You’ve got to get better. Everyone does. The torch of self-improvement should burn bright and shouldn’t flame out until very late in life. You will never ‘graduate’ as a leader. You will never be granted absolution from the obligation to improve. The people you lead deserve your continuous work on yourself so you can do a better job for them. You’re not expected to be perfect, and too much perfectionism will definitely interfere with your leadership (can you say, ‘micromanager’!), but you are expected to always be refining, shaping, strengthening, developing, advancing, and elevating yourself. You are, and always will be, a work in progress.
Setting Goals to Improve as a Leader
If you are ready to improve as a leader then the next step is setting goals. Human beings are goal-directed creatures. Goals give us a destination that we can move toward and gauge our progress as we go.
Even before we learn to set goals for ourselves, others are setting them for us. Our parents repeat words over and over, with the goal of getting us to talk, until we start saying the words ourselves. They keep pushing us along with other little goals (e.g., dress ourselves, learn manners, ride a bike, wipe our hiney) toward the greater goal of turning us into self-reliant and capable young adults who can, eventually, face the world on our own.
This goal-directed journey to self-sufficiency is aided and reinforced by relatives, teachers, sports coaches, and countless others until the whole notion of goals and advancement is wired right into our being.
To improve as a leader, start with clear goals. Goals provide a sense of momentum, confirming that each day you, and the organization, are moving forward. Progress toward goals is the clearest way of knowing that what you’re doing at work truly matters and that you’re making a true difference.
You don’t want to have the goals become like New Year’s Resolutions that quickly recede in importance. The point isn’t to set goals, it’s to get them. Leadership, is about results, right? Here are some ways of ensuring that the goals you set will be achieved:
- Write them down, explicitly and clearly. Include how the goal fits into broader team and organizational goals in the writeup, to link individual, team, and organizational progress.
- Write down the risks that could emerge if the goal isn’t attained.
- Set a realistic but aggressive deadline to create urgency. Also, set Momentum Milestones, and dates when you’ll evaluate the progress toward the goals.
- Identify measures you’ll use to gauge and track goal progress.
- Identify the resources, training, or support that you will need to make the goal happen. Also, identify lower priority items that you could trade off in service of making the goal happen.
- List the initial actions that you need to take to initiate goal momentum.
As you set goals, it’s critical that you’re not vague. ‘This year I need to communicate more…’ is a weak goal. So is ‘Show more initiative…’ and ‘Be more assertive…’ and ‘Be more detail-oriented.’ Those are intentions, not goals. And you know what they say about intentions, right? (If not, Google ‘What is the road to hell paved with?’). To ensure a high likelihood of achievement, you’ve got to operationalize the intentions. Instead of ‘communicate more’ say, “We agree you’ll lead our bi-weekly staff meetings, and immediately afterward you and I will jointly evaluate the meeting’s effectiveness.” You get the idea. The more specific the goal, the better the chances the goal will be reached.
What goals do you have to improve your leadership? If you don’t have any, then follow these steps and start today.
This post is based on content from Leadership Two Words at a Time: Simple Truths for Leading Complicated People.