” fade away, make some time to reflect on your professional accomplishments and disappointments of 2013, the skills and talents you developed, and the ones that need work.  This worksheet will help structure your self-assessment.  Now, you’ve got some context with which to think about you in the future.

Knowing what’s on your plate for 2014, what skills and attributes are critical to advancing your leadership capacity as well as your institution’s mission?  What opportunities already exist for leadership of a project or team, or addressing an organizational gap?  How might you rearrange what’s ahead to accommodate your leadership development?  Are there places where training, honing, mentoring, experimentation and/or coaching fit in?  And how would your professional capacity-building pay off for your institution?  Imbedded in your answers will be your goals, strategies and tasks — in other words, a plan of action that you can take to your boss or your board.  This worksheet talks about goal setting.

Don’t waste another minute.  The wind is ready to fill your sails.

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5 Comments on “What’s Your Plan for Leadership Development?”

  1. Ben Simonton says:

    As concerns leadership skills, the elephant in the room is our view of our job as an executive or manager. The vast majority think the job is getting the work done and that comes down to directing and controlling the workforce as has been demonstrated and taught to most of us from birth.

    But that view is a big mistake because it leads people to be demotivated and disengaged. This is what Gallup reports, that 70% of all employees are either not engaged or mad enough to be actively disengaged.

    Management’s role is not about telling people what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Its role is providing employees what they need so they can excel at making those decisions. So rather than spending its time trying to control employees with goals, targets, orders, bureaucracy, visions, directives, corporate value statements, mission statements and the like, all of which mainly serve to disengage employees, management listens to whatever employees have to say. Management does this often enough to more than satisfy the employee’s need to be heard.

    Management then responds to what was said in a timely and respectful manner to the satisfaction of the employee or better thus satisfying the employee’s need to be respected. Once employees realize this will always be done, they realize that they can influence everything in the workplace.

    This ability to influence everything begets a sense of ownership – that this is just as much their workplace as it is anyone’s. In the same way, a sense of ownership begets commitment. This process will also satisfy the employee’s needs to have autonomy, competence, and relatedness and with all needs satisfied, they will choose to become engaged.

    There are a lot of details such as how to listen, how to conduct sessions (both one-on-one and group) to listen to employee complaints, suggestions, and questions, how to respond to what you hear, the values employees have and how they use them, and most importantly how to convert the ~95% of employees who are followers into non-followers. Most of these can be learned by trial and error as I once did. But it may not be possible to learn about followers and non-followers or how to convert followers through making mistakes, but it is easy to do and does has a huge positive effect on productivity, innovation, and creativity.

    Stephen Covey senior said the possible performance gain is 500% and my own experience managing people for over 30 years makes me agree with Covey.

    Hope this helps, Ben

    • Many thanks for your comments, Ben. In our book, Leadership Matters, we talk about how the old ‘command and control’ form of leadership is giving way to ‘convergence of leadership’ — the understanding that nonprofit organizations work best when staff are not only engaged, but have have a real voice in both planning and decision-making.

      • Ben Simonton says:

        You have a great title. Sadly, very few of what we call leaders have a clue of how capable people really are. After my first 12 years of using a command and control approach to managing people, I added listening to my bag of tricks and slowly but surely found out that people are at least 4 times more capable than I had thought possible in my first 12 years.


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