One way to challenge yourself

Group of girls in ballet classI’d started taking classical Russian ballet lessons in my 30’s. There were no plans to be a prima ballerina and no plans to perform. I just wanted to work hard and challenge myself to get some exercise and get as good as I could at this form of dance. If I was going to spend some time learning ballet, I figured I might as well work hard at it.

One thing that worked well for me was to take a class with people who’d been taking lessons for a while. After a few classes, I noticed that there were some people who were really good at it. So I found my spot at the barre each week next to at least one person whom I thought made ballet (a difficult type of dance) look great, while making it look easy at the same time. If I got lucky, some weeks I was able to sandwich myself at the barre between two talented people!

I challenged myself to watch how they moved and did my best to do things the way they did them. My technique improved while I learned more difficult moves.

I learned a lot from that experience (and even performed a few times). One of the biggest things I learned was:

If you want to get better at something, hang out with people who are better at it than you are.

This works for me now in everything I do. I learn a lot from a friend who helps me to be a better cook and I learn a lot from other coaches who are better than I am.

It can work for you too. What do you want to learn about leadership? Start here:

Observe leaders you admire – those who do it well and make it look easy. Watch what they do and how they do it. Ask them if you can follow them around for a couple of hours or for something specific like when they lead a meeting. You won’t be disappointed as you’ll be learning from a master. Take notes, find one or two things to try and see if they fit.

Create conditions that can help you to surround yourself with people that you can interact with who are better than you are. Be courageous and ask the best of the best if they’d like to create a round-table or mastermind group to learn from each other. Chances are they’ll be interested in learning too.

Develop a plan to develop yourself in areas of your leadership that you know you can get better at. Let others (your mastermind group perhaps?) know what you’re working on and set a schedule for checking in with them on your progress. Keep working on your action steps until they feel easy.

This is only the beginning. You’ll find there is always something to challenge yourself with that will improve your ability to be the best leader you can be.

I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.