What will you improve?

I did it again. Even after saying I never would. I told a customer (in my former work in sales) that I was hoping to drop by his business next week if time allowed. What he heard was that I was planning to drop by next week. That poor communication was a bad habit I had to overcome to be effective in my work. Fortunately, after a few mishaps I started making specific appointments and avoided this past mistake. 

As a leader, what do you need to improve and how will you do it?

We are just a few weeks into 2022 and many leaders are either developing or working on their professional development plan for this year. Every leader needs to be a growing leader and Christian leaders understand that God is more concerned and instrumental in our growth than we are. Jesus prayed for us in John 17:17 that God the Father would sanctify us by His truth and His word is that truth.

Leaders need to continue to work toward developing in their profession to remain fresh and relevant, to not live in the past and to honor the calling God has placed on our lives and the gifts and assignments He has entrusted to us.

Here are five questions to develop a professional development plan:

1. Where do you need to grow? If you think about the shortcomings you confess regularly, the leadership instances where you seem to struggle, the places where you feel others are further along than you are — what comes to mind? I have recently been convicted about the skill of communication in leadership. I heard a leadership expert say that effective leaders must say the right things, accurately. They must know what they can and cannot say, due to confidentiality. And they must know when to shut up —discernment. What growth area needs attention in your life? Do you need to learn how to care for others, discern and cast vision, encourage followers or set goals for your place of ministry? Step one is to settle on an area for growth.

2. How will you grow in this area? Once you have settled on a target area, you can begin considering what resources are available to you. Will you attend a class or seminar? If so, will you attend online or in-person? Will you read books and articles about your subject? Will you find other leaders who are further along in this leadership trait than yourself and schedule a time to interview them as you work through a list of questions? Will you memorize helpful quotes from others who have spoken or written about your subject area? None of us can do everything, but each of us can do something to try and grow in leadership skills.

3. Who will help you? Most of us will do better if we have a friend with whom we can share our findings and who will pray for us as we hope to progress. It is easy to end a professional development plan before completion due to the stress and strain of ministry. There will always be something more pressing on the calendar of Christian leaders than the conference they hope to attend or the webinar they scheduled. Bringing a trusted friend into your development plan can be a big help for accountability and completion. Consider having a few meetings throughout the year with your friend and tell them about some of the discoveries you have made.

4. How will we track our progress? Professional development is a tricky thing and one’s progress can be difficult to track. Instead of focusing on specific outcomes consider monitoring input. Determine your development goals, such as attending a seminar, completing a course or reading a set number of books on the subject. Make those your measure of progress. There is no guarantee you will experience the growth you desire, but it is more likely that doing something will accomplish more than doing nothing.

5. When will you begin? Many of us are familiar with the category of goals known as SMART goals. Smart goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Make your professional development time-bound with a starting date and an end date. Consider starting today and ending the last day of December. You have most of the year ahead of you to grow in a chosen area of your ministry assignment.

Henry Cloud is credited with saying, “We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing.” May this year be one where we are not satisfied to stay the same but to grow for the glory of God and the good of people.

Blessings to you on your efforts to grow as a leader.

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