Five steps for long-term professional growth

Mike Crandall, Sandler Custom Growth Solutions

Wondering how you can gain real long-term growth? Most leaders at some point find that they (or their team) would benefit from significant professional growth but aren’t sure where to start.

Sure, they make some goals, and they may even make SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound). But they find time and time again that they’re making the same types of goals to accomplish the same types of things because they haven’t ever really accomplished them before.

If you find yourself in that position, you are not alone. But you don’t have to stay put there, either.

Goal-setting is important for growth, but it’s not the only step. In fact, there are five steps to growth. I refer to these steps as AKASH.

1. Awareness

It’s common sense that you can’t change something unless you are aware of it. It’s a step you really can’t miss if you want to achieve long-term growth.

You may become aware of a behavior you need to change through any number of channels—your own observations, conversations with colleagues and mentors, or even just through problems that keep coming up again and again.

2. Knowledge

Once you’re aware of a problem or a behavior you’d like to change, you can start finding applicable knowledge. Read books or watch videos from people who have been in your shoes and succeeded. Ask trusted members of your network for advice on your situation.

3. Application

Most people stop after the Awareness and Knowledge steps—they never move on to applying the knowledge they’ve learned. But applying that knowledge, even if you don’t do it perfectly at first, is really where you start to see behavioral change and growth.

4. Skill

When you first start applying your knowledge, chances are you’ll be pretty uncomfortable, since that requires you to change your behavior.

The next step for growth is practicing that new behavior until it becomes a skill, whether that’s a new approach to cold-calling or just figuring out when to stop talking during a sales conversation.

5. Habit

Eventually, you will become better at that new behavior. After it becomes a skill you can comfortably use, your next step is to make that skill become a habit. You’ll be able to do it without even thinking about it!

If you want to keep making the same goals over and over again, that’s perfectly up to you. But I challenge you—if you find that’s something you’re doing, take a step back and see if you’re completing all five steps for long-term growth.

If not, figure out what step you’re stuck on (for most people, that’s the Knowledge step) and make a plan for the behaviors you’ll need to work on to move forward from there.

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