How do business owners/ executives encourage or even inspire their team without being a good model? According to a recent survey conducted by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, only 9% of their executive respondents chose “practices self-development” as their primary skill a leader needs. Becoming CEO of your small organization is a process of learning and developing as you understand your changing role, the roles of your team members and how the business works relies heavily on your ability to develop yourself. New challenges crop up all the time. Self-development is happening, one way or another.

James* (not his real name) is typical of many small business leaders. He was telling me in a coaching session that he was having difficulty moving out of his typical “I’m one of the team” style to one where he is out of the office meeting potential partners, looking at possible acquisitions and prospective higher level customers. He is excited about where the company is going but he is feeling a little strange supporting his team as they become the safety net for current customers and day-to-day operations. James, like a lot of blossoming CEOs, is discovering that his communications skills need some enhancing so his focus is on identifying his expectations, how he influences the corporate culture through his actions and words and making sure his messages are clear.

Is self-development misunderstood?

You may have read that meditation is the latest leadership and management “thing.” It is easy to imagine that self-development is only about deepening your self-understanding through some sort of esoteric process. However, it is something you can do on a daily basis that goes beyond the latest fad or even deep self-exploration. The kinds of skills needed by business owners/ executives often depends on the company’s growth plan. Like many of my clients, James is learning how to delegate some of his responsibilities to particular team members. To accomplish this, he had to identify his beliefs about where he fits into his organization, how he trusts his team and determining the strengths and weaknesses of his team and staff. This is all self-development (and he is learning quite a lot about himself along the way).

Four questions for self-development

Whether you are the sort of person who seeks out self-understanding on a deep level or not, there are probably skills that you would like to build up so you can be the best leader of your company. Frequently, the specific areas that a business owner/ executive targets for improvement are tied into the business goals. That saying from Marshall Goldsmith, “What got you won’t get you there” is a good reminder that each stage of your company will teach and enlighten you. Simply put, old behaviors don’t always get the same results and can even lead to failure. These four questions are a good conversation to have with yourself:

  • Who am I?
  • Where am I going?
  • Why am I going there?
  • Who is going with me?

Becoming a leader is an evolutionary process. Discovering how your thinking and feeling grows and adapts over time makes it easier to notice which skills need attention. This is all part of the CEO Mindset.

Are you developing the right skills?

Embracing the role of CEO is often one of accepting that you are a steward. Sure, you might be a key part of business development or a sponsor of a potentially innovative product. But your role is more the Shaper than the  Actor.  The “right” skill for you may be accepting the role of steward and dropping role of  technical expert or it could be speaking less and listening more. The “right” skill may be improving your presentation skills so you can pitch effectively to investors or a more sophisticated customer. Identifying and learning the skills you need for the next stage of your business will support your team and staff staying focused on the business goals and doing what they do best.

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