If you are to become an effective manager, you have to take responsibility for your own development, for analysing your own skills and competences and for assessing your own development needs.
Personal development is the ongoing process of improving your skills, abilities and knowledge. Note that the term is personal development. In other words, you are the person who has to do the improving.
Sometimes personal development activities are formally built into your work by means of different kinds of management or training development exercises. You may be lucky enough to work in an organisation that considers it essential to send people on regular training courses to help them develop their skills (and keep them up-to-date) and reach their potential. Or you may work in an organisation where people do not receive training unless they specifically request it. This will partly depend on the kind of work you do – if you work in a high-tech industry, it will be essential to remain abreast of current developments. If, on the other hand, you work in a context where technology is less important and things change more slowly, there may be fewer obvious needs for regular training.
Whatever the set-up in your organisation, it’s important for you to be proactive about your own personal development. It may be, for example, that your organisation is paying for you to study, you may have been on other management training courses. You have probably received induction training into the kind of work your organisation does – all these are forms of personal development.
You need to see managing your personal development within the context of your Continuous Professional Development (CPD). Personal development isn’t something you only undertake once, at the beginning of your career. New situations, new colleagues and revised organisational goals and objectives will bring new challenges to you as a manager and leader. So it is essential that you periodically assess your development needs and identify how you can make sure those needs are met.
For effective personal development, you need to be:
- willing to learn from experience
- able to reflect on events and activities
- open and honest with yourself
- prepared to change
- objective and realistic about your organisational context.
What sort of personal development activities can you undertake?
Personal development can embrace a range of individual approaches. However, these are often less about a structured programme of formal learning and development and more about providing the space and opportunity for more informal kinds of activities where the individuals themselves take the major responsibility for the activity.
There are many examples of this kind of personal development and some examples are provided below:
- open/distance learning
- action-centred learning, where you might meet regularly with a group of like-minded individuals to tackle real-life work projects
- reflective diary, log or other means of recording your thoughts, feelings and reflections on events and activities in your work and about your role as a manager
- looking at a critical incident or key event in order to explore what it tells you about your own management style, skills or competences.
Why is personal development important to you as a manager?
Personal development can provide numerous benefits. These might include;
- gaining a more positive attitude to work in particular and life in general
- acquiring a ‘can do’ attitude to work
- developing your confidence, which will be put good use when new challenges arise
- acquiring entrepreneurial characteristics
- attaining greater resilience under pressure
- becoming more confident about acting and thinking more independently
- being able to manage change effectively
- finding increased creativity
- developing the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn.
Developing any of the characteristics mentioned above would help you be a better manager. To put that into practice do the following;
- Think about a situation at work where you showed one of the characteristics above.
- How did this characteristic help you in the situation you have identified?
- Would any of the other characteristics listed above have been helpful? In what way?
You should be able to identify at least one situation where one of these characteristics helped. For example, you might have picked a situation where you were under a lot of pressure to get things done; resilience under pressure probably helped you to cope better. In this situation, having a ‘can-do’ attitude to work may also have been useful as it would have spurred you on to achieve the desired results.