There are three activities that make the difference for those leaders who consistently rise to the top when it comes to career, salary, and impact. The Magic 3 are
- Transformative Experience
- Peer Exchange
- Strategic Reflection.
I have served as an executive advisor to CEOs since 2000 and led my own CEO Peer Groups for six years. In these roles I have sat in on hundreds of hours of CEOs talking about what is helping them and what is holding them back. It is clear those who prioritize their professional development are the same leaders who have great careers, no matter how you measure.
The difference is stark. There are those who rise to the top quickly and powerfully, moving from one leadership position to the next, each involving greater responsibility, often a bigger salary, and always leading greater positive impact in the world. And there are those who seem to sit where they are longer than they want to with no real plan or method for getting to the next stage of their career. The former have a game plan: the practice the Magic 3. The latter are usually lost.
The greatest asset every leader has is their own experience, and by extension their understanding of how the world works and what they can do to influence it. The best way to increase your options and skills is to participate in novel experiences that open up new horizons.
The best are those that challenge your limitations, push you to new insights and force you to develop new competencies. They often throw you right outside your comfort zone, which means that you feel mightily anxious, awkward and discombobulated. Nobody likes those feelings, but strong leaders recognize it requires crossing the threshold of comfort and exploring new terrain that is their best ally when it comes to building their personal leadership capacity.
My CEO Peer Groups involve 4-8 CEOs who meet six times over the course of a year or so. Five of the meetings are four hours long and one is an overnight held out of town. During this time these leaders get to know each other in deeply personal ways. They help each other reveal and address personal weaknesses, get out of tough spots, and brainstorm new initiatives,. There is nothing like it.
Send me a note if you would like to be considered for the next round which starts up February 2016.)
All leadership is personal. It begins deep inside where we find the resources to grow and contribute, over and over again, getting up one more time than we are knocked down. Sitting face-to-face with another on the same path as you is invaluable. There is a unique vulnerability and ability to provide meaningful support that cannot be found anywhere else.
This applies to both transformative action and peer exchange. It provides the insight and application that turns your experience and learning into action. Strategic reflection brings everything together.
Lets break this down. Strategic means framing your reflection activities so they focus on your leadership development. Ask questions like,
What did I learn from this that can make me a better leader?
Is there something here that will teach me to generate better results?
What patterns do I see that I can learn from when it comes to innovation, finding the way, or helping others perform better?
Reflection is any activity that allows you to step outside of yourself and get a handle on your performance from a different point of view. Some of my favorite reflection activities are:
Writing in my journal
Talking to a good friend
Talking into the voice recorder on my smart phone
Whatever you choose to do, make a commitment to your own development. That is the seed from which all great careers grow.
– Alice Walker