Leadership: Personal Development – Seeking Improvement

Seeking improvement for personal development requires that leaders model these 3 behaviors for their direct reports:

  • honestly admit mistakes and learn from them rather than repeating them;
  • accepts criticism constructively without defensiveness;
  • takes initiative to identify and pursue resources needed to improve performance

In order to successfully develop others, leaders must set a positive example as role models by being actively engaged in behaviors that demonstrate their commitment to self-improvement. A leader who seeks improvement will be enthusiastic about learning and will have new ideas and skills to share with their people. Peter Senge suggests that leaders create a “learning organization” that expects and encourages everyone to grow. DHS has provided rich learning opportunities for leaders at all levels, with programs such as Coaching and the many offerings of the Academy. However, seeking improvement goes beyond participation in these programs, and requires taking initiative to seek improvement.

Seeking improvement begins with an attitude of genuinely desiring to improve combined with actively seeking performance feedback. This requires a willingness to admit mistakes and to learn from them. A boss who is willing to admit mistakes creates an environment that is safe for giving and receiving constructive feedback. Simply asking, “How can I do that better next time?” is an effective way to ask for feedback. Taking responsibility for a mistake takes courage and maturity and increases a leader’s credibility. By the way, everyone knows when you make a mistake, so you might as well admit it!

With the attitude of genuinely desiring to improve performance, there is no need to be defensive when receiving criticism. Accepting criticism constructively becomes a positive experience. In the book, “Inside the Magic Kingdom,” the author stresses the importance of providing an excellent experience for all customers. This commitment leads to an attitude of willingness to learn how to be better, every day. Feedback is sought aggressively, and criticism is welcomed. The attitude of seeking improvement permeates the organization, Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

The leader who actively seeks improvement will begin to set specific goals for improvement. By identifying needs for growth, such as the 360-assessment feedback, leaders can then take initiative to find those resources. Examples of resources are books, tapes, training videos, courses at the local community college or university, on-line programs and mentors, to name a few.
Additional Steps in Cultivating Individual talents:

  • Develop an attitude of genuine interest in seeking improvement;
  • Review your 360-evaluation with your supervisor; ask for ideas on targets for growth;
  • Review your 360-evaluation with your peers, and ask for their ideas for growth;
  • Review your 360-evaluation with your direct reports, and ask for their ideas;
  • Identify two resources for addressing the targets for growth
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