Me? Exec. development? Of course: Because I’m worth it

Exec developmetn

What tends to happen to your own development the more senior you become as a leader?

Yep. It tends to be put on the back burner and you – often for very laudable reasons – support everyone else’s opportunity to grab some L&D, before or in the place of you engaging in development for yourself.

The reasons executives tend to do this are many and varied, including:

  • Selflessness
  • Cost consciousness
  • Sense of being skilled enough
  • Not a priority
  • Insufficient time

Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail in order to help you make a case (to you) for keeping up some development for yourself:

Selflessness

When the reason for senior execs not engaging in development is genuinely that they want to give others the time and the space to do so, it can be a very generous gesture and one that others appreciate deeply. As a strategy it is fine to adopt in the short or medium-term, just make sure it doesn’t become a long-term approach as the pace of change in the business world requires that your own skills as a leader need sharpening often,

Cost Consciousness

Nah, Not having it. I appreciate the sentiment for quoting cost awareness as a reason for senior execs not engaging in their own development but in my experience it is usually an excuse for not actually wanting to undertake development at all. Cost consciousness also misses the key point for me: As the most senior leaders in the organisation you have the greatest reach and influence. As a result you have the opportunity to add the greatest value to the greatest number. Therefore, the better you are able to lead, the greater the positive influence you are able to exercise.

It maybe that you are unable to afford any development as a company – fine. But when things improve, ensure senior leader development is back on the agenda early.

Skilled enough

This is a regular mistake. You may be skilled enough as the Lawyer, Finance Director or Human Resource Director but what about as a person and as a leader? Are you the finished article in these areas and disciplines? I know you are not arrogant enough to suggest you are, so please don’t stop developing your leadership skills and evolving as a human being just because you have a seat at the top table – it’s short-sighted and will limit your career and effectiveness.

Not a priority

Wrong. In order for you to meet the ever changing situations and contexts in which you lead, development should always be a priority. Getting better at what you do is not just a result of attending a Business School programme or engaging a mentor. It might be that you prioritise reading a respected trade or leadership journal every month; it might be as simple as creating an hour a week to review your own performance as an Executive in order to inform how you might do even better next week. Whatever routes you pursue to access your development, ensure that it remains a priority.

Insufficient time

Of all the reasons Executives give for not engaging in their own development this (closely related to several other reasons) is the most oft quoted. I don’t buy it. If you prioritise development sufficiently then you can and will find the time for it. I find it ironic that people often talk to me about their time pressures during a two hour coaching session … ? The other option is to engage in your development outside of work hours, especially where that work is much more strategic in nature, such as developmental coaching. Stop watching the latest season of Game of Thrones or The Crown and use an hour or two of your own time to invest in yourself. Indeed some senior Execs I have worked with see development as part of their own reward strategy for a job well done. Is that an approach you could adopt?

At the nub of much of the obstacle to executive development is understanding its significance to the organisation. If the most senior leaders are well developed human beings, who can lead effectively even when under the often extreme pressure that goes with the role, then the organisation is much more likely to thrive. Yes, those in more junior roles also need development opportunities too but if you can begin to lead effectively from the top, your impact on the success of the business is multiplied simply by dint of the reach that you have. Engage in your development today because “you’re worth it”.

Glenn Wallis provides executive development for senior leaders. He also speaks and writes on leadership. If you want to discuss your own development needs, contact Glenn here.

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