It’s a fact – all business managers, particularly mid-sized company owners, are busy. It’s also a fact that building your leadership and technical skills is necessary to stay current and grow your business.
In an increasingly complex global business environment, you need to stay ahead of the crowd to achieve corporate goals.
So, how do you make time to develop the skills that will help you grow as a leader and benefit your company? With limited time, where should you focus your efforts in skill building?
Plan Your Attack
First, take inventory of the areas you feel you need to improve the most. Plan and organize your learning, then determine what you want the results to be.
If you truly have limited time, you’ll need to make that time focused to get the most bang for your precious minutes. The University of California at Berkley offers a handy worksheet to help you analyze the areas where you may need to develop skills.
Consider your corporation’s needs as well as your own. Think about what you’d like to learn and what skills you think would most improve your performance and that of your organization. Another aspect to consider in your training – do you want to extend your learning in a technical direction or in soft skills?
Also remember that the skills you need to build early in your career, such as the basics of time management, may not be the same skills you need mid- or late-career.
Bring your peers, a board member, or fellow executive into the conversation. In addition to letting him or her know that you are interested in growing and improving, their perspective may lead to training ideas you had not considered. Plus, you may get more support than you imagine for full-day or multi-day training sessions.
Key point: Be open to their input on areas you need to improve on. Sometimes entrepreneurs and business owners have a hard time hearing about key areas of their performance need improvement. If you are open to hearing the truth, you will be making the critical (and hard) first step to true improvement.
Commit to one lunch a month where you attend a networking event or ask someone to lunch. Be strategic with your invites. Ask others who they admire and who they’ve learned from. Study your industry’s leaders you most admire. What skills do they have that you need to incorporate?
Then, reach out to those leaders. Look to mutual friends and acquaintances and ask for an introduction. Or, study that leader at industry events, trade communications, and on.
Another option in the relationship department: Hire an executive coach for individualized training. These business consultants can help you identify areas to improve, guide you as you try new management techniques, and hold you accountable for keeping your commitment to learning. Plus, by having a coach come to your office you save travel time and likely get access to their network, too.
Finding the Time
Get creative in finding time. Maybe you can carve out an hour during one or two lunchtimes a week to read industry trade magazines or listen to a few TED Talks to keep up with industry trends. If you don’t already have the technology, invest in the devices that will allow you to listen to business podcasts during the daily commute.
Give yourself short-term and long-term goals. A short-term goal might be learning to use Skype because a client likes to use it. A long-term goal might be learning what it will take to get better results from your annual employee survey.
Be realistic. It probably took you a matter of weeks or months to master the basics of driving a car, but a few years to become truly proficient and mature in your driving skills.
As a busy business owner, you probably need subtler competencies that help you motivate, adapt to rapid change, give better feedback, or plan your succession. Give yourself the space to find what works for you and your company.
Most critically, you must make up your mind to commit to learning, says executive coach Alisa Cohn. Then, you just do it.
- The Wild West of Executive Coaching from Harvard Business Review
- Time Management Tips from Extremely Busy People from The Guardian
- 6 Business Lessons from Netflix Series House of Cards from The Private Business Owner