I´ve started to expand my business lately. Actually, I´m going back to something I used to do, which means I have to do a little networking and even some re-training. It occurred to me this morning as I was preparing my to-do list that one line item, sometimes forgotten, is my own employee development. As a sole practitioner, like many of you I´m thinking, we´re often the last people we think of. Employee development may become a nice-to-have, if-I-have-time kind of perk. It shouldn´t be viewed as a perk, however, because if we don´t develop ourselves we won´t grow. And waiting for someone to remind us of that is unrealistic. So what do we do to ensure our own employee development? How can we make sure that professional life-long learning is part of our strategy for business success? Here are a few tips to consider:
1. Do something EVERY SINGLE DAY that furthers your knowledge of your industry. That might just be reading one article in the business section of your local paper (or spending gobs of time at allbusiness.com"?¦)
2. Join a networking group. Many groups don´t cost a dime and meet on a regular basis. If you can´t find one, start your own.
3. Find a goal buddy. You can find a goal buddy across town or in another country with the Internet (but be careful). Maybe you already belong to a networking group or a professional association. Run down the membership list and see if there´s someone whose work interests you and you seems to have similar interests. But be prepared to give and take. Asking more of someone than he or she can give will drain the relationship.
4. Create a library. I have all sorts of business books on my shelves. Some I review here and include author interviews. Some I simply consult for a little inspiration. You don´t have to read business books cover to cover. Indeed, I don´t even recommend it. But have them on hand so that when you do have a question or need a little encouragement you can turn around and pull something off your shelf.
5. Be open to constructive criticism. If you work with the public and have an opportunity to gauge your service then do so. I speak a lot and get a lot of evaluations back, too. Most, thank goodness, are positive, but occasionally I´ll get a few zingers or just kind suggestions for improvement (those I really appreciate). If we can´t adjust our services and styles so that we´re always improving, then what´s the point? You´ve heard it before: no one is perfect. But then who really wants to be anyway. It´s not necessarily about doing everything right all the time; it´s about doing what you have to do to make whatever was wrong right again and of course better.
6. Give yourself a break. If you´re doing the job of many, you may be accustomed to hearing that little voice say, "Hey, you´re not doing enough." If you´re constantly fighting off that litany of all the things you do wrong, you´ll never have enough energy to grow and improve. Repeat after me: I´m not perfect and I don´t want to be.
Have a great weekend and read something that will improve your chances of success.