Real change in leadership only happens when we make a focused effort. We have to be intentional and determined to make changes. Too often, we nod in agreement with those who say we need to become better at communicating with employees, but them we fail to actually do anything about the problem. Or, we acknowledge a weakness in motivating employees to stay productive, but then we let them slack off because we hate confrontation. There's no plan of action. There's no real change.
Yet, what if you could make some real improvements over the next two weeks? What if you could turn acknowledgement about your weaknesses into a plan that brings about real change? And then, at the end of this period, what if you made an honest assessment of how you improved based on actual evidence? It could be a game-changer for you and the company, because the act of planning out your improvements, tracking the changes, and assessing how you changed could become a revelation.
That's why I've created a ten-day plan to help you become a better leader. It's partly an exercise in educating yourself (e.g., determining the problem), but you'll take steps to make actual improvements and address the issues in a way that's traceable. The steps are designed to work into your daily routine–you should tackle each step as part of your normal day. For example, when you do the leadership assessments on the first day, try a few in the morning, a few over lunch, and a few before you leave work. Fit them in but don't let them interfere too much.
Also, make sure you start on a Monday, then follow the steps all in a row (excluding the weekend) so you complete it in 10 business days. Don't start until you can give this improvement plan the attention it deserves. And be ready to embrace it. Tell yourself this is going to work out. Are you ready to get started?
Day One: Do a Self-Assessment
On the first day, you'll need to do some serious soul-searching. Remember this is a plan that involves taking practical and measurable steps; it's not a vague remedy. Before you start, spend that first Monday taking as many leadership development tests as possible. Fortunately, there are many of them (just search Google for "leadership assessment test" or search for books on Amazon that include leadership tests). Come away with exactly three major areas for improvement–such as being more decisive or communicating better. Keep a journal to record the three areas.
Day Two: Ask for Feedback
Self-assessment helps you determine how much work you need to do, but you might not be aware of other issues. That's where your team comes in. Ask at least three or four of your employees to give you feedback on areas of improvement. See if those areas match up with the assessments you did on Day One. Keep asking for feedback until you have exactly three more areas of improvement you need to develop over the ten days (or six total). Keep a journal to record the six areas of improvement.
Day Three: Make a Plan
You took two days to find out how you need to improve. It's a level-set on what you are facing over the remaining eight days. You should have exactly six areas for improvement, based on your assessments and employee feedback. (Bonus that you "lead" this yourself.) On the third day, start by creating a document that lists why these weaknesses even exist–how did they develop in the first place, how do they hamper your leadership, how are they impacting the company negatively? Write out a detailed explanation of each problem to help you fully understand it. Share it with someone who will hold you accountable.
Days Four through Nine: Intentionally work on improving
For the next six days, you will work on one area of improvement per day. For example, if one issue is communicating poorly with your team, devise a plan that helps you work on that problem. Set up a meeting with your entire team and explain some of the company objectives to them or your plans for a product or service. Meet with a few employees one-on-one and ask talk about their projects. Focus on that issue and do something about it.
Or, if you need to improve on your ability to redirect your employees, take some time to do that and monitor how you do. Having trouble motivating employees? Maybe on that day you will take your team out to dinner and reward their good behavior. You link the problem with a solution. Be really intentional about it. It's OK if your team knows you are working on your leadership skills; include them in the exercise and encourage them to keep giving you feedback, even if it's negative. Include mentors and bosses. Part of the exercise is to be transparent about your desire to improve.
Day Ten: Summarize your findings
You made it! You took one day to analyze your leadership approach and one day asking colleagues and mentors for feedback. Then, you wrote out those area for improvement and documented why they are causing problems for you. Next, you spent a day working on your six areas for improvement, tackling one per day. Now, summarize the entire ten days. What did you learn during the entire to weeks? How did it go focusing on one area of improvement per day? Did you actually improve in that area?
The ten day exercise is meant to "learn by doing" in the sense that you identified the leadership challenges you have and then worked on them. Yet, as you worked on challenges, you also learned about why they are causing confusion and hurting morale in your company. You also found out that the challenges will take more work. Part of your summary should include even more feedback. Ask your employees about specific days when you worked on a leadership trait. Ask if you did improve or how you could have acted differently or dealt with a situation differently.
The more open and honest you are about the ten day exercise, the more you will learn and the more it will help you grow as a leader. Make sure you develop an additional plan to revisit the areas of weakness a few more times in the coming months. Then, in about six months, do the ten-day exercise all over again and compare the results. Do you have the same weaknesses? Did you change this time? Refer back to why something worked or didn't work, how employees reacted, and if you changed.
As usual, I want to hear your feedback. You can even send me your leadership plan, assessment results, and your summary at the end of the ten days to get my feedback. I’m curious to find out if the ten-day plan brings about real change.