In business, as in life, it can be rewarding in many ways to be someone who is constantly looking for ways to improve themselves. Self improvement is, in itself, big business, with self help books, training courses and other learning and development opportunities readily available for anyone who is looking for them.
The trouble is, where should a busy person focus their personal development efforts, with so many options out there? Embarking on any new self improvement venture, whether it’s something professional or something outside of work, like going on a diet or giving up smoking, requires time, effort and commitment. It is therefore really important to pick the right area to devote your energies to and to work towards your self improvement goals in a smart and organized way. Here we look at some areas where many professionals and business owners would like to get better, and how they can be managed.
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Self Improvement through Better Communication
Communication has always been a huge deal in business, and with the way we now use technology meaning that most of us are doing it with more people, more of the time, many professionals would like to be better at it. Stronger communication skills can make you a better salesperson, a better leader, and help you get the results you want in negotiations or difficult meetings. Strong communicators also tend to be better speakers and networkers, with a wider and more interesting net of friends and contacts. It is easy to see why this is a key area in self improvement. However, communication is a pretty broad reaching word, so if you are looking to grant yourself the benefits of better communication skills it is probably better to look at the areas where you are weakest, or which you have to do the most and focus on them first. Why concentrate on public speaking right away if most of what you do is by email?
The two biggest areas for self improvement are generally written communication and spoken, but it is often better to break it down even further before you set your goals. Do you want to get better at chairing meetings, or perhaps cold calling? Do you want to be able to write persuasive sales copy, or efficient technical documents? Once you have prioritized your self improvement goals they become specific and much easier to achieve.
When it comes to the actual learning and self growth, the best approach will depend on what you want to gain and the time and resources you have available. For speaking related communication training, such as in presenting, it can often be good to attend an organized course or seminar where someone can demonstrate things to you and give you a chance to practice. A cheaper option if you can’t do this could be to study other speakers who you believe to be effective using things like YouTube, and asking friends or coworkers for honest feedback when you deliver something to them. Writing skills can be easier to work on with books and online resources, but again, if you have a very specific goal like learning to write a great press release, a formal course might be just what you need to get some real expert guidance.
Time Management equals more time for Self Improvement
If you find your schedule hectic and long working hours to be the norm, then it could be that your first stop when it comes to self improvement is going to be time management. Naturally, learning better time management requires you to find some time to actually work on it, but the benefits can be huge.
Time management is an area where many books and courses are available, but you can also start to improve using some self help techniques, like recording what you spend your time doing so you have a better understanding of where you’re going wrong. This is usually the first thing they will tell you to try on a time management course, because a lot of people feel so busy that they don’t actually notice where time can be gained easily in their normal day. Trying to use some simple productivity tools like a decent calendar system can also make a big difference, if you use them in an organized manner. Some research into technology that can help you manage your time can make all the difference.
Usually classed as a “soft skill”, people management is something that anyone with people working for them has to learn at some point – nobody starts out with a huge team and automatically knows how to deal with all of the situations that throws up.
When looking to improve your people management skills it is important to consider the kind of team you have. The dynamics will be different depending on your level of management responsibility, the nature of your work and the structure of your team. There is no one size fits all for this, and even highly experienced and skilled managers sometimes need to seek out some training or help when they encounter a new situation, like an offshore team. Of course, general management approaches and ways of dealing with staff and things like conflict in a team can be learnt from books and training, but try and match the ones you choose as closely to your own situation as you can.
Learning or improving on a specific skill you can use in your business life can open up new opportunities and make you a more rounded professional. These can be virtually anything, from learning how to design a website to learning to speak a foreign language, and are usually the ones that represent the biggest commitment in terms of time. Happily, with distance learning and similar easy to organize on the internet, you can usually find the resources to help you achieve your new skillset without too much trouble, and if your goal is to get a new qualification as well, this type of self improvement can also often be done online.
Self improvement and personal development is something that most successful professionals and entrepreneurs think about a lot of the time, and with the right approach it is possible to achieve rewarding results without an unrealistic investment of time or money.