Ideas to learn and grow as a leader
For me, it’s always been important to learn new things and get better at what I do. In this article, I have collected some ideas to learn and grow as a leader that have worked for me.
Form a leadership group at the company
A group where leaders at the company can share ideas, discuss relevant topics and learn from each other is a great way to help each other grow as leaders.
We have such a group at Codemill where all the team leaders meet every two weeks. Our meeting starts with everyone writing down what they want to talk about on a Miro board, then we vote on which topic to start with. Usually, we have time to discuss most of them, but voting can help quickly prioritize what everyone thinks is most important. We also write down any actions we get from the discussions just so we have some sort of record.
The details of the meeting aren’t the point though, it’s having a group to share in. We talk about challenges we have in our teams, the collaboration between teams, things that have worked for others, and so much more.
If you don’t have a group like this at your company try asking a few colleagues if they would be interested in starting one. The act of starting and facilitating a leadership group might also be an opportunity for growth in itself, so a double win there.
Read together with your peers
Reading can be a great way to learn on its own, but when done together with your peers you can get so much more from it.
I did this with a group of managers at Codemill. We read the book Resilient Management, you can read my review if you want to know what I thought about it. Every week we would read one chapter, then have a discussion together for about an hour.
I had read the book once before but having those discussions still helped me get so much more from each chapter. The advice in the book became so much more tangible when we talked about how we could implement it in our teams and shared experiences we’ve had of the topic at hand.
This approach does take longer than just reading the book, but the return on time invested is in my experience higher. Maybe not something that can be done for every book, but I would recommend trying it when you can.
Choosing the right book is of course crucial for the outcome. I would recommend something fairly short that everyone in the group has a strong interest in reading. Short because everyone in the group must have time to read between sessions, which is easier with less text to get through. Interesting for everyone in the group because engagement in reading and discussing is key for this to work.
Boost your growth with a professional leadership coach
When I started in the role as Head of Development at Codemill it was my first step from team management into a more executive role.
Right around that time I found a Twitter thread by Suzan Bond about scaling startups. It resonated strongly with me and the issues I saw at the company at that time. I noticed that she is a certified leadership coach and has previously worked as a COO. I thought having her as my coach could be exactly what I needed right now. Fortunately, my boss agreed and approved the expense for a coaching program with her.
Having a leadership coach can be a great way to grow quickly, it sure was for me. We had weekly calls where we talked about whatever was most important that week. I remember we talked about managing managers, org structure, leadership voids, managing remotely, employee engagement, building trust, and many other things that were going on.
Coaching involves a lot of open questions that help you reflect and introspect. You as the one being coached will come up with the answers, but your coach will help you get there so much quicker. Suzan has an uncanny ability to cut through the noise and pick out the core of what I was saying. She would then often follow up with questions that really made me think, and sometimes even shift my perspective on a topic. After a good coaching session I was often exhausted, but with a much deeper understanding of the topic and full of new ideas I was eager to try out.
Enhance your learning by teaching others
One way to do this could be to reach out to new leaders at your company and offer to help them get up to speed. It doesn’t have to be a formal mentorship, start with a couple of conversations and see how you can help.
I did this a couple of years ago when we had some people move into management roles. Even though I was only a few years more senior as a leader it was still appreciated to have someone to talk to and ask questions. For me, it was an opportunity both to practice my mentoring skills and a way to enhance my learning.
Another less direct way to teach others is to start writing. I have found that it helps me gather my thoughts on a topic, makes me do more research, and is a great way to practice communicating clearly.
Ask for feedback
If you don’t get any feedback you won’t know what to improve. Try working it into your routine not only to give feedback frequently but also to ask for it.
I have previously written on a method to get great feedback from your team. Another thing to try is to ask for specific small pieces of feedback rather frequently. When you are about to end a meeting, ask what they thought of it and how it could be better. If you have done a presentation, ask some people if it was communicated clearly. Many small improvements quickly add up, and at the same time, you are building a feedback culture.
Don’t just learn, do
While it’s fun to learn new ways to do things, get new ideas and inspiration, the real growth comes when you start doing things.
Since it’s much easier to do many small changes rather than one large one, I would suggest finding a way to try out a small new thing every week. Why not start with trying one of the ideas from this article?
As a leader, I favor transparency and collaboration, often involving my teammates in figuring out the best way forward. It’s important for me to build trust and to work long term. I want to build bridges and increase collaboration between teams.