Developing leadership skills (and any other skills) does not need to happen only in the classroom (be it in person or online). In fact, there are many different ways that anyone can upgrade their leadership skills. In this short video, I describe three methods that can help you build up your leadership skills outside the classroom and with no budget. Leave a comment below about your reactions, or ideas about other ways to develop leadership skills. And read more ways to develop skills in creative, non-training ways in my book, Employee Development on a Shoestring.
[Prefer to listen on the go? Now this is also part of the TalentGrow Podcast, episode 143! Listen here or anywhere you like to listen to podcasts, and don’t forget to subscribe so you never miss an episode.]
Halelly: Workshops and training classes and university classes are rarely the only way to develop skills. In fact, a lot of times they’re not the best way to develop certain skills. This is something that I talk a lot about in my book, Employee Development on a Shoestring. There are lots of ways that you can develop skills and knowledge outside of the classroom and in a way that doesn’t interfere with your current role or take up a lot of time or money. I wanted to give you some ideas that you could use if you’re currently one of those people who is thinking about growing into a new opportunity, but you don’t really know how to be recognized yet or maybe you’re not yet possessing of the skills and knowledge that help you get recognized or get picked for that promotion.
What I want you to first think about is, specifically, what is it that you would like and why? Why do you want that promotion or why would you want to be a leader or manager or supervisor? The clearer that you are about why you want that opportunity, the better that you are connected to your motivation to do the work that is required to build those skills. Be very clear about why you’re doing it. Then my suggestion is that you try to think about where are your current strengths and how can you leverage the strengths you already have to be used in that new kind of a role? But also think about what are some of those gaps that you might have between your knowledge and skills currently and the ones that you need in order to be promoted or in order to get that new job or in order to be recognized or be seen or maybe be respected by the people that you wanted to be seen by as a leader?
That helps you narrow down the field of, “I need to develop my leadership skills,” which is just an insanely broad topic to, “I specifically need to work on X, Y and Z skills.” Now you have a doable list. Now we can start talking about unusual, non-training ways for you to develop your leadership skills. There are a lot, and I’m not going to cover everything in this particular short vlog, but I want to give you just a couple of ideas. I want to talk about three specifically – volunteering, getting a mentor or being a mentor and taking on a special team project or a special assignment.
The first one, volunteering. A lot of people think about volunteering. They think about the goal of volunteering as doing good for others, and of course you’re not going to let go of having that effect. But that’s not the only benefit of volunteering. In other words, the recipients of your volunteer efforts are not the only beneficiaries of your volunteer effort, time and energy. If you have a development lens as you are volunteering – and volunteering can take shape in so many different ways – for example, you could take on a volunteer role in your professional association or your professional trade organization in the local chapter, or you could take on a volunteer role at your kids’ school or you could take on a volunteer role at your place of worship or at your local community center or at Habitat for Humanity or at a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter. The list can go on and on, right? Lots and lots of organizations are sustained by volunteer power. In other words, they don’t have money to pay employees, so they get stuff done by having people volunteer to do it.
What’s great about this is that you could take on a role in the volunteer capacity that requires you to lead or manage others, because while to get a job as a leader you are going to be paid a salary and so companies and organizations are rightfully very choosy about who they accept into those leadership roles, and they want to see that you already have the skills necessary. But as a volunteer, that organization is asking you to give freely of your time and your effort and your energy and therefore they have maybe less people knocking on their door, clamoring to take on those volunteer positions. So, they can’t be quite as choosy with whom they take on for those roles. So when you come in and you’ve got the passion and you’ve got some types of expertise, but maybe not others, and you’re willing and able to give freely of your time and energy and passion, a lot of times that’s good enough for those organizations and they’ll gladly accept your offer to be in a volunteer capacity.
Now, when you’re doing a job, you’re learning on the job and you will make mistakes along the way, but here, you’re making the mistakes on someone else’s time, on someone else’s turf and it isn’t affecting your current job. You’re not messing up in any way, but you’re getting the skills, hands-on, on the job, and probably with some other people around you who could mentor you, support you, give you feedback. And then you’re building the skills, because we often build skills on the job. Those skills convey back to your current role or as you’re trying to get a new job, maybe with another organization, you could put those roles that you did in a volunteer capacity on your resume. Because I’m pretty sure on the resume it doesn’t say, “Hey, were you paid or not?” No, I did this role.
