Building your leadership skills shouldn’t be left to chance. Do you know how to seek out the job assignments that will teach you what you need to learn?

Below, we share Part 2 of an article that ran in the January 2011 issue of Leading Effectively. In “Job Assignments That Matter Most,” CCL’s Jean Leslie explained that different kinds of job assignments teach different leadership skills.

Leslie and her colleagues mapped out activities to help leaders develop the 16 critical skills that are measured by Benchmarks, a 360-degree assessment that was recently updated by CCL.

The following ideas for developmental job assignments address eight of the 16 critical leadership competencies; the other eight competencies were featured in last month’s article. To learn more about the research behind these skills and assignments, read Benchmark Your Leadership.

To Develop… You Need… Assignments Could Include…
Compassion and Sensitivity
Shows genuine interest in others and sensitivity to employees’ needs.
Experiences in which empathy and understanding of others enhance success.
  • Manage outplacement of a group of people.
  • Coach employees from different cultures or backgrounds.
  • Modify a valued employee’s work arrangements to accommodate personal life constraints.
  • Resolve customer complaints.
Putting People at Ease
Displays warmth and a good sense of humor.
Experiences that require connecting with people on a personal level.
  • Work with inexperienced employees.
  • Host visitors to the organization.
  • Serve as a facilitator in your organization’s training programs.
  • Coach new employees.
Respect for Differences
Values people of different backgrounds, cultures or demographics.
Experiences that expose you to the value of diversity and difference.
  • Lead a project team or task force with a diverse group of members.
  • Work in a short-term assignment in another country.
  • Manage a major multi-country project.
  • Take on global responsibility for a product, process or function.
Taking Initiative
Takes charge and capitalizes on opportunities.
Experiences in which you and others need to find new solutions to problems or bring fresh perspective to a situation.
  • Work on a new product development team.
  • Work on a task force tackling a new business issue.
  • Regain a lost customer.
  • Work on a problem by doing quick experiments and trials.
Demonstrates self-control in difficult situations.
Experiences that can be chaotic and outside of your control.
  • Manage a product recall.
  • Manage the fallout from an organizational mistake.
  • Improve relationships with a difficult peer.
  • Serve on a task force tackling a controversial organizational issue.
Balance Between Personal and Work Life
Balances work priorities with personal life.
Experiences in which you seek more fulfillment outside the workplace or practice keeping balance amidst competing demands.
  • Join the board of a nonprofit organization.
  • Chair a professional conference.
  • Coach a youth sports team.
  • Manage an organizational event with high visibility without it taking over your life.
Has an accurate picture of strengths and weaknesses and is willing to improve.
Experiences in which people more readily give you feedback because you are new to the work or are trying to change or improve a situation.
  • Ask your boss to delegate one of his/her responsibilities to you and give you regular feedback on how well you are doing.
  • Trade a responsibility with a colleague and then serve as each other’s peer coach.
  • Participate in a job-rotation program, seeking feedback from each department or unit you spend time with.
  • Work to improve your relationship with a difficult colleague.
Career Management
Uses effective career management tactics, including mentoring, professional relationships, and feedback channels.
Experiences that provide opportunities to use career-management tactics.
  • Serve on teams with more experienced members.
  • Seek out projects with people who have a reputation of being effective mentors.
  • Put together a development plan based on feedback you have received from direct reports.
  • Organize a group of peers to start a peer-coaching group.

Learn more: Developmental Assignments: Creating Learning Experiences without Changing Jobs, by Cynthia D. McCauley

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