I picked up tennis last year. I always wanted to play, so I signed up when I saw that the Greensboro Tennis Program has adult clinics for beginners every month. Loved it. So when this year’s season picked back up again after the winter season hiatus, back to the beginner class I went.

But my coach said, “I think you need to go up to the intermediate adult class.” I freaked out. I didn’t think I was ready for it. But I did it anyway. Though it was difficult and frustrating at times, and I felt like a complete fool and failure many times, at the end of the month, my tennis game really improved. In the end, I really felt like I belonged at that level. Why? ACS – Assessment, Challenge, and Support.

At CCL, we believe that for anybody to grow or develop their leadership skills, they need ACS.

  • Assessment – You need to know what your strengths and weaknesses are, what you are good at, and what you need to develop. You need to take an honest and open look at yourself.
  • Challenge – You need to be able to step out of your comfort zone and overcome a hurdle that is difficult, yet attainable.
  • Support – You need to get support from your colleagues and organization. Your colleagues need to play several roles including counselor, cheerleader, reinforcer, mentor, and/or coach. Your organization needs to provide rewards and recognition, time, and resources.

So, when it came to tennis, how exactly was ACS  the framework for me to develop and improve?

  • Assessment – My coach gave me honest feedback and saw that I would not be challenged enough in the beginner class. I thought about it, and yes, for me to grow and develop, my skills would not be improved in the place that I was in, so up to the intermediate class I went.
  • Challenge – Being in the intermediate level was really humbling. It was tough. It was frustrating. It definitely got me out of my comfort zone. I was playing against people that were so much more experienced. But I learned a lot from being at that level that I could not have learned in the beginner level.
  • Support – My coach let me know what I was doing right. My coach pointed out what I was doing wrong. She helped me with techniques and strategy to become a better tennis player. Just as important, the other participants in the clinic never once made me feel stupid, never once complained about my lack of ability compared to theirs. They were always very helpful, telling me when I had a good shot, encouraging me to do better when I hit a bad shot or didn’t understand the drill. They never once complained when I was not playing “up to their level.”

All three components of ACS, in balance, needed to be there for me to improve in my tennis. And when it comes to your development, all three–assessment, challenge, and support–must be there, in balance, for you to grow and develop as a person and a leader.

So the next time you are going through a developmental initiative, like a job rotation or stretch assignment, or turning around a team, or maybe even promoted into management for the first time, or to higher levels of management, make sure to do this: DEMAND that assessment, challenge, and support are all there. With ACS, chances are you will be more successful in the end, and will have developed new skills and be a better person and leader.

How have you experienced ACS in your development as a person or leader? Would you please share your ideas and comments?

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