How do I develop myself as a manager when I don’t have enough time to do the day job?

By Julie Kay

How do you go about finding the right development opportunities which are tailor-made for you? Development opportunities where you can learn exactly what you need to, at exactly the time you want to, and in a way that suits your learning style and your situation?

First, for any effective learning to take place you will need to be aware of and accept your learning needs and then (and only then!) take action to address them. No matter how busy you are, you do need to invest some time up front to accurately pin-point your learning needs. I can almost hear you groan, but remember this up-front investment will pay handsome dividends. Any subsequent learning will be much more effective and sustainable.

Now here is the good news! Taking action should fall within what you are already required to do within your job role. How many training events have you attended or heard of that work the other way round? They start with very little exploration of individual and business needs and if there is any follow up to support the transfer of skills to the workplace after the event, an inordinate amount of extra work is placed on the learner.

1. Undertake a solid, reliable 360 degree appraisal to establish a) the specific skills and behaviours that are most important in your role and in your business and b) where your strengths and development opportunities are in relation to those skills and behaviours.

2. Establish and agree a Personal Development Plan and I mean Personal! You don’t have to target weaknesses, it is usually much more productive to work on making better use of your strengths or taking an average skill and making it a strength.

3. Remember that the most effective learning usually happens on stretching assignments and projects at work, rather than on a course, so look for work based opportunities that will stretch and develop you.

4. Learning is a journey not an event. Don’t waste your time and money on a one off event especially if it is taking critical time away from core operations. Also, steer clear of the sheep dip ‘one-size fits all’ approach. You can’t afford to spend time on topics that aren’t relevant or that you are already strong in.

5. Look for learning in bite-sized chunks so you can focus on one small step at a time and build and sustain your new skills over time.

6. Ensure that there is support and accountability built in at work and that you are transferring your learning to real work situations from the start. You haven’t time to take on extra work in order to meet the course criteria. The support can come from a line manager (they are the most influential factor in applying new skills) or from a learning buddy.

7. You are unique and you know how you learn best. The approaches you may consider are individual coaching, group facilitation, teleseminars/webinars, online communities of peers, longer programmes that blend a number of approaches. The options these days are endless.

8. Evaluate your learning on an individual and organisational level. You and your company needs to know just how your newly acquired skills has benefitted you and the performance of the business.

To sum up, you need to:
• keep it real and relevant
• take small progressive steps
• find the right approach for you
• get support from within your workplace
Happy learning!

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