Many leaders I work with know they would benefit from developing new skills but aren’t sure how to fit learning into their already packed schedule. I encourage them to think of their workplace as an on-the-job learning lab or playground where they can experiment with a new skill or behavior. I use this language because I think it’s best not to think of skill development as a big, serious task. Learners can relax into the learning by playing with it from different angles.
How about you? Are you putting off learning new things until the time feels right? Here are five strategies to help you get started.
- Choose one skill or behavior you want to acquire or improve. Get clear on one tool you want to add to your repertoire. Developing a new skill or behavior takes your best effort, so focusing on just one development area at a time prevents you from getting overwhelmed or diluting your efforts.
- Check your motivation. Do you truly want to develop this skill, or is it something you’ve selected because you think it might look good on your resume? Skill development requires that you be intentional and roll up your sleeves to hone what you want to learn. Internal motivation makes it much easier to put in the time and do the work.
- Create an image of what good looks like. Let’s say you want to become a more effective presenter. Once you determine you want to add that skill, create an image for yourself of what being a more effective presenter would look like. You can start by noticing good and not-so-good presentation skills of others around you—including people you work with, friends, family, or even the person giving away samples at a grocery store. After observing for a while, you will have created your vision of an effective presenter.
- Put your development plan together. Once you have your image defined, what you will you actually do to gain this new skill? If you aren’t sure, watch other presenters in person or online to see what they do that feels authentic to you. Seek advice and support from people who have presentation experience. Read books or articles on the topic. Look for tips, tricks, and suggestions that motivate you and resonate with who you are as a person.
- Ready, set, go. On the job is the best place to practice a new behavior—but use care. If you want to add presentation skills to your tool kit, it’s probably not best to start by volunteering to present to your executive leadership team. Start small, then build up your opportunities for practice as your skill level increases.
You don’t have to wait until your calendar opens up to work on skill development. You can practice on the job in the learning lab that is your workplace. Put these five strategies to work and take the first step today!
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.