Julie Thorson

Here is my trusty, dusty “how to” blog. There are people out there a lot smarter than me who have great theories and advice for setting leadership development goals. This is not that.

This is “Setting Leadership Development Goals for Dummies,” an original (kidding, of course) title I’m quite proud of, and a title I would read if I were searching for a “how to” article on setting leadership development goals.

There are so many great books and tools out there; I have many more to read, learn and practice. I thought this month, however, I would try out my own how to set leadership development goals blog, based on my 18 or so years of considering myself a leader.

1)  Stop thinking of leadership development goals as goals with beginnings and endings. There isn’t an end. If you think there is, get over it. There isn’t. Most everyone will teach you goals are measured, and they are usually measured by someone else. That doesn’t work either. Only you can truly measure your leadership progress. The trick is you have to be willing to be honest with yourself.

2) In order for it to be a goal, you must write it down and share it with someone other than yourself. If you don’t write it down, it’s only an intention, not a goal. In order for you to see growth within yourself, you have to be deliberate about it and put it on paper.

3) Make the moments mean something. For example, if you have a leadership goal to listen better and you find yourself interrupting all the time, make a mental note of it at the time. Before the end of the day, write down what you did and acknowledge you need to do better, and then practice doing better. It’s not enough to keep apologizing for your rudeness every time you do it; you have to intentionally work on changing your behavior.

4) Self-awareness doesn’t give you an excuse for being a poor leader. Setting leadership development goals isn’t simply about becoming more self-aware. Sure, unfiltered self-awareness is important. Being self-aware and deciding what you want to do to improve, and then working towards that improvement, is crucial. If you do one without the other, you’ve missed a huge opportunity.

5) You can’t just ask for feedback — you have to listen to it with your whole heart. If you would really like to see growth on your leadership journey, you have to do more than be open to feedback. You have to ask for it, listen to it, internalize it, and then do something about it as you work towards your goals.

6) Unlike measurable goals, your leadership goals should be ever changing as you grow as a leader and as a person. They are one in the same.

Notice I didn’t tell you what your leadership goals should be. You have to figure that out for yourself. Notice also I wrote about nothing all that earth shattering. I kept it simple for all the dummies (myself included!).

Like you, I consider myself a student, someone still growing and learning as a leader every day.

If you have questions on how to set leadership development goals for yourself and your team members, maybe this simple “how to” will help you start a needed conversation. If you think you have it all figured out (you probably aren’t reading a how to set leadership development goals blog), it’s more than likely you don’t and you should break it down to a “how to” that is just this simple.

Good luck to all of us dummies. Leadership development goals certainly aren’t simple. If they were, we would have many more enlightened leaders out there. The good news (refer to step #1) is there is always time to start and none of us will ever truly finish.

Julie Thorson’s “Living Leadership” blog was named the 2016 “Best New Department” Bronze Award winner by the American Society of Health Publication Editors. The president and CEO of Friendship Haven, a continuing care retirement community in Fort Dodge, IA, that earned the Governor’s Award for Quality under her, Thorson is a coach’s daughter at heart. She is a former part-time nursing home social worker who quickly ascended the leadership ranks. Now a licensed nursing home administrator, she has been a participant in LeadingAge’s Leadership Academy and LeadingAge Iowa’s Mentor of the Year.