Cathleen Swody

In many of our programs, leaders create action plans to guide their professional development.  These action plans are crucial to translating learning and aspirations into real results.  Following a post on three ingredients of an actionable action plan, people asked about the best way to get started with a new action plan.  In response, I recommend a 30-day challenge. Once you clarify your vision and goals, starting small and building on success is key.

 

Breaking Down Goals into Behaviors

A common challenge with action plans is breaking down goals into day-to-day behaviors.  So often, when we start setting goals, we automatically think about what we want to accomplish within a year.  However, unless we translate a goal into actions we can start doing tomorrow, the goal is unlikely to be achieved.  We need daily steps forward to make real progress toward longer-term goals.  Small steps forward are where we create lasting habits that fuel success.

When working with a leader with a solid long-term goal, I challenge him/her to identify immediate next steps.  This focus gets us away from waiting…for a time when they are not as busy, for a new VP to come on-board, for the budget to approved, to complete their MBA, etc.  Yes, these constraints are real and influence our ability to meet objectives.  Nevertheless, leadership exists in what we do and say on a daily basis

 

Building Habits through the 30-Day Challenge

For most leaders, opportunities to improve leadership exist in small ways — through how they manage themselves and interact with others.  A “best practice” that works great for clients is a 30-day challenge.  A 30-day challenge involves identifying and committing to a specific action for the next month.  This simple, yet powerful exercise cuts through overwhelm and prioritizes progress over perfection.  By focusing attention and practicing deliberately, you can accelerate improvement.

In the table below, I have identified a few ways leaders can take common topics of leadership and break them down into an action that can be repeated for the next month.  Note that these examples are not expensive or time-consuming, but can make a difference over time.  As a bonus, taking small actions like these help leaders see their progress, which motivates them to tackle another 30-Day challenge.

 

Leadership Topic Example of 30-Day Challenge
Delegation Ask myself “Do I really need to do this work myself or can someone on my time do this?” every time I look at my to-do list.
Executive Presence Putting cell phone out of sight during meetings.
Prioritization Identifying the most important “must-do” at work the day before.

 

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