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Your Leadership Development Plan Doesn't Matter If It's Only on Paper

You've taken the first step - deciding you want to change the way you lead. Whether this is strengthening competencies you already feel good about or building strength in areas of need or challenge, this decision is the most important step in the process. Without it, nothing happens.

And since making that decision, you've spent time and energy assessing what your role (or soon-to-be role) requires, how you think you're doing, and (importantly) how others think you're doing. You've evaluating all those things and identified the steps you need to take to get from here to there. You have a plan!

Just knowing the steps doesn't get you anywhere. It's time to dig into the longest part of your leadership journey: execution.

Just like the overall plan is simple, but not easy. This step, more than any other, is similarly and deceptively simple. Just take each step, one at a time. Yes. But for this step, accountability is key. You are accountable to yourself to follow through on the actions that may push you out of your comfort zone. You are accountable to yourself to maintain your focus on why you are doing this in the first place and how your life and your practice will change for the better.

What does execution like this look like? If you are working on sharing more information with your team -- an element of transparency -- it means you have to practice thinking about who on your team needs any piece of information you've just learned. Your paralegal should get any order from the judge laying out discovery and/or filing deadlines. It isn't enough to ask for what you need, each time you need it. Even if you (think you) give them enough time to meet your deadlines, you're creating competing demands with whatever other tasks might be popping up at the last minute. And you're ignoring the possibility of competing personal demands that might factor into your paralegal's work planning. (So, your transparency work is also supporting how you demonstrate empathy.) Each time you make the conscious choice to share information in new ways, you are reinforcing that skill and making it part of your leadership DNA.

Just as with development of your overall plan, you can execute on your own. But you speed up your results if you work with someone to help hold you accountable to you. You can do this with a colleague, mentor, or supervisor in your firm, but you get the benefit of dispassionate perspective and an absence of competitive or supervisory angst by working with a coach outside your firm. Having an accountability partner gives you someone to talk to about why you might have decided not to share certain information. Understanding how you are making decisions and exploring whether the thoughts you have about a particular situation or environment are serving you can lead to breakthroughs in how you approach those situations in the future. When you change the way you think about your decision-making, the actual decisions get easier to make because you're not fighting against your own thoughts to do what you know is in your best interest.

No matter how you decide to hold yourself accountable -- on your own, with someone inside your firm, or with an external coach -- you have to keep taking the steps you've laid out in your plan. Even when it's hard, even when you get it wrong. Maybe even especially when you get it wrong. You've laid out the path. Even though you can see it, the steps may not always be easy. You just have to keep going.



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