Eventually, the best leaders reach a steady state of operation. What they do works. The level of personal development they have attained is far enough ahead of the curve to feel good and to maintain a successful appearance. But appearances and high-achievement status quo isn’t enough for the best leaders. Great leaders want to grow where they don’t know. They want to tackle new levels of personal development. The want to expand their perspective and master new skills.
But what do you do when you have excelled in most everything you have learned? How do you expose blind spots and uncover areas of development that you don’t know exist? Try one or more of these six radical steps:
#1 Believe in a Limitless World
There is new knowledge and perspective that you haven’t gained yet. There is always more, because an infinite Creator has practically outdone himself. The only thing that can match your hunger for discovery and development is a universe that is never-ending in its opportunity. There is a blue ocean of learning out there.
#2 Conduct a Question-Storm
Create and maintain a running list of development questions. Don’t hesitate to spend hours of personal brainstorming to ask problem-solving questions. For example,
- How might I look at my time management in a totally different way?
- What do I need to do differently to develop the people around me?
- What tools for ________ are out there that I don’t even know about?
- What is frustrating me as a leader that I haven’t taken time to articulate?
Lots of questions surfaces key questions. Key questions unlock new worlds.
#3 Read Before You Read
Do a synoptic book study related to key questions before you read a book. A synoptic study involves scanning a lot of books in a topical range before deciding to read any one book. Use Google, Amazon reviews, executive book summaries, or an old fashion card catalogue, and make a list of books related to your key questions. Create a list of 20-60 possible books to read. You should spend enough time scanning these books that you can write down, in one sentence, the problem each book solves. With 20-60 problem statements for each book, you’re ready to start reading what is most relevant. This practice forces you to learn new things.
#4 Ask Four “Who Questions”
You may know a person who can help you or you might not. But you always know someone who knows the right person. Make a list of people for each question.
- Who is operating at the level above me in my field?
- Who is operating at the level I want to achieve, but in a field different from mine?
- Who can help diagnose my situation and speak into my list of developmental questions?
- Who do I know that can help me expand the answers to the first three questions?
As a result of these questions, you will develop new relationships and get new perspective from people outside of your regular sphere of influence.
#5 Pursue, Hone, Pursue
Zero in on your understanding of what and how you need to develop. Relate your questions to new knowledge from reading and the perspective and insight gained from talking to the right people. Keep finding the right people and interview people. Refine your questions and find more people. It takes effort, but with the continued work, you will strike gold by uncovering new learning and new opportunities for learning.
#6 Seriously Consider an Executive Coach
Profound knowledge never comes from you inner circle of friends and colleagues. You already have access to their knowledge and perspective. Profound knowledge comes from the outside. The above points are designed to bring outside information through new questions, new information (books), and new people. But in the end, having someone for consistent push and accountability towards new learning can reap untold benefits. Maybe you need a coach and maybe you don’t, but if you took the time to read this blog post, why wouldn’t you experiment with a coach? It may be the most strategic investment you ever make.