All leaders and managers are motivated to improve their skillset for many reasons; however, they are generally motivated by the opportunity to accomplish challenging goals and objects (Achievement), influence and control others (Power), and being able to work with others (Affiliation).
Successful leaders and managers are never satisfied with the status quo, especially when it comes to their own skills and abilities. As a result, they take personal responsibility and strive to continually improve their technical, leadership, and business skills. Research has shown that those who critically assess their current skills and set goals to acquire new ones acquire them faster and implement the skills more efficiently and effectively.
What is the secret to more effectively closing the skill gap? Identifying what skill needs to change, determining why the change is needed, and using a simple – but effective – thought-behavior model to help facilitate the skill acquisition. It is a continuous cycle of setting goals, modifying behavior to accomplish those goals, and measuring the results.
Goals are about change, and more often about behavior change. Change is simply moving from one state (the “As-Is” condition) to a desired state (the “To-Be” condition.) To help with the change, there are several things you can do.
- Critically asses your current skills – This may be obvious or it may require a great deal of introspection. You can’t fix what you can’t see.
- Determine your desired skill – Clearly being able to identify this will make it easier to set a goal and take action
- Assess the gap – Determining the gap between where you are and where you want to be will help you understand how much difficulty, time, or work there might be in closing that gap.
- Identify the reason for the change – What is your primary reason or motive for making the change? Is it for a promotion, personal or professional satisfaction, or job security? This is likely to take a great deal of reflection.
- Commitment to make the change – Does making the change really matter to you? It depends on the reason for the change and the consequences of changing or not changing. The more the need for change is internally driven, the more likely you are to follow through with your goal.
- Set a change goal – Be specific as to what you want to change. Determine how you will know if the goal is achieved. Set a goal that is attainable, but also challenging – any goal that is too hard or too easy you’re less likely to pursue. Set a timeline for accomplishment to help provide some degree of urgency.
- Set realistic plan of action – This plan should consider not only specific steps to accomplish the goal, but also the following:
- Barriers to closing the gap – These barriers may be internal (your own personal short comings) or external (something out of your control that could impact your success)
- Sources of help to overcome barriers – Actively identify and seek assistance and advice from available resources to help you succeed.
Leaders and managers desire to be successful in whatever they do, and understand that they have gaps with respect to their knowledge, skills, and abilities. Setting logical goals to close those gaps may be challenging, may be externally driven and forced upon you, and or may be self-initiated. Regardless of the reason, your motives for closing the gap will make you the think about your professional and personal interests, which will result in you taking action to accomplish your goal.
Taking a rational approach to setting goals to close the skill gap does not guarantee success, but not doing it will almost always guarantee failure.
Adapted from Lowell Dye’s presentation and paper “Goal Setting and Achievement Thinking” at the PMI Global Congress – North America, 2010.