After earning my professional degrees and participating in the required training, I began a long rewarding career in dentisty that spanned nearly 40 years. Yet it didn't take me long to realize that the technical training I received was not enough to drive success. Mastering a technical skill is much like the back wheel of a bicycle. The back wheel is necessary to perform at a high level, but you're unable to steer in the right direction without a properly aligned front wheel. The most important factor in building and aligning the front wheel of your professional career requires a development of relational literacy.
As health care professionals, entrepreneurs, salesmen, and practice owners we're called upon to build the front wheel skills of leadership, communication, relationship -building, mentoring, and people management. Over the course of my career, I discovered there were many times I did not recognize my lacking in these areas until it was too late. Failure is a painful teacher. But failure can also be effective if we open our eyes to being humbled and learning from the experience, rather than being angry or blaming someone.
Building the front wheel is more than practice or skill management; it’s the ability to build healthy relationships within your team and steer the back wheel of your skill sets and abilities. The astute businessman comes to recognize that building a community within the workplace is a critical component to driving his ride and maximizing his back wheel skills. The ultimate finish of a strong front wheel is acting primarily as a thriving team, allowing everyone to reach their full potential. These abilities will be a key factor in bringing out the strengths of the back wheel and ultimately the ride of your professional life.
The more we practice our front and back wheel skills in positions that range from entry-level to management or associate partnerships, the greater our personal growth and development which ultimately leads to a strong team success.
Development of front-wheel dynamics look different from one person to the next and must be customized to maximize each person’s skills and leadership style. Personal growth requires a vision and the development of a plan along with continued evaluation. Ask yourself often, “Is my front wheel steering me in the direction I want to travel?” or “Is someone else steering the bike?", or "Is it careening down a hill out of control?” Begin to re-think your strategy based on how you answer yourself.
Throughout your professional journey, invest in your relational growth in the same way that you would for your technical growth. As your journey continues and as problem points arise, look for where the source is and – if the issue remains ongoing – pinpoint the "gap in relationship" that is most likely allowing the problem to persist. Discovering how you are most effective in this area will take time and practice, just as it did in mastering your dental skills. Despite the difficulty, it is incredibly important to your overall success, an in the long run, it will be well worth it to create a strong, cooperative team on which every member’s abilities are maximized, including yours.
If you're interested in learning more about relational skills and how to develop your unique leadership style, contact Jim Schroeder at firstname.lastname@example.org or (804) 897-5900.
Dr. Jim Schroeder is the Founder of Leadership by Design. He has been writing about leadership and organizational growth for over 30 years.
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