So you want to become a better leader but you don't have access to an internal Leadership Development Program and you don't have the time or budget to utilise external programs or coaching? Here are some simple steps that you can take to achieve similar outcomes in a short period of time and for no cost.
1. Self assess - undertake a self assessment of your leadership strengths and weaknesses. Make a list of your top five to seven leadership strengths and list the three to five leadership aspects in which you need to improve. Be brutally honest with yourself - this is where performance improvement really begins.
2. Seek feedback - ask your team members, manager and any other people whose opinion you value for feedback about your leadership strengths and development areas. The feedback can be provided in which ever way suits you, them and your organisation's culture - face to face, via email or anonymously if needed (however knowing who provided what feedback is preferable so that you can follow up to clarify any specific queries that you have).
3. Analyse and summarise the feedback - read and/or listen to each piece of feedback and try to take it in without judging or defending. Look for common themes across your self assessment and the feedback as well as one off points or issues which really resonate with you. Now make a list of your top strengths and development areas - it will likely be similar to your initial self assessment but should differ somewhat based upon feedback from others which triggered insights for you about your effectiveness as a leader.
4. Create a development plan - devise and list a range of actions to address your most important leadership development needs. As important, is to list some strategies to further leverage your leadership strengths as these are working well for you already but perhaps could be utilised even more effectively to drive success through your people. Think very broadly and creatively about actions for your development plan - only a very small percentage of them should be more formal such as attending a training course (especially if budget and time are two of your challenges).
5. Find a coach - any credible person in your organisation whom you trust can be your coach to help guide you to realisation of improved leadership performance (ideally, this should be your manager, who afterall is accountable for your performance and development). Use your coach to help ensure that your development goals are clear and achievable, to help you monitor progress, provide you with support and encouragement and to help hold you accountable for doing what you say you will do.
6. Access leadership resources - there is a wealth of free or very affordable resources which you can access to help you address your leadership development needs. Books, blog posts, web sites and even experienced managers in your own organisation can help provide you with ideas, tips and tools to be a better leader. Never underestimate how much you already know about great leadership by having seen in action brilliant leaders, and through your own experience of what has or has not worked for you as a leader.
7. Ask your team for support - they have provided you with feedback so make sure you close the loop to thank them for the feedback and to let them know the development areas you are focusing on. Enlist their help to provide you with ongoing feedback so that you can track your progress as a leader.
Leadership Development does not need to cost a lot of money and can be done without a formal organisational process if and when required (but of course if you do have access to such resources you should utilise the structured process and professional insights available).
Follow the steps above and not only will your leadership performance improve but you will also likely gain more respect and trust from your team - both of which underpin effective leadership performance. Lack of budget is not a valid excuse to not get started.