“How did you go bankrupt? Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.” – Ernest Hemingway
Success happens the same way – gradually, then suddenly. There are no quick wins in your business or leadership development. It takes years of work, setbacks, and even reinventions to achieve the success you imagine.
It happens one step and one day at a time. The incremental progress adds up, often in surprising ways. You just need to make three simple investments.
These three investments will increase your confidence, give you greater clarity, focus, and influence while ensuring you achieve your purpose and goals better and faster – every day.
1. Invest in your self-discovery
If you think about it, every classic story in literature is about a hero who embarked on a long and winding journey to understand themselves, their purpose, and even their strengths and weaknesses.
Your story is no different. If you don’t have a grasp on yourself; your strengths and your purpose, you are likely to drift in your career, or be less effective than you could be. You need to be intentional and courageously seek out insights and feedback from other sources (including friends, family, and at least one research based assessment). According to Harvard Business Review, authentic leaders work hard at developing self-awareness through persistent and often courageous self-exploration.
This is something I learned early on as I was working to support myself and pay tuition while attending the University of California in Los Angeles. I worked at UCLA’s Placement and Career Planning Center five hours a day, five days a week while earning my Bachelor’s degree.
In this job, I met hundreds of incredibly smart, hard working, successful alumni from one of the nation’s best educational institutions who said, “I don’t know what to do for the rest of my life.”
Counselors at the center would often recommend a self-assessment tool to gain better understanding. There are many, such as Myer’s Briggs, and DISC. I also am a huge fan of Gallup’s Strengthsfinder assessment.
In those days, I found the assessment tools and exercises in Richard Bolles, “What Color is Your Parachute” to be most helpful. Then and now it offers wonderful questions and helps you uncover hidden nuggets about yourself.
During the first year after receiving my degree, I realized that the career I had thought I wanted – developing public policy and doing public service through the government — was not what I thought it would be.
So I went back to Bolles’ exercises, which helped me discover my entrepreneurial spirit in a way that I hadn’t previously noticed.
The lightbulb went off and I realized I wanted to start a business. Since I had student loans to pay off, I made a plan to learn as much as I could about starting and running a business on the side, while also developing my skills.
Within a few years, I felt I was ready to launch my own business – one that combined my strengths in communications, my interest in business, and my innate desire to make a positive impact on my community and world.
My first business was a social marketing agency providing market research, marketing, and communications for innovative companies who wanted to make a positive social impact.
Since then, I’ve launched or helped launch and lead several successful technology businesses and even a few nonprofits.
Investing in leadership development, self-assessment, and self-discovery should be ongoing – the happiest and most successful people do this. This is especially true when you are feeling stuck, or the job you thought you wanted turns out to be one that isn’t suited for you.
2. Commit to at least one act of personal development daily
Committing to personal development builds positively on what you have begun with self discovery and takes your knowledge from abstract to habits that prosper you in every way.
You may believe, as many have, that you have too many other pressing responsibilities to invest in your personal development: a team to manage, a product to deliver, etc. You think you couldn’t possibly have the time to dedicate to intentionally growing yourself.
In reality, you are never too busy to invest a bit of time in your personal development. Find something you can weave into your current schedule. It can start with a morning routine that energizes you. Or, even something as simple as attending a leadership workshop, or listening to any one of many podcasts on leadership and personal growth. My favorites include leadership expert Michael Hyatt and best-selling author Gretchen Rubin.
Or commit to reading at least one book a month or a quarter. I recommend starting with anything by Daniel Pink who writes about motivation and business transformation. There are also a multitude of excellent leadership blogs. Test out a few to assess what resonates for you – there’s no one size that fits all. I enjoy Lolly Daksal for her depth of leadership and Christy Wright for her entertaining, disarming humor.
Continued learning and growing will help you effectively set and achieve goals, navigate through the tough times, give you more tools in your toolbox, and it will definitely make you a more interesting person!
This step also helps you navigate the most important aspect of in your work, life, happiness and success – your mindset!
3. Invest in your communication skills
“Success is 15 percent due to professional knowledge and 85 percent due to “the ability to express ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse enthusiasm among people.” – Dale Carnegie
Research reveals that many leaders and aspiring leaders miss the mark on communicating ideas that generate success for themselves and their teams. Even the smartest leaders with the best ideas and teams won’t win if they don’t have good communication skills.
Mountains of research show that one of the biggest complaints that executives have about their professionals – individually and in teams – is poor communication skills. They want their leaders to write, speak, and lead with more clarity, influence, and forward momentum.
Ironically, the number one complaint that professionals have against their senior leadership is also poor communication skills. They say it’s unclear, inconsistent, and that managers or board members don’t listen.
Anyone can be an effective communicator. Good communicators aren’t born, they work at it. Highly effective communicators move ahead faster and generate better results. Communication is leadership. If you’re intentional about constantly improving, you will find that you and your team will achieve goals more effectively – and will go further, faster.
There are a number of resources from workshops, to books to help you grow. I’ve listed several in my free giveaway, 7 Secrets To Highly Effective Communications.
Early in my career development, I concluded that my communications style wasn’t getting the results I desired or that my business required. I decided to attend a 3-day seminar on communicating better in the workplace. It was transformational and I put the ideas into practice and noticed immediate results.
A few promotions followed and these skills have been key to my success in building businesses and relationships for over 25 years. These include co-founding a company that grew to $200 million in revenue and 1,100 employees, being elected to serve on several public company boards, and earning revenue as a paid speaker. My calendar has been filling up with requests to speak on podcasts.
Of all the factors that will influence your success in work and life, you are far and away the most important and influential factor. Your choice to invest in these three leadership development areas will give you powerful results in achieving your goals this year and beyond.