A reader responded to a blog question about executive teams I raised in a January post ("Have you fallen and can’t get up?") with a story of how she has personally fallen, and is having trouble getting up. She leads a group of experts in a professional organization who are extremely disdainful of her and one of the directors reporting to her. She finds them intimidating and dismissive and struggles to find her voice with them. Her boss recently told her that most of them are disappointed in the vision she’s established in the department and don’t think she’s a good leader.

Jim Clemmer - The Practical LeaderShe told me she wants to grow in her position and figure out how to address her leadership gaps. I commended her for reaching out for help and using this situation as a time for personal growth. Too many people get defensive or withdraw when faced with these sorts of learning opportunities.

When I wrote Growing @ the Speed of Change I tried to boil down core tips and techniques for personal growth. Here’s some of what I came up with:

  • Find a personal coach or counselor to guide your personal development. He or she can be a sounding board, gather feedback from those you work with, prod you to reach your goals, provide advice, and encourage you.
  • Reflect and plan, every day.  Read or listen to spiritual, inspiring, or educational material; write in your journal; daydream; review the previous day; set your priorities for the next day to sort out the urgent from the truly important; pray or meditate; and continue developing your vision, values, and purpose.
  • Search Amazon to check out many of the excellent books available to inspire, instruct, and guide your personal, team, and organization improvement efforts. Many effective leaders are devoted readers.
  • Try your hand at writing articles for your trade or association publications, local newspaper, or internal newsletter (many of these publications welcome such contributions.) You could prepare a paper to deliver at a conference. Or write internal articles, training steps, and the like to share your experience and provide reflective learning.
  • My early career time working with Dale Carnegie Training clearly showed me just how powerful developing public-speaking or verbal communication skills can be in building self-confidence and leadership skills. You don’t have to be on your feet speaking to a group, although that is a very effective way to stretch and grow. You can reflect on your experiences and talk about your improvement plans with team members, your manager, a personal coach or therapist, a close friend, or your spouse.
  • Develop the habit of continually stretching outside your comfort zone a bit at a time. Daily or even just weekly stretches, however small, accumulate into powerful new habits and ever-stronger discipline muscles.
  • Try to cultivate a mentor relationship with a senior manager or another seasoned person who would enjoy taking you under his or her wing. This could be an experienced HR or training professional or someone in a key technical or staff-support role. It could be anyone from whom you think you could learn.
  • Search out local personal growth or leadership development courses available in your area. Online courses can be useful for some aspects of personal growth, but leading others requires live interactions and often practice with other learners who are all learning together and supporting each other’s growth.

What have you found works best for your personal growth and leadership development? How would you handle this situation?