Developmental Progress Stuck in a Snowbank? How to Spring Into Action
It’s the time of year when most of us are ready for spring, especially after these last couple of weeks of wintery blasts. It’s also the time most individuals take stock of their progress towards achieving their 2018 goals – and for those ambitious professionals out there, this includes career goals. Yet this is also where many people get stuck. It’s as if they find themselves trapped in an icy snowbank and can’t move out of it. The reasoning varies, so it’s important to assess the cause of getting stuck and then take action to overcome the developmental hurdles.
During my years as an internal talent and HR leader, I’ve coached numerous professionals on this issue. Based on my experience, I’ve found five primary reasons people find themselves “snowed in”:
1. “I have not received constructive feedback.”
I love the saying “Feedback is a gift.” What’s even more fantastic about this gift is that you can ask for it! Asking probing questions can be an effective way of gaining insight into how others perceive us and where we need to improve, as long as we vocalize our intent before asking for the feedback. For example, “I would like to improve my meeting facilitation skills. Can I get your feedback after our committee meeting this afternoon?” For other useful tips on this topic, see the Harvard Business Review article, “How to Ask for Feedback That Will Actually Help You.”
2. “I’m not exactly sure what I need to do in order to develop.”
This reaction typically comes from a professional receiving vague feedback, such as “You need to work on your communication skills.” This could be many different things! Therefore, start with seeking clarity by saying something like, “I am interested in understanding where I might be missing the mark with my communication skills. Could you describe some instances when I could be getting better results with my communication?” The goal is to narrow the development opportunity down to a specific behavior that can then be translated into an action and measurable result.
3. “My manager is not supportive of my development.”
Some of us are lucky enough to have a really great boss who supports our development. For those that may not be so fortunate, it’s important to first evaluate your options. What NOT to do is use a lack of manager support as an excuse to shift focus away from development. Evaluate whether there are other people you can add to your network who can support your efforts (e.g., an informal mentor). Additionally, you can seek external opportunities to cultivate key skills, such as taking a course or participating in a community organization. As you work through this hurdle, it may be helpful to reflect using GROW questions. These are typically used by managers to coach employees to determine a path forward, but can also be used as part of self-coaching.
4. “I don’t have time.”
Development is not all about taking full-day courses. Typically, opportunities to apply development techniques surround us every day, from projects to our interactions working with and leading others. We encourage individuals to increase their awareness of these opportunities and then leverage them. Remember, if you don’t invest in your development, who will? Commit to carve out some time on your calendar to focus on your growth priorities.
5. “I know my manager says it’s an issue, but it’s REALLY not.”
Do you know what your leadership blind spots are? There is a good chance the answer is “No!” By definition, we often lack awareness of our blind spots’ presence and/or severity. They act as the black ice to our progress and are often referred to as “derailers.” To gain insights into these areas, seek feedback from those who can provide an objective perspective. Then, assess what trends emerge over time. Ask yourself, “Have I heard similar feedback before?” If so, that tends to be the sign of a blind spot. Once we gain awareness of the issue, the next step is to focus action on improving in that area and continuing to seek feedback to ensure the effectiveness of your efforts. For more information, check-out Inc.’s “The Top 10 Leadership Blind Spots, and 5 Ways to Turn Them Into Strengths.”
Developmental progress can take some hard work and perseverance. As I look out my window at the daffodils that have already pushed up through the snow, I’m reminded of the persistence that nature holds and how it may serve as a reminder to all of us. With that, we wish you advancement and success in your development efforts this season!
Looking to take your developmental efforts even further? We recommend the article, “What Your Development Plan Says About You.”