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How to identify and address your development areas

Could I be a better version of myself?

development areas

Have you ever had a project/meeting/conversation with a team member/dealings with a customer that didn’t go as well as you’d hoped it would?

Looking back you question whether you could have planned it better, anticipated potential pitfalls, said things differently, behaved differently, managed deadlines better, delegated more (or less).

You berate yourself for a particular weakness you know you have. But you’re unclear as to the exact problem and befuddled as to how to fix it.

Perhaps, even worse than that, you’re so focused on your weaknesses that you don’t think about working on your strengths. You spend all your time double-checking your work because you know you miss detail, but forget to offer a big picture view which is more your area of strength.

Having just been involved in a leadership development centre. I wanted to share the techniques we used to identify delegates’ strengths and development areas and the activities needed to address and grow them.

How do I identify my development needs?

All too often, we have a vague sense of what we’re good and not so good at but no specifics. And without specifics, we can’t move forward and address them.

The purpose of the leadership development centre therefore was to provide detailed. Evidence-based and externally benchmarked information about an individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

We did this by taking delegates through a series of exercises to build up a detailed picture of who they were, how they behaved in certain key situations and what sort of activities would best enable them to improve their strength and weak areas.

A group exercise, role plays and an analysis task tested how each delegate behaved in different and stressful situations.

We also undertook personality questionnaires to discover more about their preferred personality type, e.g. introvert or extrovert, strategic thinker or detail-conscious.

With all the evidence gained from these exercises, we were able to be very specific about behaviours. in the follow-up discussions with each delegate. E.g. “in the performance review role play, you were very focused on work performance but when the employee raised a personal issue you brushed it aside and moved quickly back to work matters.”

Quite often the tests revealed things delegates didn’t know they were good at, really helping to build self-confidence and value to the business, but they also revealed blind spots – areas they thought they were ok in but actually, compared to the external markers we were working to, they weren’t doing so well. For some it was a real eye-opener, but all found it incredibly useful.

You may not have access to this type of development centre but there are things you can do to get more insight into your development areas and needs . The key thing to do is ask your colleagues and peers for feedback. Be specific – “I would like constructive feedback about my people management skills because I think this is an area I need to develop.”

What’s the best way for me to learn?

The delegates were also asked to complete a learning styles questionnaire (Honey and Mumford). This revealed whether they were:

  • Activists – ‘hands-on’ learners, preferring to have a go and learn through trial and error
  • Reflectors -‘tell me’ learners, preferring to be thoroughly briefed before proceeding
  • Theorists – ‘convince me’ learners, wanting reassurance that a project makes sense
  • Pragmatists – ‘show me’ learners, wanting a demonstration from an acknowledged expert.

This gave us the context for the sort of development activities that would suit them best.

That’s all really helpful but what do I do now?

Knowing what your development are is one thing, but what people really want to know is how to get on and improve development needs.

We often struggle because we’re not used to thinking about how to develop a behaviour. We might reach for a training course/book/webinar/mentor but it’s a good idea to think about different things you could do which better suit your particular learning style.

You could, for instance:

  • work with someone who’s good in an area that you’re not. Perhaps your people management skills need work. Learn from a good manager how they deal with issues in their team. Or vice versa, if it’s a strength then offer to mentor, this will help you become even stronger in this area.
  • get involved in different projects outside your usual areas of responsibility. Perhaps you have too commercial a focus and need to expand your worldview. By working on a project outside your normal area you’ll meet people with different working styles and get to see another part of the business. You’ll also add your strengths to the situation and help others see the commercial side.
  • record your performance and review your technique. Perhaps you’re not good at formal presentations. Try videoing your next one and afterwards watch it back to objectively evaluate how you behave, your style and approach. What, specifically, needs improving? Even if you’re great at presentations – could you develop this from small groups to a larger stage presence?
  • keep a journal to monitor how you go about things. Perhaps you need to improve your decision-making skills. Keep a note of the information you look for in order to make a decision and why you hesitate about making that decision or rush into it. Record what happened as a consequence of your decision to help build your confidence and judgement.

Everyone, no matter how much work, managerial or leadership experience, has areas of weakness and development areas. And if these are limiting you from being successful in your role then they are worth tackling! Plus you need to make the most of your strengths and look for ways to develop those too. This is how you’ll become an invaluable part of the business.

The key thing is to identify those behaviours. i.e. how you respond to people and situations that are associated with your strengths and development areas.

Then consider how you could go about addressing that issue  in a way that best suits how you like to learn or using the strengths so you become a star performer in this area.

For more about strengths, read this. And if you want to know how to make sure people development happens in your business, read this.

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