Making Time to Learn and Hone Your Leadership Skills

Carving out time for learning and development is critical for anyone who wants to improve their leadership competencies and performance outcomes. But, particularly in the SME community, finding the time for it is hard for many managers. Deadlines, daily tasks, and urgent meetings take precedence over learning to lead. But advancing yourself doesn’t have to be excessively time-consuming. In fact, much of it can be done in the course of your daily work.

The sensible way to learn to be an effective leader is to firstly look at structured programmes (like those in The Box Academy) The rest of your development should be spent on experimenting within your own work environment and self-discovery. But what does that look like? How do you get started? Here are several approaches that work.

Leadership Development
First, it is important to identify a key leadership area you want to develop. You’re already time-poor, so don’t try to tackle too much at once. Identify no more than two competencies or skills you want to improve.

Second, set yourself a time limit. Really. I often see leaders making a critical mistake by trying to do too much, too fast. You will get excited, watch an hour’s worth of content in one day, get overwhelmed by too many ideas and tips, and either lose your motivation or try to implement and get discouraged by the lack of results. Instead, remember this is a long-term game. Small actions you do every day will be much more effective in the long term, than short bursts of activity. Look at one part of our Leadership Programmes on The Box Academy and the have a break.

Our Box Academy is built this way with short videos and multi-part programmes meaning that you only need to invest three to five minutes a day. Find a course that matches a developmental area you have identified. Commit to watching/reading one or two short videos/parts a day. And don’t just watch/read, make physical or mental notes of key takeaways and ideas for how to implement into your day.

You have now done some formal learning and you now need to spend more time than that on self-discovery. The good news is that you can do this during your normal day.

Here’s what you’ll need to do. Spend time observing other leaders. Find a leader in your business who demonstrates behaviours aligned with your areas of development. Observe how and what they do. If you have an opportunity, ask them questions about why they did something, but don’t push — we’re often not aware of our own behaviours. Again, don’t just watch. Make notes and think about how you can replicate it.

Research shows that experimenting is critical to strengthening your leadership identity or self-perception as a leader. Over time, acting in new ways will become ingrained in your sense of self.

While experimenting is the largest chunk of your development time budget, it’s also integrated into what you are doing each day and so it’s important to find time to record and reflect. Take notes about what you try and how it works. If you don’t already, experiment with a journaling practice to record your thoughts and reflections.

The largest amount of time should be spent in experimenting. Think like a scientist and conduct small experiments to modify your typical behaviour. Apply something that you have learned from online courses or by observing other leaders. For example, if you need to have a difficult conversation with a subordinate, try an approach you wouldn’t normally follow. Decide ahead of the meeting what specifically you will do. Try it and observe the results. Even if it fails, you can always fall back on what you already know and move on to the next experiment.

Becoming a Better Leader
Leadership development should be recognised as an ongoing part of professional life. While dipping in and focusing on it when time allows is great, as we all know, time doesn’t always allow. That doesn’t mean that you can’t develop your skills. All it takes to become a better leader is dedication and a small investment of time.

If this still feels overwhelming, remember this – we mistakenly think that leadership development only occurs in the workplace. However, research suggests that most effective leaders learn all the time and everywhere. Being a parent, a community sports player, or a volunteer — all these roles involve an element of leadership.

Think about what you can learn about leadership from these roles, conduct behavioural experiments in these other contexts and reflect on how the learning applies to your work role. We guarantee it will help to accelerate your development as a leader in key areas you have identified.

Do you need help honing your leadership skills? Get in touch with us at or call us on 0116 232 5231.

Why not have a look at our online learning platform, E-Learn, where you can find our interactive video-based online courses which combine professional presenters, animated graphics, interactive games and questions to keep participants engaged and are available anytime, anyplace on any web-enabled device. E-Learn courses are developed in accordance with current legislation, accredited by industry leading associations and approved by professional bodies.

Click here to access an E-Learn free trial.

The Tinderbox Team

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