Recently, another leader asked me about how he should go about sharpening his skills in the areas where he was naturally gifted. He had already done something that I consider really important: he had discovered his strengths. Now he was ready to focus his efforts at growth in those areas, so he could really improve where he could make an impact.
I gave his question some thought, and soon some specific ways to grow came to mind. Here are the thoughts I shared with him that day. To sharpen our skills in a strength area, we should seek to…
When I was young and people would say I didn’t have enough experience, it frustrated me. I felt like saying, “But I’ve got energy and I’m working hard. That should be enough!” But I have to tell you, now that I’m on this side of life, I realize how valuable experience is.
Once you get some experience under your belt, it gives you both confidence and examples of what works and what doesn’t. Having dealt with a similar situation before really makes you confident that you can handle it this time. And it means you can tell others, “Look, here’s what I discovered when I experienced this.”
Even young David, before he took on Goliath, talked about how his experience had prepared him for the challenge. He told King Saul that he’d already taken on a lion and a bear, so he wasn’t afraid of a man. Having fought a lion and a bear before gave David confidence. And telling the king about it encouraged Saul to let him try to fight Goliath.
These days the feedback I receive comes when I speak before groups, but feedback from any number of people can be really valuable.
I still remember several years ago, when I was talking about failure to an audience. In passing, I made the statement that we all need to learn how to fail forward. Suddenly, there was an audible gasp from the crowd. I immediately thought, “Oh my gosh, that phrase really connected.” And that literally was the seed for my eventual book Failing Forward.
Now how did I know that phrase would speak to people in a book? I had already gotten feedback. We all need to talk to others, whether in a large group or a small one, in order to get feedback about our strengths.
Write Down YOur Thoughts
I believe nothing helps us to clearly see how well we’re thinking as much as writing things down. I’ve discovered that when I write a thought on paper and then examine it, I can think of all sorts of ways to improve it.
You see, when you speak, you can kind of gloss over an error in thinking, because five seconds later you’re on to another idea. But when you write something down, it just stares back at you. And here’s one important note: Don’t wait until something is good to write it down, or you’ll never write something down. Just get it on recorded, and then you’ll be able to make it good by revising it.
Participate in a Small Group of People
There are a lot of names for these kinds of groups: discussion groups, think tanks, masterminds, roundtables, or simply small groups. Sitting in a group discussing ideas is huge because it allows us to flesh out great thinking. That’s because as a group, we can all contribute to improving an idea. Throwing an idea out there with a group of sharp, like-minded individuals, usually yields an even better idea.
Study Available Resources
I still think back on a statement that I heard in my twenties from Earl Nightingale. He said that if you will spend one hour a day every day on a certain subject, within five years you will become an expert on that subject.
I believe he’s exactly right. Just one hour a day reading books and online resources on the subject in which you want to develop will help you grow a great deal. After awhile, the results compound, as you fine-tune what you’ve already learned.
I’ve always said that we should focus on growing in our areas of strength, more than in areas of weakness. Once you’ve figured out which way you’re naturally wired, work on gaining experience, getting feedback, participating in groups, and studying great resources. Your efforts in these areas will yield great dividends in your personal growth.
This month, I’m excited about my new book JumpStart Your Leadership, a 90-Day Improvement Plan, which releases on December 16. Each of the daily entries includes a quote, a paragraph that teaches a leadership lesson, an action step, and a place to take notes.
If you’ve been looking for a resource to help you grow a little bit each day as a leader—or if you want to help others grow in leadership—this book can help you. JumpStart Your Leadership is available at booksellers as well as here on my site. I hope it adds value to you.