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Career Development for Leaders: 6 Tips for Professional and Personal Growth

Our expert panelists share their career development advice, tips, and lessons learned to professionally grow.

By Hannah Sheehan  •   September 3, 2021  •   6 min read

Each year, we set new resolutions to work on our professional and personal growth. But, let’s be honest, how many of us actually follow through with these goals?

Personally, I find it difficult to follow through with my career and professional goals because I don’t know where to start. So, if you’re like me and need a little guidance, take the insightful advice from our expert #ManagerChats panelists on career progression framework for leaders. 

Tips for Professional Growth

1 Find ways (and time) to develop as a leader

Being a leader means you are constantly busy with checking in on team members, meetings, and completing tasks. However, it is important to remember to take time for other things too.

Stewart Hillhouse, Growth Tactics marketer and host of Top of Mind Podcast, recommends scheduling time to be curious. He says that every Saturday morning he schedules time to learn and take notes on things he can apply to his day-to-day work. 

“It can feel wasteful to sit back and LEARN, but often it leads to meaningful answers.”

Stewart Hillhouse

Samantha Rae Ayoub, professional communicator, strategist/advisor, and leadership blogger, also shared her 3 tips for developing as a leader:

  • Always be on the lookout for opportunities to learn something new. If you never stop wanting to learn, you’ll never peak
  • TALK to people. Learn from leaders & newbies alike
  • Keep a ‘to learn’ journal. List what you want to read, learn, research

“Never stop learning from cross-disciplines. My best times of growth came from learning/borrowing from frameworks, models, and skills from unrelated fields.”

Charbel Simon, Founder of Sprintwell

2 Collect workplace wins

Sometimes we can get overwhelmed with the amount of work we have to get to our desired goal. Therefore, remembering to collect workplace wins is a great way to help you stay motivated and digest each day at a time. 

Meg Button, co-founder of digital agency Nuscreen Inc., uses the saying, “not being able to see the forest through the trees”. As she explains, this saying can be used for work too, celebrating the small wins to help you stay focused on your overall vision. 

Sheeta Verma also shared her expert tip on how she collects workplace wins,

“Workplace wins bring a boost in morale. It helps people understand that an achievement doesn’t have to be huge and that each win is worth celebrating. I keep track of my wins by writing it out when I put down my pro and con of the day.” 

Some other tips for collecting workplace wins from our other expert #ManagerChats panelists:

  • Journal/document wins 
  • Journal/document failures for growth
  • Measure wins by setting smaller goals
  • Identify gaps (ex, did you learn anything?)
  • Ask for feedback

3 Find great mentors

Meeting a great mentor is important as they will guide you and encourage you to overcome your obstacles. According to Sheeta Verma, mentors helped her get through bad days and see that “there’s more tomorrow’s than yesterday’s.”

Zain Kahn, VP of Marketing at CareGuide, also says that mentors are important because they give you direct feedback; “You need someone who’s going to give you no BS feedback on how you can improve.”

Despite what you may believe, you don’t need to know somebody for them to be your mentor. One commonality that almost all our expert #ManagerChats panelists urged was to go out and meet people or seek individuals online that share their knowledge with the world. 

“Mentors aren’t just people you know. You can follow successful folks on Twitter and blogs who talk about their career development.”

Zain Kahn

But, if you choose somebody you know as your mentor (which is also completely fine!), build up the courage to ask them their insights. 

“Ask if they’d be willing to share insight into how they grew X, Y, or Z skill.”

Tiffany Waddell Tate, Career & Talent Coach

4 Learn the important skills that leaders need to develop

As a leader, you are responsible for many things. Ali Merchant, the host of the All-In Manager podcast, says that leaders need to be able to “balance speed with velocity”. Also according to Merchant, leaders need to be able to change between the following roles on short notice:

  • Coach
  • Manager
  • Firefighter
  • Decision maker

Another important role for leaders to develop is the ability to listen and communicate effectively. 

“Listening followed by communication seems to go hand-in-hand, but being able to fully listen is key. Not everyone says exactly what they think and you need to be able to read the deeper levels.”

Katerina Bohle
, Co-founder of Human Matter Labs. 

5 Develop self-awareness and address weaknesses

Developing self-awareness and addressing your weaknesses is imperative if you want to grow. According to Ali Merchant, managers should act like athletes; “Athletes are always trying to get better. Managers can do the same.”

  1. “Practice your reps. (Feedback, 1:1s, delegation etc)
  2. Don’t shy away from feedback. Ask and keep asking for feedback.”

Furthermore, in order to address your weaknesses, you must hold yourself accountable. This means recognizing when you have failed to complete a goal and learning from this. 

Vicente Plata, Tech Lead at Shopify, says that a tip to help you with this is to reflect at the end of each month on which goals you failed to achieve and why you failed to achieve them. This will help you see what you can do to improve and achieve your goals next month – for example, learn to prioritize better. 

“Hold yourself accountable. As you compare your weekly/monthly goals vs actual achievements, you’ll probably notice trends. It’d be interesting to distinguish whether they’re caused by external factors, limiting beliefs, lack of practice, or a mix.”

– Vicente Plata

6 Understand your “Zone of Genius”

As important as it is to address your weaknesses, it is also important to understand your strengths, or as Alex MacCaw calls it, your “Zone of Genius”. 

So, to recognize your “Zone of Genius”, Philibert Dugas, Engineering Manager at Shopify, suggests asking yourself 2 questions:

  1. “What are the moments you enjoy the most in a week?
  2. What are some things that you find easy that others might not?”

“When you find the intersection of what gives you energy and a unique talent you have, you’re on to something.”

– Philibert Dugas

Katerina Bohle Carbonell says she asks people to describe who you are. By gaining this insight, you can see patterns you may not have been aware of. She also looks at data to help determine her next steps.

“I also keep a track of projects I worked on, what skills I needed for them, what I learned, and how much I liked it.” 

Mentorship Lessons from the panelists:

  • “Prioritizing doesn’t mean just making things important, it is about resources and what is possible. Thinking or prioritizing like that has helped my workload feel less emotional and more attainable!” – Maria Alvarez
  • “Write down what your career goals are. Then multiply that goal by 10. Ambition and hard work will often compensate for all other shortcomings.” – Zain Kahn 
  • “​​You don’t rise to the level of your ambitions, you fall to the level of your systems”, a quote by James Clear that Stewart shared. 

Parting advice

Following the advice given by our expert #ManagerChats panelists, you can finally start achieving those new year’s resolutions or mid-year goals and start seeing professional and personal growth. If you want to see more advice given by these amazing panelists, check out the full #ManagerChats Q&A on our Twitter page!

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