Thursday, 6 July 2017

Dare to become the best version of yourself: short guide to self-coaching

You just had a performance development review with your manager, and his feedback is clear: "You need to be more organized and anticipate better", or maybe "you have to be more convincing with senior management". You have been asked to improve something which is not a technical skill, but rather a so-called soft skill.

Let's assume that the objective is clear and specific, and that it makes sense for you: you agree that this is a major point to work on, because it makes you less efficient today and could block your career in the future. How can you make a lasting change on something that is unlikely to be part of your natural talents? How can you avoid to hear the same story again in the next review in a few months?

Each of us should take the lead on our own development, without waiting for our manager of HR to do it for us. I often advise to prioritize 1 or 2 goals of personal development, not more, and to block a regular slot, for example once a week, for a « self-coaching session » : a dedicated time for us to reflect on  what has and has not worked in our personal development efforts, and to plan the follow-up actions.

To establish an effective development plan, a useful rule of thumb is the 70/20/10:
  • 70% of the progress comes from practical on-the-job experiences 
  • 20% come from interactions with people who are important to us (bosses, mentors, role models)
  • 10% (only) come from training in all its forms (indoor, with books, videos, articles, etc.)

70% On-the-job Learning
The most important part of a development plan is therefore to find as many opportunities as possible in the workplace, and why not in our personal lives, to practice the desired new behavior: within our current projects, but also by asking to participate in new projects that will get us out of our comfort zone and pratice the skill we want to improve.

It is generally more effective to aim for baby steps, to get into a positive dynamic that will encourage us to continue, rather than to set the bar too high and to be demotivated by the lack of progress.

If you have the opportunity, ask a colleague or your manager to observe you in action and to give you on-the-spot feedback, focusing on the skill you are trying to develop.

Be patient with yourself: it is often through errors and trials that we learn the most, and soft skills are rarely acquired in 2 or 3 weeks.

Think about the opportunities to use your natural strengths to develop your weakness: for example, use your creativity to create more impactful presentations. This generally allows us to inject more energy and fun into our development plans, and therefore supports our motivation.

20% Learning through interactions with key people
Your direct boss is there to to support and help you. Do not hesitate to solicit him by regularly sharing your development plan and your progress.

We often learn by imitation. It can be very useful to identify people who are stars in the skill we seek to develop (role models), and to observe how they do it, in order to borrow the strategies which suit us best.

Internal mentoring is also a very effective tool, and increasingly offered by large companies. It consists of one-to-one personal development discussions with seomeone who is generally more experienced and more "neutral" than your boss. If you have this opportunity, go for it and make the most of it! Note that this mentoring can be formal (if there is a program in your company, or by your alumni network) or informal, as is often the case with people who have been our bosses in the past, and whom we can subsequently solicit for advice.

10% Learning through training (in all its forms)
A classroom training, a book, a video or an article can raise awareness and equip you with useful tools. But the anchoring of the new skill will only be done through its repeated use in the daily job (the famous 70%).

"The biggest mistake you can make in your life is to be continually scared that you're going to make one. "Elbert Hubbard. It is by giving ourselves permission to try new behaviors, even if they are awkward at first, that we will accelerate our professional and personal development.

Thank you for your interest in this article. If you liked it, do not hesitate to share it on social networks!

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