How to Ask for Professional Development Funding During a Downturn
Professional development, that supports your growth as a leader, should not be a side gig paid out of pocket. Not even now during a downturn.
Strong leadership is needed now more than ever. Uncertain environments demand strong leaders who can unite teams, hold vision for the future and communicate authentically and powerfully in the moment. The survival of business depends on it, the resiliency of teams relies on it, and your own sense of trust will be born from these leadership characteristics.
Leadership qualities are not always innate; thankfully they can be developed and expressed over time with intentional mentorship, training and coaching. While this may seem obvious, many current and emerging leaders hesitate to ask for the support they need to grow their abilities.
Depending on the culture of your organization, asking for support professionally can be uncomfortable and challenging. It is often easier to avoid asking than facing the possibility of being turned down or risk the perception of being seen as incapable or lacking skill. It is natural to avoid situations where we could be misunderstood or disappointed.
How is this avoidance really serving you or the people you lead?
Therein lies the shift we need to take when it comes to asking for help in our professional lives.
Great leaders recognize what is needed to serve the people around them, and seek out opportunities to grow their abilities in these areas.
Great leaders lean into the areas of discomfort (asking for help, receiving feedback, seeking mentorship and coaching) and use this information to become better.
What we know for sure is accepting the status quo and avoiding uncomfortable situations is not leadership behavior. In fact, the only place it leads to is mediocrity.
Mediocrity is not an option in a downturn.
Reaching out to those around you, your HR department, or your department lead and asking for help is necessary in leadership, especially when we are in unprecedented times.
If you want the best from your team, and for your team, recognize where your skills and expertise need to grow. Recognize where you may benefit from the objective and supportive presence of a coach or mentor. Be the example of authentic leadership for your team.
Whether you are connecting to HR, your Department Lead or directly with the Executive Team, often what we need is the language to bring to ask for an investment into our development.
Here’s how to ask for leadership development support:
1ST: DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Before you set up the meeting, do your research and be prepared. Estimate the costs of the programming and the timeline involved.
2nd: IDENTIFY THE GAPS AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR PART
What skill gap are you trying to close (or what skill do you want to build)?
a) I am noticing the need to be better at XYZ. The team/organization is needing this from me right now and I want to be able to provide this to them.
b) The team is overwhelmed right now. In order to support them fully, I know I need support on my side as well.
- Be to the point about the problem you notice and the solution you see for it
- Don’t ramble on
- Take responsibility for your part in the solution
- You don’t need to explain it or justify it, just state the facts.
3rd: COMMUNICATE THE VALUE
The most important part of your plan is to demonstrate the business benefits to your team, department and organization. Speak to the greater good for the department/team/company. Remember, your leadership development supports everyone.
“I really feel like an outside perspective and some one-on-one leadership development would be useful right now to:
- Gain clarity
- Communicate more effectively
- Connect more authentically
- Increase my productivity
- Show up with a better attitude
- Make decisions with more confidence
4th: MAKE THE ASK!
a) I’ve researched a few resources/ programs that I believe will be a good fit, and have a strong reputation of building leadership skills. I am happy to provide these to you.
b)What additional information will you need from me to move this forward?
5th: REINFORCE THE BENEFIT
Restate the desired skill, behaviour, outlook you are seeking.
- I’m confident this programming will increase by ability to XYZ.
6th: CONFIRM NEXT STEPS
Agree on a time and date to follow up. Everyone needs to be held accountable (including you, to move this request forward). Timelines and clear agreements are critical. Give them time to consider and/or get back to them with additional information they may request at this stage.
You are opening a dialogue. If you do not receive a clear yes in the first conversation, this does not mean it’s a No. Stay committed to your development - your team, and organization will respect you for this.
The first time you ask for support is the hardest. This process becomes easier as you recognize the benefit of having someone in your corner as you grow into the leader you were meant to be.