“Work from home” may be in place for much longer than originally anticipated for many organizations, and that could be by choice. Many leaders now see the value in allowing employees to telecommute. Others, who pivoted quickly and shored up their organization’s IT capabilities and security so that they could operate virtually, may not be so quick to rush back to the office, purely because they want a return on their investment. Others are considering permanent work from home because it has worked. That’s why many experts believe work from home is here to stay.
What does that mean to you? For many leaders, the thought of remaining virtual is not necessarily a pleasant thought. Leaders across all industries have received a pretty big wake-up call in recent months: Leading isn’t an “easy” job by any stretch of the imagination, but leading virtually often exacerbates your weaknesses. If you struggle to communicate in an office, you will likely really struggle when you are doing it through video chat and email. If you came up short on employee recognition when you saw staff face-to-face everyday, you likely won’t suddenly improve when you rarely see them.
If your current situation has exposed your leadership flaws, I encourage you to see it as an opportunity. An opportunity to learn and grow. An opportunity to fix the behaviors that are setting you back instead of allowing you to reach your full potential. Right now is the perfect time to lean into your situation and pay attention to what isn’t going well and the areas you find yourself struggling. Then create a self-development plan to improve in those areas. Because whether leading virtually is temporary for you or a long-term arrangement, working on yourself now will only benefit you, your team and your organization. Follow this advice.
Take responsibility for your growth
No one can do that for you. Not your parents. Not your spouse. Not your best friend. And not your employer. All of those people might be able to support you, but they can’t learn for you. You are the person who benefits the most, and your development belongs to no one but y-o-u. If others offer assistance, dollars or opportunities, great. Just don’t wait for that assistance to get started.
Create a learning focus
Ask yourself, “What do I want (or need) to learn today?” You must be clear on what matters most right now, and the best place to start is with those areas that you need to strengthen. Areas that may be painfully obvious now that you are leading from afar. Create a monthly, quarterly or annual learning focus. Yes, of course there will be lessons learned at random times, but having a plan will help you consciously and intentionally learn the skills and knowledge that is most important to your growth right now.
Tie your focus to a powerful “why”
Why do you want to learn? What value will you gain, be it personal satisfaction, pleasure or a leg up for the next promotion? Tie your learning focus to things that matter to you deeply. Reminding yourself of that connection will help maintain your discipline and keep you motivated to continue learning.
Connect everything together
Now that you have a clear picture of what you are focused on learning along with your powerful “why,” connect everything you read, experience and observe to that learning goal. For example, I lead a group of leaders through the development of a new skill each month. As I prepare and facilitate the learning of those leaders, I am thinking constantly about that topic/skill. That allows my subconscious mind to see examples, lessons and connections I would miss otherwise. Once you have your learning focus in view ask yourself, “How does this experience/situation/blog post/conversation/you-get-the-idea relate to what I need to learn?”
To build important and valuable skills requires you to invest energy and focus. And more important, you need to invest time. Getting on a serious personal/professional development plan will require you to invest your time differently. However busy you are, it is a matter of prioritizing your learning and growth higher on your list.
Decide how you will use newfound knowledge
Each day, ask yourself: “What did I learn today?” What did you learn about your shortcomings, strengths, employees, customers, industry and so on. How can that new knowledge shape your leadership going forward? The question is at the heart of your personal and professional development.
The best in any field or endeavor don’t get there alone, and they also don’t stay there alone. Help could be in the form of workshops, mentors and more. If you aren’t sure where to start, especially as you navigate the new workplace, we can help. In fact we’re offering our best-selling remote leadership courses right now at a special discounted price. And we are even offering a 4-part video series, Demystifying Remote Leadership, for free. You can download it here.