Leaders, this blog post is for you.
I was watching the safety instruction video for what felt like the millionth time and my mind began to wander. As I watched the animated woman in the video dutifully follow instructions and secure her own mask before securing her son’s mask, I thought, “That would be so hard for anyone to do. It’s counterintuitive.”
It makes perfect sense, though, and there are many versions of this same principle in various emergency response scenarios. If you aren’t a trained professional, don’t run back into a burning building in an attempt to help others. If you come across a hostage situation, don’t intervene. Essentially, recognize the fact that if you don’t first take care of yourself, you won’t be able to help others. In fact, you might make things worse by adding yourself to the list of people who need help.
These situations where our instincts are to make sure vulnerable people are protected reminded me of how many leaders – especially in that small to medium-sized business arena – may end up in the same predicament. How many leaders focus on professional development plans for their employees and forget to track their own continuing education?
Isn’t this just one more thing you don’t have time to do?
If you are already tracking your employees’ professional development, the easy solution is to add yourself to the same schedule. If you aren’t, or if you don’t have any direct reports you’re responsible for, try the following steps.
1. Consider what you’d like to learn What areas interest you that you’d like to develop? Where would you like to improve professionally?
2. Set a reasonable goal for the year. Your goal should be possible from a financial standpoint as well as a reasonable time commitment. You don’t have to decide exactly what you’re going to do right away, but deciding you’ll invest $800 and 8 hours of your time is the best first step to get you motivated and on the lookout for opportunities. Everyone’s actual goal will be different and it may change from year to year, but the first step is making the time and money commitment.
3. Break your goal down by quarter if possible. For example, if you did decide on $800 and 8 hours, that would be $200 and 2 hours per quarter. Don’t get too wrapped up in doing something every 3 months; your best option may be one full day conference. But breaking your goal into smaller pieces will help keep it top-of-mind.
4. Commit to your choice(s) as early as possible. For example, if you decided to complete your social media strategy certification prep course over the summer because that’s when business is slowest for you, you can register for the class in January and then add it to your calendar.
5. Set reminders. Especially if you still haven’t chosen your professional development activity, add calendar reminders monthly (until you commit to something specific) so time doesn’t get away from you. Similarly, if you’re completing something that’s self-directed, make sure to add reminders to your calendar to complete the work in the required time frame.
These are the basic steps required to maintain your professional health. While completing this process, you’ll likely find the exercise makes you a better advisor for your employees as they develop their plans as well. But most importantly, taking the time to care for yourself will mean you can better take care of others.
If you’re interested in learning more, check out our upcoming Continuing Education courses:
Crisis Management – Short Course on March 12 (April classes also available)
Author: Amy Jauman
Dr. Amy Jauman, SMS, is the Chief Learning Officer at the National Institute for Social Media and author of the Comprehensive Field Guide for Social Media Strategists. Amy is also one of 58 members representing 12 countries in the inaugural class of the Prezi Educator Society. Previously she was the Social Media Director for Women Entrepreneurs of Minnesota (WeMN) and she currently serves as the marketing director for the Minnesota Chapter of the National Speakers Association. She is also an adjunct professor in the St. Catherine University Business Department and the St. Mary’s University of Minnesota MBA program.