One of the characteristics of a good leader is a willingness to learn and an acknowledgement of the fact that there is always room for improvement. In some situations, leaders feel they’ve reached peak success and only need to coast from there. This is untrue and is in actuality a terrible mindset for any person in a position of authority. Leaders who are wanting to improve their skills will do well to heed the advice in this article, which outlines steps that can be taken to do a “skills audit” and work to improve from there.
Make a List of Good and Bad Characteristics
The first step of an audit is to identify areas that need improvement. When it comes to best practices to be a good leader, doing an internal audit of what could be done better is essential. This requires a good bit of honesty and self-awareness.
Write down the character traits that most identify with good leadership, and follow it up with traits that may be more of a downfall or area to improve. It’s okay to be a bit harsh in this process, but conversely it’s also okay to remember the positives and results that have come from being in a leadership position.
Ask for Constructive Feedback (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly)
Self-awareness is key, but so is the idea of gathering feedback and data from others. Many leaders solicit feedback, but fail to actually do anything with it. Don’t be that guy.
When doing a leadership skills audit, it’s just as important (if not more important) to take others’ feedback into account. Offer an informal survey or call an open-floor discussion meeting. Understand that not every person will be glowing with their reviews, and that’s more than okay.
Once all feedback has been gathered, it can be measured against the list that each manager has made for themselves. Are there any glaring differences? Maybe the employee feedback says that the manager is a bad listener, when the manager’s own list has “listening” as a positive skill.
Compare the feedback that’s been both received and given and identify commonalities. A true leader will be open and honest with themselves when accepting constructive feedback.
Make an Action Plan
Once the first step is complete, it’s time to form a plan to get to the next milestone. Remember, improving leadership skills is an ongoing task, not just a one-off project.
Take the time to make an action plan for each element of improvement. If becoming a better listener is on the list, find some resources to brush up on what it means to be a good, active listener. Practice active listening in conversation.
If a leader is tasked with improving their workflow — perhaps they’ve been noticed spending too much time sending pointless emails or maybe they have trouble meeting important deadlines — the first attempt at fixing the problem may not always be a rousing success. It’s encouraged to try different tactics to see what works the best. Not every solution works for every person.
At the end of the day, accountability is an important element of improving any skill. A leader who truly cares about improving will take steps to maintain accountability. Perhaps they have their own manager or superior to defer to. Maybe there is a possibility to find a leadership mentor.
Improving any skill takes a lot of work and even more dedication, but the results can pay off in spades. Doing a skills audit such as this regularly will go a long way to improve management skills and, by association, morale and productivity in the workplace.