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Being at the top and still developing - how is that possible?

Article by Hans-Jürgen Dörrich, management consultant and systemic coach

Bonn, November 2023

Do you recognise this? You manage an organisation, a department or a team with commitment and it really demands everything from you. And yet, despite your strong identification and workload, you feel the need to develop yourself further beyond your day-to-day tasks. The first steps probably take place in your head beforehand: recognising and acknowledging the issue. You recognise that your own development will also benefit the organisation in the long term. You may even talk to your partner or co-worker about your concerns. The question grows and takes up more and more space in your considerations: you prioritise your personal development. Now you need a clear view and some strategic decisions. The following considerations are certainly not a panacea, but they identify aspects that will help you to find your very own path.

1.     Use your current task to develop yourself further. This may require a change of perspective with regard to your day-to-day work and a few strategic steps for implementation:

a. Time management: Plan fixed times for your further training. For example, regularly block time in your diary for learning and development activities.

b. Small steps: It is not necessary to spend a lot of time on training at once. Plan small blocks of time that you can use consistently.

c. Online resources: Use online courses, webinars and e-learning platforms to learn flexibly and from anywhere.

d. Learn from work: Identify areas in which you can learn during your professional activity. Consider challenges and successes as learning opportunities.

e. Delegate: Delegate tasks that other team members can take on to free up time for your learning.

f. Network: Attend industry events, conferences and networking meetings. These offer both learning opportunities and opportunities for dialogue.

g. In-house training: Organise internal training courses or workshops for your team. You can benefit just as much from the learning content.

h. Self-reflection: Regularly take time to reflect on your own strengths, weaknesses and areas for development.

2.     You feel that you need new content and inspiration from outside and are planning an external training programme that will require time for face-to-face modules, web-based modules and intensive learning phases. Here, too, you can support some strategic considerations.

a. Careful time planning: The project will shake up your everyday life, not just at work. Talk to your employer and your team about flexible working hours and part-time work.

b. Create space in your private life: here, too, there are certainly jobs that others can do for you at least some of the time, be it your partner or a paid labourer in the house and garden

c. Take quality time into account: when planning your time, it is important to take sufficient account of and plan for the private sphere, e.g. partnership, children, friendships. You also live from this and this also takes time.

d. Clarify your long-term goals: How do you want to use the newly acquired skills: in your current position or in a new field of activity? Communicate this appropriately with your employer and team when your decision has matured.

3.     Use mental support and guidance.

a. In your personal environment: Your life partner, family and friends are certainly the first people to talk to about your desire for development and all the steps of the process once you have started it.

b. In your professional and private environment: In addition to the tactical considerations of the first two areas, you will certainly need support for an important step in any development process: focussing and setting boundaries: this applies to yourself and your hobbies, which will certainly have to take a back seat for the time being. But also learn to say no if additional commitments in your professional or private life could interfere with your learning project.

c. Through mentoring and coaching: Look for mentors or coaches who can help you develop your leadership skills and plan the process. A "sparring partner" from the outside can already support you in clarifying your goals and choosing the appropriate means. They can become a trustworthy companion for important processes so that knowledge growth also leads to competences and genuine personal growth.

Who knows, maybe you will discover your true leadership qualities along the way and let people share in your journey and growth. They will notice it anyway.

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