I have been managing people for years. All the companies I have worked for have provided solid training. I’ve always felt like I knew what I was doing—until now.
The last training course I completed was packed with great content, but it ended up making me feel totally overwhelmed. I agreed, in theory, with everything that was being taught, but I just don’t know how I can do everything I learned. I have a huge job and was doing it well, but now I am doubting and second-guessing myself.
Can you please help me to figure out—
Where to Begin?
Dear Where to Begin,
The biggest requirements for continual growth are a desire to learn and a growth mindset, both of which you seem to have in spades. So you have that going for you. Everything else is figure-out-able.
There are a couple of rules of thumb around how to change. Keep these in mind as you decide what to focus on.
- One of the top reasons people don’t achieve goals is that they have too many of them.
- Anything you decide to stop doing, start doing, or modify will require sustained attention—so choose no more than three things to work on at a time.
- Find a way to track your changes so you know objectively that you are making progress. You might take a look at James Clear’s article on the benefits of tracking your habits. He is trying to sell you a journal, but you can use an app or make your own.
- Get support for any changes you are trying to make. Tell people you trust—maybe your manager or a friend at work. The more you talk about it, the more top of mind it will be for you.
Now for what to change. I recommend you take a big step back and schedule some time to think, maybe outside of working hours so you aren’t interrupted. Sit down with your course materials and follow this process.
Before starting your review:
- Jot down some notes on how you have grown in the past.
- Ask yourself: Are there any areas where I have grown in the past that could use a little more attention?
- Also: Before I started the course, were there things I did, or habits I had, that I knew were keeping me from being as effective as I could be? What were they?
- Consider asking your boss or your direct reports for feedback on what they think might make you more effective as a manager or leader. This, of course, can be a can of worms—and in my experience, most managers already know what people will say. It is also true that feedback says more about the person giving it than the person getting it.
Now begin your review of your course materials. Look for answers to these questions:
- Did I learn anything that might help me with behaviors or habits I hadn’t been aware of going into the course? Start a list.
- Of all of things I learned, which felt the most relevant and/or pressing? Add these to the list.
- Did I formulate any clear intentions at different junctures of the course? If so, which still feel pertinent?
Once you have your list, it is time to choose. Some things will feel much more doable than others. I recently debriefed a 360° feedback report with a client and at one point he said, “Yeah, that’s never going to change.” I laughed, because, well, that kind of clarity is useful. And it may or may not be true in the long term, but it is definitely true right now.
Here is what you want to look for: What can I do that will make a difference and won’t require a personality transplant or heroic efforts?
I call these things “low hanging fruit,” and there is no shame in starting here. Most high achievers think they need to tackle the hardest things first; but in the case of professional development, this is simply not true.
Keep your list to revisit when you have made enough headway with your initial choices. The items on your list may or may not feel relevant to you in the future.
So give it some thought, make some choices, start with the low hanging fruit.
Tell others, get support, track your efforts. Be kind to yourself and give yourself credit for effort.
Remember: You can do it all—just not at the same time.
Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.
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