How top leaders find their next developmental goals

Whats Your Next Step, message on paper, smart phone and coffee on tableI’m sure that I’m the luckiest executive coach in the world. I get to work with leaders who are already amazing and yet know that they still have things to work on. To top that off, they’re excited about getting even better at their craft because they have an open mind about learning and developing.

Working with amazing leaders scared me at one time. How could I possibly help them to discover their next developmental opportunities that could turn them into a leader who is even more amazing? I felt like I was playing a role, an imposter that had no tricks up her sleeve that would help them to transform into the best leader possible.

The truth is that they don’t need any magic. They are already magically capable of finding those goals that will push them beyond where they are now. All I have to do is listen, ask powerful questions and make observations that will help them to figure it all out on their own. I’ve learned a lot from them.

Because they are eager and motivated to work on themselves, they discover their development goals by staying aware! Realistically many leaders (you perhaps?) can find their next developmental goals by being more mindful.

How can you be more alert and aware about what’s next in your own development?  Consider what the best leaders do:

They observe themselves in action, and they simultaneously observe how others respond to them. This might sound easy, but it takes conscious practice. Its like splitting themselves in two – they observe themselves as they go about their workday while focusing on others’ reactions at the same time.

They reflect on what they’ve observed. Taking a few moments to stop and focus on what they’ve observed (and to record it for later, deeper reflection) helps them to remember what they see amidst their very often crazy days. A walk to another part of the campus they’re on or a break between meetings become quite useful in capturing their observations to think about later.

They ask for feedback frequently. They are specific in their “ask”, so that they can learn the specific behaviors that they need to sharpen. Instead of “how did I do in facilitating the meeting today?” they might ask, “Did I allow everyone to voice their opinions in the meeting today”? They know that when they are more specific, they’ll get more explicit answers.

They survey their stakeholders, both those who are “in their corner” and those who may not be. That way they get balanced feedback through whatever instruments they use: polls, 360’s, interviews conducted by someone else. They survey when they have a new role, and when they’ve been in their role for a while, because both scenarios can become hazards for a leader.

The most amazing leaders stay aware and aren’t afraid to look at themselves or to ask for others to provide feedback. They stay on top of what they need to improve.

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.