Leadership 101 – Lesson 4: Have a Plan

What’s your plan?  How many times have you been asked that question and had no idea what in the world people were asking you?  You come to work every day, you get a ton of “work” done, but suddenly, as a leader, you are expected to have a plan.  I am certain that you thought achieving the coveted leadership position was going to mean your world got easier.

There was a day in my past when I thought that yoga was “an easy workout”.  What I soon realized was that it was one of the hardest things that I ever tried…and keep trying to do.  It makes sense to me now why it’s called a practice.  It’s multi-faceted, challenging, and requires a good bit of mental as well as physical strength.  And it reminds me of leadership.  It sounds easy enough…but is it?  People now rely on you.  They look up to you.  Everything you do and say is under a microscope, and you must quickly figure out how you are going to move forward and excel as a leader.

So, back to having a plan.  Don’t panic! Plans can come in all shapes and sizes.  When you have no idea of what comes next – it’s time to put together a plan.  Sometimes, you need a plan to put together a plan.  Sometimes, the plan might be as simple as how to get through the day.  Other times you might need a plan to deliver a major project.  And often for new leaders, one of your first plans is your leadership development plan.  A leadership plan can guide you through a process that helps you explore what comes next for you.

1. Identify and define your current state as a leader.

a. Be as honest with yourself as possible.

b. Are you actually leading the work and those under your supervision, or are you behaving exactly the same as the day before you formally assumed leadership responsibilities?

c. Have you received feedback about becoming more self-aware, but have chosen to ignore it?  It is so easy to dismiss this reality and assume that it’s everyone else that has a problem.  Try to look past this common “strategy” of coping and take a hard look within yourself to understand what your current reputation is.

2.  Identify your future state as a leader.

a. Do you understand the expectations of you as a leader from those who lead you?   If not, why not?

b. How do you want to be viewed as a leader?    How far off is that vision from the expectations of you in the current role?

c. What do you think you need to do to close the gap between where you are now and the vision you have of yourself as a leader?

3.  Identify what you don’t know!  This is always funny – if we don’t know, how do we know?

a. Identify people you may not yet know but you do know that you will be working with them.  Invite each of them to meet with you.

b. Identify areas of expertise that you might need for the period of your plan (e.g., 3, 6, 9 months) and prepare a list of questions you will ask people with whom you need to meet.

c. Identify anything that you feel uneasy about, and craft questions that will enhance your understanding.  Ask these questions when you meet with your supervisor or those with whom you will meet.

4.  Put your plan together!

a. Your plan should be dynamic and evolve as you evolve as a leader, and as the needs of your situation evolve.

b. Recognize that change takes time.  Commit to doing at least one thing each day that pushes you outside of your comfort zone and helps you grow as a leader.

c. Find mentors who you can work with and who will be honest with you.  Building trust relationships is essential to successful leadership.

d. If resources like a learning development group or a mentor are available to you, ask for their recommendations on how best to enhance your leadership skills and abilities, including other leadership development groups, mentors, and specific training, and courses that can inform your leadership development.  Asking other leaders what they have done to build their leadership capacity will be especially instructive.

e. Document your action plan and follow up on it on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.  Schedule an appointment with yourself to do this, or it won’t get done. Hold yourself accountable.

Remember, leadership is a lot like a yoga practice.  If you want the benefits of the practice, you must routinely get on the mat to mindfully practice your skills, abilities, and stretches.  Namaste!

Written by: Chris Ament, HR Director Consultant, ConnectedHR

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