For example, for me, I took on a role on the board of directors of my professional association. I was the director of communications and then I was the director of programs and then I was the president elect and the president and the past president. So all of those things definitely go on my LinkedIn profile, they go on my resume. It was work that I did. Whether or not I was paid for it is irrelevant. I did the work and I did get the kudos and I did get the testimonials and I did get the experience, and all of that experience conveys into making me more suitable for the future leadership roles that I wanted to take. So volunteering is a fabulous way for you to build your leadership capacity and skills outside of your job, and outside of training and in a way that absolutely conveys lots of value for your ability to lead in the future.
The second thing that I wanted to mention as a way to build skills for becoming a leader is mentoring. Mentoring is a two-way street and you can actually grow your leadership skills on either side of that equation. For one, you could seek – and I think you should seek – a mentor. Someone that you look up to that has been down the path already, that already has leadership skills, that already has experience being a leader and that you admire and that you have some kind of chemistry with or connection with or a way to reach to, and who is willing to take you on as their protégé or their mentor and help you and teach you and share with you and give you feedback about your own leadership challenges and your own path, journey, to developing your leadership skills. But, you could also actually become a mentor for others. Because, one of the best ways to learn something is by doing it. When you are acting as a mentor, a lot of times there are really valid reasons why you could mentor someone else. There is experience, there are things you’ve done that you can share with someone who is maybe new in the field or young and just coming out of school or just thinking about making a change, a career change, whatever it is.
But in that effort, within that pursuit, where you are leading them and mentoring them, you are actually building a lot of those leadership skills that you might be looking to build. Like the ability to coach, the ability to give feedback, the ability to listen more, to talk, the ability to get someone motivated or inspired. Whatever it is you want to work on. Remember, I said you should be clear about what it is that you’re trying to work on. Now, you can actually practice it because in that mentorship role, you can focus for yourself on doing that and in fact, you could tell the person that you’re mentoring and let them know that while you’re willing to give them of your time and knowledge and help them with whatever it is that they’re trying to do, they could also help you, because in this role, here’s what you’re trying to learn. And here are your development goals and would they give you feedback about those? So now you are getting double value for the same amount of time. And all of those skills can convey back into you actually having and displaying and being recognized for those very leadership qualities and competencies that you were hoping to gain and to show to gain that new role in your job.
The third way that I mentioned is taking on a special team assignment or a special work assignment that allows you to be in the role of a leader. For example, a former client of mine, I worked with a couple of people who volunteered to lead a special team that was put together within their organization that the goal of the team was performance improvement and I was the external facilitator that that organization brought in to work with that team. So that team met for an hour and a half twice a month, and there were two people who were actually sharing the leadership role, but one person could be the leader of the team. So the person who is in the leadership role is not necessarily a manager in their job. They’re just one of the peers within that team. All of them were project managers and all of them were working on improving the process for project managers. But the people that were in the leadership capacity were actually building leadership skills, in that team. So that team only met a couple of times a month. They continued to do their job, but in the meantime, and on the job, they were gaining new skills and in fact they were getting feedback from me and coaching from me. But you don’t have to have a professional coach or facilitator giving you feedback. You could just continue to seek feedback or to monitor your own progress and to actively think about, “What kind of leadership skills am I trying to build here and how am I doing?” And just track progress along your way.
So hopefully in this short vlog I’ve given you a few ideas. There are so many more ideas. Many of them are in my book, Employee Development on a Shoestring, but I’m happy to talk to you about whatever ideas you’ve tried or whatever questions you have about how you could develop skills to help you become seen as a leader, to help you become a more effective leader, and for us to start a conversation about ways to develop skills outside the classroom on a very tight budget, with actually very little effort, that anyone can do.
I’d love to hear what you thought. Just put that in the comments below. In fact, let’s start a conversation. And in the meantime, and until the next time, make today great.
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