Are you taking time to work on becoming better at what you do? Do you encounter these three temptations to avoid self-improvement?
If someone were to ask you “What you were working on these days,” how would you answer? Most people would have no problem listing things they were involved in for their job. It’s easy to rattle off a list of things like projects, customer service, research, development, monthly accounting, or other operational items we’re all involved in daily to make our organizations successful. If the question cuts a layer deeper, though, and asks “What are you working on to be better at what you do,” would you have an equally prepared answer? If we let ourselves get lost in the identity of what we do at the expense of ensuring we are working to continuously challenge ourselves to be better at what we do, we can easily lose energy for our work.
I believe there are three categories of caution which allow people to get into a position where they do not know what they are working on to try to improve themselves:
First, some people view their role in a way that would say their manager is responsible to tell them what to work on. While there typically needs to be some collaboration, relying exclusively on someone else to tell you what you should be trying to get better at puts your development exclusively in the hands of others. I am not a believer that others can possibly have all the required information to know where you can best develop; I would encourage you to take more ownership of your own direction.
The second caution is that some people feel their performance meets or exceeds expectations; therefore, they do not need to focus on improving. The problem with this mindset is expectations in most jobs evolve; technology changes, systems change, interpersonal relationships change, leadership changes, or any of many other things impact the criteria through which you are evaluated. If you have stopped working on developing your skills, these changes can create problems for you.
The third caution is that you are not receiving appropriate feedback. Whether this means you are not being given good feedback, you are not hearing what you are being told, you are not effective at being aware of how others perceive you, or you are not seeking feedback, the lack of input is preventing you from discerning the most beneficial areas for you to improve. Look to fill the void in feedback to better align with the responsibility of taking ownership of your development.
Development comes in many forms. It does not need to be elaborate. Maybe you need to be a better listener. Maybe you need to communicate more clearly and succinctly. Maybe you need to blame less and trust more. Perhaps you need to learn a technical aspect of your job better. It could be as simple as needing to be better at following a company process. The focus should be on consistency; there should always be something you know you are working on to be better at your job. If you are not actively working to figure out what could make you better at what you do, who are you trusting to own that responsibility without your input?