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Leader Pulse
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Psst! I’d Like Some Development, Too

By Christena Andrews

Christena AndresI’m not a leader. I’m what many refer to as an individual contributor, non-management professional, team member…you get the point. Do I want to be a leader some day? I don’t know. I do, however, know that I still want to challenge myself and continue to grow, regardless of any title or management responsibility.

I'd like some development tooAs much as I’d like to believe my mother when she says I’m “special,” I’m sure I can’t possibly be the only one. So, if individual contributors make up the majority of the workforce and are craving opportunities to grow, why are training resources most often invested in leaders? Maybe it’s because there’s some uncertainty about what development we really need.

Technical Skills are Just Part of the Equation

I’m in marketing, so yes I need the occasional writing workshop or email marketing webinar to advance my technical skills. They are, after all, the skills required to complete the majority of my tasks. These aren’t, however, the items on my development plan. Why? Because most projects (sometimes painfully) take a village. To be successful, I need equally strong interpersonal skills.

No Position Power ≠ No Inability to Influence

Influence is not limited by position power. Even an individual contributor must elicit support and commitment from his/her coworkers. For instance, I might have an idea about a webinar series to run. Can I do that on my own? Nope. I need to get my supervisor’s buy-in, solicit willing presenters, and collaborate with the design team to get that project running. There’s that village! If I don’t have the skills to properly communicate my idea to gain their support and commitment, that idea could end up in the trash.

There’s no “I” in Team

Sorry for the cliché, but it really is true. Working as a team can be incredibly efficient and worthwhile, but it isn’t always smooth-sailing. Conflict can arise and easily derail a project in an instant. Why? Everyone has his/her own beliefs, perspectives, behaviors and work styles. If those differences aren’t valued, there can be an issue. Let’s go back to the webinar series. Even if I manage to gain commitment and we move forward on the project, my colleagues may have very strong opinions, which differ from mine, about how to execute the plan. I will still need to openly listen to and incorporate my colleagues’ feedback into the project to ensure we work as a high-performing team. Full disclosure: I find that to be easier said than done at times.

As you can see, I’m still a work in progress. Thankfully, I have easy access to development programs at my organization. Not everyone is as lucky. How is your organization helping individual contributors progress? To check out what DDI offers for individual contributor development, visit our product guide.

Christena Andrews is a consultant at DDI.

Posted: 12 Mar, 2014,
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