We live in a place where we have to differentiate ourselves now more than ever. It goes beyond a degree and a trade to now building a presence, having a network, and displaying valuable – though much harder to qualify – attributes that companies crave.
In order to move forward in organizations or to facilitate the growth of our own businesses, there are initiatives that are crucial to our development.
Are you stuck in your day-to-day work? Or are you investing in your own professional success by picking your head up and looking at the skill gaps you need to fill? Whether you are in management, business ownership, nonprofits, or another professional role, it is vital to have the tools, skills & attributes to grow and become more valuable – to both your company and your clients.
Here are Your 3 Most Important Development Initiatives:
1. BUILDING A PROFESSIONAL BRAND – Setting an Intentional Brand, Not an Accidental One
Your brand is not necessarily what you want it to be. Your brand is what others perceive it to be. A lot of people think it’s the other way around, but that is not the case. Let’s imagine that your friend Lauren once had a bad experience at a local restaurant – the service was not good and the food was wrong, cold & late when it came out. Right from her table, Lauren took a picture of the food and posted on Facebook about it. She tagged her other friends and wrote a long note about her poor experience at the place. She happens to be a pretty influential person in the community, and a number of people also commented on the post saying they had similar experiences. In the marketplace, weak service and poor delivery make up this restaurant’s brand.
When business started, that restaurant had spent a lot of time thinking about food and making money, but not as much time on what they had actually wanted to be about. They talked about franchising someday. However, there was not a culture in the business that surrounded anything to do with the customer’s needs. They thought they had a good reputation.
They were wrong.
Where that business went wrong was in not INTENTIONALLY setting their vision, values and ultimately how they wanted to be perceived in their small, but powerful marketplace.
Just like that business, it is easy for us to focus on our day-to-day: What calls do we have to make? What meetings do we have? How many emails do I have to answer in my inbox? How many of us actually sit back and say – “Who do I want to BE today? Set aside 30 minutes to think about your values and how you can better display them with your colleagues, your friends and your family. Building a brand takes work and it takes persistence and it takes REMINDERS.
2. ESTABLISHING YOUR LEADERSHIP STYLE – Building a Style That Gets the Most Out of Your Team
History has shown us a number of different leadership styles that have worked to varying degrees. At one point in our history, you could predict if someone would be a “leader” based purely on genetics. Yes, if your father owned the land then one day you would own the land and rule the kingdom. If your mother ran the business, then you would likely run the business.
In modern days, we don’t take leaders at their title. They have to display a particular style that makes us feel compelled to listen to and follow them.
Your style is a result of your surroundings, your personality, your audience and your situation. First, it starts with you. What do you value? How would you describe yourself? What have you learned about yourself over the course of your career? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Are you a good communicator? Are you a problem-solver?
From there, it’s about the people around you and the situation you are in. How you speak to soldiers as a commander in war is different than how you speak to your employees when you own a bakery. If you are dealing with children, you may speak a little more delicately and patiently than if you are working with engineers on a big software project. The situation dictates how much time you can take, how assertive you will have to be, how many people you will have to engage, and how much you are focused on the result.
The ability to adjust your style to the situation is a highly enviable trait. If you are able to communicate and work with people in a way that aligns with the particular situation, then you will drive your teams to more success. Sometimes, that means letting go of what you would like to do and focusing on what the team actually needs.
3. INCREASING PERSONAL PRODUCTIVITY – Getting More For Your Hour
In a world where we are constantly striving to gain the edge, personal productivity and team productivity have become hot topics.
Each year, we are asked as leaders to do more with less. The number of hours in a day has not gone up, yet we are asked to do more in them. Thus, we must find ways that we can up what we can do in that time frame. And, it is very possible.
First, we can always start the day a little earlier. Get up at 5:30 instead of 6:00, and cut our routines down to a science. Do you get up in the morning and have a set idea of what you are going to do? Or do you wander around and suddenly an hour has gone by and you’re not exactly sure where it went? Create a routine that focuses you to get everything you need done when you first wake up in a set period of time so that you don’t even have to think about it.
We’ve heard this before, but it’s important to batch your activities. Can you put all of your phone calls into one block of time where you go back-to-back, thus leaving greater chunks of time for more creative work? The same goes for errands or activities at home. Batching can keep you focused on the task at hand and limit the amount of time you spend leaving tasks and then going back to them, which wastes time. If you finish the task at hand in a set window, you’re more likely to finally complete it.
There are so many to-do list apps that can help you be your most productive self. The best app or tool to use is the one you will actually use. That means that if you have your to-do lists scattered in notebooks, email, documents, apps, it’s more likely that you’ll spend more time looking for what you have to do rather than actually doing it. I religiously use an Excel to-do list file to manage all of my weekly and long-term tasks, and then I use a journal to track my daily to-do lists and phone calls. I’ve tried many different things, but stick with the ones I actually use and the things I can actually see.