[su_dropcap style=”flat”]I[/su_dropcap]HAVE BEEN lucky in my lifetime to have met and worked with some wonderfully intelligent people. They are amazing people because every time I talked to them, through the stories they tell, the experiences they share, the lessons they impart, I would learned a new way of handling a problem, overcoming an obstacle or I would gained valuable professional knowledge. I would be like Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus and ignoring the hustle and bustle of Martha – not because what Martha was doing was not important but because what I was learning was so much more valuable
In my article titled, Know Yourself, I stressed the importance of knowing yourself and seeking self-improvement. So as a leader, one of the important aspects of your leadership must be that you are technically proficient in your field of expertise. Not only must you be technically proficient, you also have an obligation to keep current of the latest innovations that are happening in your field, knowing the latest processes that are making advances in your field, and being at the cutting edge of setting the vision for where your field of expertise is evolving. In other words, you must be seen as a leader in your field. So here are some tips on what you can do to keep yourself prepared for the challenges of your leadership position.
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Seek continuing education programs that will keep you up-to-date on all aspects of your field. Utilize webinars, on-site training, subject matter training events, and conferences to obtain knowledge pertaining to the advances in your field and to reinforce lessons already learned. Additionally, seek opportunities to teach at these events. Nothing will help you more to increase your proficiency on a process than to have to do the research associated with preparing a well thought out and effective training session.
Broaden your knowledge by being active in a professional organization associated with your field. You will be amazed at what you will learn and how you can help shape the future of your field of expertise by participating in these organizations. (I remember sitting in a meeting discussing how we were going to utilize desktop computers to manage supply assets in the Marine Corps in 1979 – years before desktop computer had even been invented!)
Seek out and associate with capable leaders. Observe and study their actions. As I mentioned in my opening paragraph, seek out those who teach you whenever you meet with them. And as you learn, share this knowledge with others – become the teacher.
Seek opportunities to practice what you learn in your training session. As a procurement professional, I sent my buyer to a training session on how to write an effective Request for Proposals and how to manage this important solicitation process. As soon as the buyer returned, I provided all the information I had on an RFP that needed to be written and told the buyer that this was her next assignment – I was available to answer questions but she would be completely responsible for the results. She was excited to take on the challenge because she would be able to practice what she had just learned.
Finally, prepare yourself for the next higher job. Do not let yourself get complacent or become too comfortable in your position. You may never have the opportunity to move up into the next level of leadership, but if you are constantly preparing yourself for this opportunity, you will be amazed at how well you will be able to relate your day-to-day functions with the success of the organization. By understanding the big picture, you can contribute to the success of your organization by helping set the vision it needs to succeed tomorrow and each day into the future.
Let me close with an important caution. During the recent economic slowdown, I was so surprised that one area of “cost savings” that was instituted in so many organizations was the reduction of training dollars because of the travel expenses that go hand in hand. The unspoked message in this action was, “We want you to work harder because we are not going to replace people when they leave this organization, we want you to do more in the eight hours you are at work since overtime will not be allowed, we want you to work smarter so that you are using every tool provided in the most efficient manner, but we are not willing to invest in you as a person to help you succeed in these difficult economic times.” Shame on leaders who embraced this philosophy! Never cut training.
Invest in yourself; invest in your people, invest in your organization; be technically proficient and succeed.