Professional growth is a requirement for potential leaders. While people might have potential for leadership, active professional growth removes the gap between potential leaders’ current skills and the skills they need to lead.
Photo Credit: Robert Sullivan
Professional growth must be customized to the learning of the individual and it must occur regularly. Individuals learn in many ways; therefore, a one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate for professional growth plans. An organization should require professional growth of potential leaders, but it should not require the specific details of how that growth occurs.
THE DIFFERENT TRAINING TYPES
The Four Training Types
Aubrey Malphurs and Will Mancini comprehensively explain the different training types in their book, Building Leaders. While they describe eight training venues and eight event venues, the four training types are most relevant to this chapter.
The first training type is learner-driven training. In this type, potential leaders take responsibility for their own growth for self-development of character, knowledge, skills, and emotions. Ways this training can occur are reading books, listening to conferences on CD, interviewing successful leaders over lunch or coffee, or attending classes and seminars.
The second training type is content-driven training. In this training type, there is a clear transfer of knowledge where a body of information is the basis for the learning. This type of training can be formal or informal. Usually, content-driven training focuses on specific and technical knowledge such as human resource (HR) laws in the workplace, or in a church content-driven training would focus on systematic theology topics.
The third training type is mentor-driven training. Potential leaders are matched with a mentor who provides help by giving instruction, being a model, providing observations on the strengths and weaknesses of the mentee, as well as evaluating the progress of the mentee.
The fourth training type is experience-driven training. In this training type, potential leaders grow by practicing the skills and knowledge they need while doing the work. 1
Potential Leaders Chose and Design the Training Type
Choose the Training Type
Each potential leader should choose the training type (or types) that best first his or her personality and learning style. Because potential leaders have different ways of learning it is important that the organization and current leader do not set a “one size fits all” approach for leadership development.
Potential leaders should be able to evaluate the different training types and chose the one that fits their personality best.
Design the Training
After the current leader has expressed that potential leaders must have a growth plan and the potential leaders have identified which method they best learn in, it is then time for the potential leaders to design their growth plan.
I suggest that current leaders create a meeting with potential leaders to explain the need for leadership development, explain the four training types, then put the responsibility on potential leaders to create their own professional growth plan.
Once that professional growth plan has been created by potential leaders, the current leader should meet with each of the potential leaders to briefly review the plan and agree to follow up every month for a brief coaching session (as will be discussed in chapter seven of this book).
REFLECTION AS THE MOST POWERFUL GROWTH TOOL
The most effective and cost-efficient way for potential leaders to grow is through daily reflection.
Regarding reflection John Maxwell comments, “There are many different ways of growing and an infinite number of lessons to be learned in life. But there are some kinds of growth that come to us only if we are willing to stop, pause, and allow the lesson to catch up with us.” 2
Therefore, potential leaders must take a moment every day to pause and reflect about the projects they are working on, the experiences they have had, and the things they have learned. This may be thirty seconds to five minutes.
Questions for Reflection
There are some basic questions that potential leaders can ask when they take time to reflect.
- What did I do well today?
- What can I improve on?
- What did I learn today from the tasks and projects I worked on?
- What did I learn today from the people I met with?
- What did I learn today from the things I heard?
- What did I learn today from what I read?
Record the Reflections
Reflection is useless unless potential leaders record their learnings and review them regularly. Potential leaders must find a place to record the things they have learned.
For example, potential leaders should write their reflections in a small journal, record them into an audio file, write them on a legal pad, put them in the “notes” feature in a phone, or organize the reflections into an Excel spreadsheet.
The place and method of recording the reflections is not as important as the necessity of doing the reflection daily.
HOW TO IMPLEMENT A PROFESSIONAL GROWTH PLAN
Steps for Implementation
To implement a professional growth plan several things must be in place.
- First, this plan must be agreed upon by the leader and potential leader.
- Second, it must be put into writing.
- Third, the leader must follow up with the potential leader regularly to assess progress with the plan.
- Fourth, potential leaders must show growth through their recorded reflections.
Time for Implementation
The goal of implementing a growth plan is not to provide potential leaders with one more thing to do. Once potential leaders have assessed the best ways they learn, they should seek ways they can implement their growth plan with minimal time and effort.
Growth at Work
There are numerous times throughout the day that potential leaders can seize extra time to complete their growth plan.
For example, if a potential leader finds himself at a meeting waiting for it to start, he can grow from his peers by asking different questions about their work and what they are learning about leadership.
Another idea is to have a book or some type of reading related to leadership that potential leaders can read while they wait for their computer to boot up every morning.
Growth outside of Work
While a leader cannot require potential leaders to carry out their growth plan outside of work, here are some ideas for potential leaders who want to utilize extra time outside of work hours for their growth plan.
For example, when a potential leader waits in line at Starbucks every morning he can pull out his phone and read a blog post or two related to leadership growth he has put into his RSS feed. Instead of listening to the same news headlines told repeatedly on the radio during a potential leader’s drive to work, he can be intentional about leadership growth by listening to podcasts or books on tape.
If a potential leader has to go to a doctor’s appointment, he can be intentional about growth by bringing a book or magazine related to leadership that he can read while he waits for his appointment. The goal is to find methods that are effective and require minimal time.
There are different training types and different ways that people learn. Yet, reflection can often be one of the most powerful growth tools. The key idea is that growth needs to occur even if it is in small increments every day through various means.
- Malphurs and Mancini, Building Leaders, 152-156. ↩
- John Maxwell, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth: Live Them and Reach Your Potential (New York, NY: Center Street, 2012), 51. ↩