Tuesday, December 7, 2010

31 Days to Become a Better Leader

With the start of a New Year looming, there’s no better time than now to commit to being a better leader in 2011.

Here’s a list of 31 activities that can help you become a better leader. Each one can be done in a day.

Please feel free to leave a comment to add to the list – who knows, maybe we can turn it into one of those desktop calendars.

1. Start a learning journal.

2. Read a leadership book

3. Subscribe to a leadership blog

4. Call a peer and offer to help solve a cross-functional problem

5. Delegate something meaningful to one of your employees

6. Take a leadership assessment

7. Schedule regular one-on-ones with your employees

8. Call a non-profit that’s important to you and volunteer your services

9. Ask for feedback or feedforward from your manager, an employee, or peer

10. Praise someone

11. Volunteer to be the first to try something

12. Find a mentor

13. Have a crucial conversation

14. Make a tough decision you’ve been putting off

15. Create a vision for your team or a project

16. Show some humility

17. Really listen to someone

18. Have a career/development discussion with one of your employees

19. Find a mentee

20. Thank someone

21. Offer to give feedback to an employee, peer, or your boss

22. Start a task force to seize a new opportunity or solve an important problem

23. Do a SWOT analysis for your function

24. Share your vision with someone

25. Teach something or do a presentation

26. Help someone feel more valued

27. Eliminate some low-value work or improve a process

28. Coach someone

29. Ask your boss to delegate one of his/her responsibilities to you

30. Find a peer coach

31. Develop an Individual Development Plan (IDP)

Note: Thanks, Sarah, for the post idea.


Anna Smith said...

32. Redecorate your living room (?)

33. Find out what your organization's mission and values are (if you don't already know)

Tim G said...

Great post, thanks!

I especially like the blend of learning FROM other leaders, and being a teacher AS a leader.

Mary Jo Asmus said...

Hi Dan,

Hmm....I read and re-read your list. I must have missed the one about "hire an executive coach :)".Okay, maybe I'm just a little overly enthusiastic.

Dan McCarthy said...

Anna -
And here I was trying to be serious.... well, in that case, I'll add #34: don't slap anyone today. Thanks.

Tim -

Mary Jo -
Oh yeah, we'll add that - #35.

Anonymous said...

I really like this idea and post. You only need 334 more ideas for that calendar. Here are some:

1 get organized- create a list of important things to do for the day and rate them in order of importance

2 make a self goal and create short term wins

3 post a motivational quote on your bedroom or work wall.

4 become a better follower- follow a leaders plan and don't overshadow their leadership role

5 meditate or do yoga- it could be the perfect fix for someone under pressure

Also I like some of your ideas for example:
Number 9 asking for feedback is important. I recently learned about the Johari Window. Where only by feedback can someone become a better leader and make their unknown box grow smaller.

Number 15 a vision is important to show someone how or why to follow. If you don't create dissatisfaction and then give steps to your vision they may not see a reason to change.

Number 23 SWOT analysis can be achieved through asking question. It also helps a company stay forward-looking and growing.

Thanks for sharing your ideas!


Jeff GJ said...

Great post, Dan,

Can you briefly clarify or link me to the difference between mentor and coach?


Dan McCarthy said...

Sleet -
We're up to 40. Thanks!

Dan McCarthy said...

Jeff -
Good question. You'll get a different answer depending on who you ask. To me - a mentor is usally someone inside (or sometimes outside) an organization that helps guide a person in thier career, offering advice. It's often not the person's manager, and often higher up in the org.
A coach can be a person (manager, peer, executive coach) - or a verb, as in "coaching". Coaching usually means the art and skill of helping someone figure out how to achieve a goal. They sort of pull it out of the person, by asking questions and providing feedback, instead of telling them how.
In reality, a person can often do both - the lines are not always to clean. To me, a manager can do both, as well as counsel and teach, but some will argue that.

John Papers said...

Can you write more about "31 Days to Become a Better Leader"..?
I am making a list of the "31 Days to Become a Better Leader"..

Anonymous said...

Just an editor's comment first: journal is spelled incorrectly (sorry, not trying to be picky) I think one of the most important things a leader should understand is how important it is for his folks to feel supported and that you "have their back" in times of difficulty.

Bonnie Flatt, Leadership Coach said...

Great post Dan. A few other suggestions to add to your list. How about:
1. Getting clear on your purpose and values as a leader. The "why" of who you are, so that people will enroll in and follow the who and what.
2. Read Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright so that you become more aware of and attuned to the different cultures in your organization.
3. Hire a leadership coach who will introduce you to your most powerful Self and will shed a light on those self limiting beliefs that have held you back.

staffing software said...

One thing I've noticed that helps is to further your education. Learn how to do something else.

Dan McCarthy said...

John -

Anon -
Thanks, I don't mind at all when my readers find typos for me, as long as they are nice about it like you. (-:
I agree with your comment - so how would we turn that into a development action someone could practice or learn in a day?

Bonnie -
Thanks, we'll say #41 and #42, as Mary Jo already added the coach idea.

Staffing -
OMG, I missed the most obvious one - take a course! #43, thanks.

Anoop said...

The tip to "praise someone" really stands out to me. Sometimes leaders seem too involved in their own processes that they forget to continually offer compliments to their employees. Motivation is everything in an organization, and earning praise from one's employer is the ultimate sign of respect for an employee. I wish this would have happened more often at an organization I used to work for.

Maria Payroll said...

Interesting post. Those are great tips and the tips that have been added by readers. This does not just help you become a better leader, but a better person in general. To be a better leader, you have to be a good influence and/or example to your employees. Be inspired and inspire others.

Ken Schulz said...

I appreciate this very good work in your article. I have found that before you can become an exceptional leader you need to get good at two things: (1) Understanding yourself and (2) Understanding others. After that applying leadership tools have a lot more accuracy.