I just had my annual performance review and was pleased with it. As a follow-up item, my boss has asked me to submit to him 10 personal goals for the upcoming year. Five of them must be goals related to our department's work, and those were easy. The other five must be leadership-development goals for me personally. I manage a team of four people. There is no training budget for leadership development, so I need to come up with five leadership goals that don't require formal classroom or online training. Can you help?
What a great project for your manager to assign you. Your boss's buy-in to your personal development is a terrific sign of his or her priorities and faith in your potential. Here are some ideas to jump-start your list of Five Personal Leadership-Development Goals for the year:
1) Perhaps one of your goals could revolve around correcting key skill weaknesses that hamper your department's progress. Can you identify two skill-area deficits or inconsistencies across your team (report-writing, for instance, or presentations) and develop training interventions to address them? Those interventions could look like weekly lunch-and-learn sessions or 15-minute one-on-one training opportunities or peer-led training. Ask for the team's input to get your employees engaged in the effort, and recognize milestones as the group progresses in each area.
2) A terrific leadership-action item is a process to gain insight from your subordinates, peers, and leaders about your leadership proficiency and areas for future development. A simple (I didn't say easy) way to learn more about your leadership strengths and opportunities is a set of 20-minute, face-to-face, one-on-one interviews with your subordinates, selected peers, and the senior managers who know your work best. Bring a pen and pad to these meetings, and ask each interviewee "What's my greatest strength as a manager today? How could I become a stronger leader?" Let your interviewees know the topic, in advance. Share the interview results of this 360-degree review with your manager to get his or her support for your leadership next steps.
3) You could develop a leadership goal of participating in management meetings in departments outside your own, throughout the company, maybe once a month. If you choose this goal, attend each meeting to observe, learn, and take notes, which you'll write up and share with your boss. What is the leadership style of each leader whose team you visit? Which leadership approaches from each group are worth cultivating and emulating? You'll need your boss's support to get you into these meetings, which should be valuable internal-networking opportunities as well as learning experiences for you.
4) What about developing your leadership abilities by creating a formal training plan for your department? I'm talking about one that takes employees through a checklist of items and evaluates their proficiency as each milestone is accomplished. A good way to think about a program like this is "The ABC Corp. Finance Department Certification Program." If you choose this goal, make it a collaborative project by engaging the team in establishing the list of must-have skills (using your department's software applications, learning key processes, running a meeting, etc.) and writing the how-to details.
5) You might research and study the literature (copious and free) available online regarding a central leadership topic—conflict resolution, for example, or delivering corrective feedback—and write a best-practices document that could be used throughout your division or company. Break down the collected best practices into concrete steps that could be used in new-manager training, and get input from your peers on the draft before it's finalized.
Many managers are oriented only toward improving the bottom-line goals, especially now. Hats off to your manager for seeing the value of developing leaders as well as the business. And of course, good leadership can ultimately help the bottom line as well.