August 26, 2011

seeking feedback to improve

Feedback is essential to getting better at anything.

When you are first developing competence at something, a balance of both positive and critical feedback is helpful. Positive feedback, being coached forward, is a necessary ingredient to motivate you to keep working on it.

However, what do you do when you get to a place where you have a high level of competence at something?

You know you are good at it. You hear from others you are good at it. How do you get even better? What can help you close the gap with true mastery?

What you need to seek out is critical feedback. From experts, people you admire and respect, those who have achieved mastery themselves in that area or those who are pursuing it.

To quote Jim Rohn "Don't join an easy crowd. You won't grow. Go where the expectations and the demands to perform are high". Find the people who are really, really good at what you want.  Ask them what isn't working with what you are doing, and to tell you what you can do better.  And keep track of their feedback, so you can keep working on those areas.

As you become better and better at something, you will need to seek out people with higher levels of competence to give you feedback.  It is simpler - and easier on your ego - to not do so.   But necessary, if you want to be truly extraordinary at something.

August 17, 2011

allowing room for failure

When you are good at something, others pay attention.  You are asked to do more of it.  Others learn that you are good at it, and they expect you to do it well.

Not only do others expect you to do it well, but you expect yourself to do it well too.   

As you do the thing more often, the bar creeps higher.  Every time you do it.  Eventually, it might occur to you that failure is not an option.

If you believe there is no room for failure, you are less inclined to push the envelope.  To try something different, something new.  To completely reinvent the thing that you are so good at.  It is far easier - and safer - to stay with the tried and true.  Even if the tried and true produces good results and reinventing it could produce extraordinary results. 

Innovation thrives in an environment where failure is an acceptable outcome.  A mindset of 'there is no room for failure' can kill innovation.

Do you allow yourself room for failing?

August 15, 2011

the real value of employee development plans

I believe in goals.

People we would describe as successful are frequently quoted speaking about goals. One clear statement, attributed to one of the pioneers of the self-development movement, Earl Nightingale, is that "people with goals succeed because they know where they are going. It's as simple as that."

Over and over again, my personal experience provides evidence to support this premise. It is an easy equation. When I have goals, I work towards them. When I don't have goals, I drift and feel lost.

To create goals, to stay present to them, to regularly assess progress, and to achieve them, requires some sort of structure. Many personal development and business success books and programs provide just this: a structure to help us achieve our goals. If you follow the approach, you will achieve what they promise. Each of us has own our style of approach that works best for us.

Organizations have forms of personal development plans. These plans are also intended to provide this structure. Although such plans can be useful for employers to evaluate performance, they are also rooted in the basic premise that human beings are happiest and most fulfilled when they are working towards something.

If you are required to have an employee development plan for the organization you work for, consider looking at it from this perspective. It is a structure intended to help you achieve your goals.  Not as something you have to do, but as something you choose to do because it makes your life work better.