143: [Solo] How to build leadership skills outside the classroom and on a shoestring budget on the TalentGrow Show with Halelly Azulay

ep143 Solo How to build leadership skills outside the classroom and on a budget on the TalentGrow Show with Halelly Azulay

Workshops, training classes, and university classes are rarely the only way to develop skills. In fact, they’re often not the best way to develop certain skills. I wrote about this in my book, Employee Development on a Shoestring. There are so many ways that you can develop skills and knowledge – including leadership skills -- 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.

In this solo episode (based on this popular vlog post – you can watch the video there), I share three specific examples of non-training, inexpensive ways to develop your leadership skills – and those of the leaders you lead, of course – to help you get recognized as a leader if you’re not there yet, become a better leader, and develop the leaders on your team. Leadership development is not out of reach! Take a listen and share with others.

What you’ll learn:

  • Before you even begin choosing development methods, Halelly describes the questions you need to ask yourself first

  • How to narrow down the scope of your development goal to make it more doable

  • Halelly shares three unusual, non-training ways to develop your leadership skills along with examples

  • You can get lots more ideas for leadership development (and employee development) in Halelly’s book, Employee Development on a Shoestring


  • What’s your biggest A-ha or takeaway from this episode?

  • Would you like to submit a question for a future “Ask Halelly” or solo episode? You can use the voice messaging widget right here on the website and then I can even play your audio (with your permission, of course) on the episode! Or you can send me an email, or a ‘contact us’ form on this site, or a comment-based question, or a tweet…. You get the picture. Any way you like it, I would love to hear your question!

About Halelly Azulay

Have we met? I'm Halelly Azulay. I'm an author, speaker, facilitator, and leadership development strategist and an expert in leadership, communication skills, and emotional intelligence. I am the author of two books, Employee Development on a Shoestring (ATD Press) and Strength to Strength: How Working from Your Strengths Can Help You Lead a More Fulfilling Life. My books, workshops and retreats build on my 20+ years of professional experience in communication and leadership development in corporate, government, nonprofit and academic organizations.

I am the president of TalentGrow LLC, a consulting company focused on developing leaders and teams, especially for enterprises experiencing explosive growth or expansion. TalentGrow specializes in people leadership skills, which include communication skills, teambuilding, coaching and emotional intelligence. TalentGrow works with all organizational levels, including C-level leaders, frontline managers, and individual contributors.

People hire me to speak at conferences and meetings and to facilitate leadership workshops, but what I love most is to help fast growing organizations create a leadership development strategy and approach.

I'm a contributing author to numerous books, articles and blogs. I was described as a “Leadership Development Guru” by TD Magazine. I blog, publish a leadership podcast (um, hello?!), and have a popular free weekly subscription newsletter – so you should definitely sign up at www.tinyurl.com/talentgrow.


Episode 143 solo

[MUSIC] Announcer: Welcome to the TalentGrow Show, where you can get actionable results-oriented insight and advice on how to take your leadership, communication and people skills to the next level and become the kind of leader people want to follow. And now, your host and leadership development strategist, Halelly Azulay.

Interviewer: Hey, hey TalentGrowers. Welcome back to another episode of the TalentGrow Show. I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist here at TalentGrow, which is the company that I started in 2006 to develop leaders that people actually want to follow. TalentGrow is sponsoring this podcast so that you can listen to it every week. This week I decided to do something a little bit unusual. It was time for a solo episode and I’ve decided to take a video that I recorded a little while ago and published on my vlog, and it’s all about how to get yourself ready for promotion or how to develop your own leadership skills. By the way, if you’re developing others to become leaders, you can totally listen to this episode because it’ll help you with ideas. What’s special about this is to first think about how to get seen and be ready, and why you’re looking to develop your leadership skills, and three practical ways that you can develop your skills without an official program, without a training class, without a budget, that anybody can do with examples from ways that I’ve used it or that others have used it, that I think can be really helpful for your leadership development journey.

When I mentioned vlog, obviously that’s because it’s coming from the audio of the video I made – which you can watch, I’ll link to it in my show notes, so if you want to see what I look like, and by the way this is when I still had short hair and now I have longer hair, you can see what I look like when I’m speaking to you because most of the time you just get to hear me, and in this case you can see me as well. Anyway, I hope that you enjoy it, it’s very short, and I think very practical. I’d love to hear what you thought about it afterward. Let’s take a listen.

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.

That’s it for another episode of the TalentGrow Show. I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist here at TalentGrow. This has been a short solo episode and as you know, if you’re a regular listener, I do about three interviews each month and one solo episode which ranges in length, where I share some of my knowledge and some of my insights from things that I typically write about or speak about in my speaking gigs with clients, at conferences and meetings around the country, as well as in my training workshops to develop leaders that people actually want to follow. As always, I’m welcoming of your feedback. I’d love to hear what you thought about it, and I’d also like to know what you’d like me to share with you next. Thanks for tuning in. I really appreciate you and until the next time, make today great.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to the TalentGrow Show, where we help you develop your talent to become the kind of leader that people want to follow. For more information, visit TalentGrow.com.

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