I was recently coaching a client who had been identified by his organization as a top performer. During our first call, we talked about the things he initially wanted to focus on for his professional growth and development.
In short order, the client mentioned five large development goals—and my sense was that he could have easily doubled that list if I had given him an extra minute or two.
This didn’t surprise me—my experience has been that if asked, most leaders can identify a laundry list of development goals for themselves.
What I’ve learned, though, is that for leadership development to be most effective it’s better to focus on only one or two objectives at a time—to gather, versus scatter, our forces when establishing a learning focus.
Biting Off the Right Amount
Developing a new behavior takes time, energy, and practice—and it’s often a trial and error process. If your scope is too big and you try to tackle too many changes at once, it can become overwhelming. When this happens, frustration can set in—which can lead to throwing up your hands in defeat.
Setting a reasonable goal is more likely to lead to success. But reasonable doesn’t mean something already in your comfort zone. The change you seek should stretch and challenge you—maybe even scare you a little.
3 Questions That Can Help
When defining the right level of challenge, ask yourself:
- With my limited time and energy, what are the one or two most impactful areas I should focus on?
- What would achieving this goal look like? What would be different? What is the target I’m striving to hit?
- Who can I enlist (a coach, friend or mentor) to help me along the way?
Focus Leads to Mastery
Gather your forces by picking one or two behaviors you want to acquire or change—and then practice, practice, practice. Try to think of the time you spend in development as a learning lab as you test and refine the new behaviors you want to add to your tool kit. Take time periodically to evaluate what is working and what isn’t. Give yourself permission to fumble along the way.
Keep in mind that learning happens over time, with practice. If you stay focused, before you know it you will master and own that new attitude, habit, or skill.
And after you celebrate, you can pick a new area to focus on!
About the Author
Joanne Maynard is a senior coach with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team. Since 2000, Blanchard’s 130 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.