It may feel indulgent to step away from your daily role in the name of personal development, but the investment is well worth it, says Rachel O’Meara, writing for Harvard Business Review.
O’Meara champions a growing climate that advocates periodically enabling yourself, and your employees, to take a break to feed, learn and grow.
Your chosen getaway could be in the form of a short sabbatical, a new class, a retreat or a fellowship – anything that feeds your potential, your talent, your creativity and, ultimately, your happiness.
You might be lucky enough to work for an organisation that is open to employees taking unpaid leave to recharge, reevaluate or reeducate, seeing the value for both yourself and the company. But personal development breaks are not always easy to negotiate, especially when you are in a demanding, full-time post.
So how do you convince your bosses – or yourself – to allow the personal development space you want or the resources you need?
MAKE YOUR CASE
It’s essential to prepare a carefully thought-out plan to present and justify your case. Here are O’Meara’s top six tips, gleaned from personal experience, for making a persuasive argument:
1) Be specific. Decide what you really want from your break. Research the learning you’d like to undertake and how it will help your development. Write down your plan to confirm its validity.
2) Be honest. If you want to work on a skill weakness that will improve your leadership abilities, for example, then say so – it’s nothing to be embarrassed about.
3) Define your vision. Write a sentence describing the person you will be after your break. “Will you be more engaged, influential, or mindful? Visions are a great way to orient and stay on track before, during, and after your development work,” says O’Meara.
4) Focus on how the business will benefit. Describe how what you learn will impact on company goals and achievements. Will you have new skills and ideas to share with others, for example?
5) Do your homework. If you need to bring others on side, then prepare answers for questions that are likely to arise, and be ready to negotiate. Could you be flexible on timing or costings, for example?
6) Time your request. Catching your boss off guard could backfire. But you don’t need a formal meeting to float the idea. You could bring it up casually in conversation, then schedule a meeting to discuss in detail, or expand on your argument in writing.
A straight “yes” to your request is the ideal, of course, but you may, at least, be able to secure some of what you want.
Even the worst case scenario – a point blank refusal – isn’t the end of the world, says O’Meara; it will help you shape future proposals more effectively.