Always remember that professional development is a lifelong endeavor and that you are the architect of your own success. In the same way that many of us plan our diet and exercise regimes and establish both short- and long-term goals, we need to apply the same level of rigor and discipline to determining where we want to go professionally and what steps we need to take to get there. We need to have checkpoints where we evaluate our progress. Just like you may work with a personal trainer to develop your exercise plan, you may want to engage a coach or mentor who can help you see your professional blind spots and work to develop a plan to address them.
Sometimes other priorities do get in the way. It’s OK to put your plans on hold while you close on that new house or welcome that new child into the world. Life throws a lot of curveballs at us, and it’s important to not get overloaded. But just like when you change your diet, going off the wagon to enjoy that banana split is not an excuse for throwing your plans out the window. Get back on the horse and refocus your efforts. A slip-up or a brief time on the sidelines is not an excuse to derail your long-term momentum.
Never assume that your company or manager will be as focused on your development as you are. No matter how good your leadership is, nobody will ever care about your growth as much as you do. In this day and age, most companies are more focused on making the next quarter and the short-term bottom line than on developing their human capital. This is your life and your career. Handing over the responsibility for your success to anyone else is naïve and foolish.
Larry Bonfante is CIO of the United States Tennis Association and a mentor for the CIO Executive Council’s Pathways leadership-development program.