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How to continuously develop your business skills

How to continuously develop your business skills
April 23, 2018 Jacky Ling

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A guide for the home-based, small or new business owner

It can be tough when you are in business on your own finding the time and money to invest in developing your business skills, knowledge and behaviour. But it is critical that you do. Inevitably when you are in business on your own there will be areas within your business where you do not have the knowledge or skills to be as effective as you need to be, in addition things change at a meteoric rate and it can be tough keeping up to date.

The obvious solution for some is to either outsource or employ somebody who has the required expertise you lack, but for many, especially when they first start out this just isn’t viable.

However the good news is with technology and the World Wide Web we are spoilt for choice these days. In fact there is so much out there the challenge is finding the most appropriate resource.

So here is a guide to the different development options available along with some tips to help you make the right choices for you and your business.

The written word – For many people this is still their go to resource. There are a huge array of business and personal development books to choose from, both in hardback and digital form. This is an excellent way to find yourself a remote mentor. Which successful business entrepreneur do you admire? Who out there has had great success at what you are trying to do? Who shares similar values and beliefs to your own? Or simply ask for recommendations from a trusted source.

Digital – Well there is so much available to us these days from learning platforms, YouTube videos, Webinars, Blogs, Vlogs and Podcasts we can almost be self-taught in pretty much anything! When you have little or no money to invest but need to grow or update your knowledge these are a great resource. They are particularly useful with completing unfamiliar tasks, especially if it’s a technical process. Great for inspiration and motivation, or just to get going in a particular area. Podcasts, Vlogs and Blogs are great to make the most of any time you spend traveling. All these types of tools are relatively short and easy to follow. Many of these can also be accessed free, just beware, sometimes free can come with a strong sales pitch at the end, but at least you have been able to pick up some tips, and try before you buy a product or service. Deciding which to use is probably the hardest thing with such a wide choice, so I would go with recommendations from a trusted source. Inevitably though with most things in order to progress your skills you will need some kind of interactive development with a coach, mentor, trainer or peer eventually, however these tools will help you narrow the field of people you would like to work with in the future.

Peer Learning – Either through networking groups, events or collaboration, we can access a tremendous amount of support, as well as personal and business development from our fellow business owners. When you start out consider a skill swap with a fellow business owner who has the expertise you lack. It is well worth throwing yourself into extensive networking early on. You learn how to be a good net-worker through watching those around you, and getting plenty of practice in yourself. You will eventually find ‘your support tribe’.

Seminars – Are generally an expert or group of experts presenting their top tips, often wrapped up in their personal stories. Usually the cost is relatively low because of the large numbers in the room. They are sometimes free, again, beware, this can sometimes mean there will be a strong sales pitch. This doesn’t mean the value of the content is any less, just that it may be limited. The benefits are you can get exposure to some top performers and experts who otherwise might be out of your reach, you get to try before you buy, can get lost in the crowd if that is your preference, and if you can resist the sales pitch, you have gained some free help.

Workshops – A training event that you pay for. The level of investment varies both in time and money. This is an excellent way to up skill yourself in a specific topic area. The added benefit of workshops can be the other people taking part offer plenty of opportunity for discussion and peer learning. Look for trainers who are experienced facilitators rather than presenters. The facilitator will work with the issues and challenges presented by the group, use exercises (not necessarily role play….), problem solving techniques and creative group discussion to help the participants learn new skills, change their thinking and resolve problems they are experiencing. A huge benefit of these types of training events is affirmation of knowledge and skills you have which gives a lot of confidence. They are a great way to refresh or update in a particular area.

Coaching & Mentoring – Although a coach and a mentor will use the same skills and approach the difference between the two is coaching is short term, task–based and mentoring is long term relationship based. Mentors are often free.
So who needs a coach or mentor? Well we all do for different things at different times in our life and our business. But finding the right coach can be tricky and confusing. It doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg though.

Even when a coach or mentor comes highly recommended by a peer, it does not mean they will be right for you, but that is a good starting point. Every good coach would meet with you to discuss your needs and enable you both to establish if the chemistry is right for you to work together. As well as the coaching skills they also need to have the necessary skills and experience in the area which you are looking for help. This is even more important for a mentor as the whole point is that they have already achieved a level of success in what you are trying to do or be, and as it is a long term relationship then the chemistry is key. It is not uncommon to work with multiple coaches and mentors and sometimes at the same time.

Here are some circumstances when working with a coach or mentor would be a good investment.

CoachMentor
To help find directionTo provide information and knowledge
To help you reach your potentialTo identify areas you need to improve
To keep you focused on what’s importantTo stimulate your personal and professional growth
To hold you accountableTo provide encouragement and keep you going
To save time and unnecessary stressTo provide discipline and boundaries when we cannot ourselves
To increase your confidence and get you re-motivatedTo be our sounding boards
To understand yourself better and identify your blind spotsTo be our trusted advisor
To improve your skills in a particular areaMentors Have usually already successfully done what we are trying to do so we can learn from their experience
To boost your overall wellbeing

 

 

What is key with the coach/coached or mentor/mentee relationship is that you take responsibility for following through on the tasks and actions agreed. The coach or mentor is there to help and support you not to do it for you.

 

Academia & Professional Qualifications – I haven’t touched on these today, simple because for the majority of small and new business owners there is not the time or money to invest in a degree for example. There are of course a few exceptional people who do, and indeed there is a wide range of choice available. Equally there are those professions where maintaining their CPD is essential for their career. There are also a wide range of learning interventions which are accredited to a wide variety of qualifications in business, so if you like to have a qualification to show for your efforts this is indeed possible.

More on that another time perhaps.

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