As you know, learning leaders often write in these pages about the strengths and successes of the professional development programs administered at progressive organizations. These same learning executives speak at length at our CLO Symposiums and other events about the benefits derived from the most basic element of the CLO position, developing the professional skills and maximizing opportunities for others.
But in all that discussion, one important aspect often gets overlooked: It’s important to focus the professional development spotlight in both directions. In other words, while you’re concentrating on developing others, it’s important to keep your own growth in mind and in focus.
Stephen Covey knows about the importance of that. The vice chairman and co-founder of FranklinCovey and Chief Learning Officer magazine’s “Focus” columnist (see page 18), Covey recently shared some advice with learning leaders in Chicago, advice designed to cultivate the complete executive.
Oddly enough, Covey’s solution starts with your 80th birthday. Think ahead, and imagine what people would say about you on that special occasion. What would you want them to say about you? What would you like them to remember?
“Start living today with the picture of your 80th birthday,” Covey said. “In that picture, you will find the true definition of success.”
From that exercise, dig deep to uncover your deepest desires, and start building your personal mission statement. You’ve certainly collaborated on mission statements for your company, division or department. Building one for yourself can help keep your career on track and help you focus your efforts for yourself and others.
No one said this is an easy process. It’s not like what Covey called the “sandwich technique” of performance appraisals: a few kind words to cushion the criticism, a sharp knife quickly inserted, a few more kind words to send them on their way. Instead, your internal appraisal is a 360-degree view that encompasses the needs of the mind, body, heart and spirit. Look at what fills each of those needs inside you, and build from there.
Let me share some other pearls of wisdom with you. See if you find some inspiration to round out your own person:
- The nautical enthusiasts among us will instantly grasp Covey’s advice to “be a trim tabber.” A trim tab is the small rudder that turns the big rudder that turns the ship. That may be the most apt metaphor I’ve heard for the chief learning officer. Your work steers the workforce in the proper direction, and their improved efforts steer the organization forward. It’ll work with your career path as well.
- Covey’s definition of leadership: “Leadership is communicating people’s worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.” You didn’t have to come up through the sales ranks to wind up in sales of a sort. You’re selling success of all sorts to an eager audience that includes yourself.
- Always give people “super-ordinate goals.” Covey related a tale of his work with the state of Georgia, where officials told him their goal was to be the most effective state government. Think bigger, he counseled, and aim to be a mentoring model for the other 49. Are your goals grandiose enough?
Finally, don’t forget the balance. Developing a staff of thousands and contributing to the growth of major enterprises can be time-consuming and overwhelming. But the greatest work you’ll do, Covey said, is within the four walls of your own home.
Food for thought, isn’t it? Building or refining your personal mission statement would make a good project for the summer.
Editor in Chief