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Let’s talk about Self-Development. This topic is a critical winning leader behavior we regularly see as we teach Gapology to teams nationwide. Growth is a basic human need, and focusing inward on how we can help to lead that effort for our own movement forward as leaders will put us miles ahead of our peers and our competition.

Self-development takes incredible discipline, and it requires consistency with our Leadership Rhythm. As we typically lack external accountability, it is really up to us to make it worthwhile and help us move the needle in whatever we are pursuing. We must ensure this is a formal part of our regular weekly schedules.

Sure, we can establish formalized goals within the scope of our yearly performance appraisals, and we definitely should. That process does drive up accountability through the use of our supervisor’s influence. The important thing, however, is our commitment to developing our own skills. Here are a few tips to consider when putting this all together.


  • Wrap it in Purpose. It is paramount to ensure that what you choose to develop will be a lasting process, one that you are driven to work on. With a clear reason for creating extra work for yourself, hanging in there for the long haul will be easier. Make this purpose big. Create real desired outcomes and clearly understand the reason for them. This must be personal for you. You need to create the why for it and know what it will all do for you in the end.

  • Understand that you must build knowledge, skills, and experience. Whatever area you will work to improve must include all three things. You will need to create change intellectually where you think differently and increase your overall knowledge of the subject being developed. Due to the knowledge gained, you’ll need to create physical, skill-based change. You’ll need to be able to do something different when all is said and done. And then, you’ll need to practice to gain experience and grow your overall skills. It is also important to consider feedback. Look for ways to receive regular feedback from a skilled individual who can see your efforts and progress, course-correct your progress when needed, and celebrate your successes. If a formal feedback process isn’t already built in for the area you are working on, arrange regular time with a trusted and honest peer or colleague to share their insights.

  • Establish goals, expectations, and milestones. With goals or objectives, you’ll want to establish something to shoot for right from the start. Have that end in mind. Know what you are building and working toward. This is why understanding your Purpose is so important to this process. The purpose helps give life and reason to the goals. Once you understand your goals and set clearly defined expectations for yourself, remember to include both components of clear expectations, a result you want to achieve (which should be your goal), and the behaviors you will need to get there. Define and document both components. And create milestones. Regular check-in points allow you to pause and reflect on how you are doing. These points will let you step back and see what is working and what is not. From there, you can course-correct if needed. It is important to do this with grace, where you remain flexible in your pursuit of growth.

  • Take a partner. There are many ways to do this. Invite someone to join you in your growth effort where you work and grow together. Or you may want to invite someone to be an Accountability Partner, someone you trust to be open and honest with you and provide coaching and feedback. I’ve already mentioned this before: Feedback is important as it helps you step outside of your own paradigm and look at your progress through another person’s eyes. Every great athlete has a coach. Get your own here, too.

  • And lastly… Get going. You need to just start. The first steps are often the most difficult, so jump in and get things rolling. If you feel off-track, you may need to adjust things and course-correct your efforts, but that’s okay. This is your self-development plan, after all, so be kind and gracious with yourself if you need to pivot a bit. The important thing is to build it into your weekly leadership rhythm to create real momentum. Momentum will help keep your efforts moving forward, which is often an extremely difficult thing to do.

It is easy to stand still, but moving forward is tough. High levels of commitment and discipline will be required here. Be thoughtful and strategic upfront about what really matters and what areas you want to improve or leverage. Close your own Knowledge and Importance Gaps first, and then, build a strong plan with a partner or mentor to close any Action Gaps.

And then... just get going to take that first step to a whole new world.


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