What Approach Works Best for YOU?

The vast majority of the work Cindy and I do is focused around developing effective leaders and building effective communication into the cultures of the organizations we work with. But when we’re digging into Why Professional Development is Important, understand that there are so many more things to consider! Don’t get me wrong, I still believe effective communication and leadership are crucial, I’m just saying that there are more things we need to consider than the one-size-fits-all baseball caps I referenced in closing the last post

Several years ago, while working with some of the most experienced team members some friends of mine had working in their company, one gentleman commented, “We’ve done it this way for 30 years. This is the best way it can possibly be done!” Having been involved in so many continuous improvement initiatives over the years, my initial reaction was to jump on the table and preach about all the risks that come with thinking that. Before I could though, one of the owners of the company (who actually had less seniority than the fellow who made the comment), jumped in and said “if we continue with that approach to what we’re doing, it won’t be long until our competition passes us!”

When it comes to professional development, the owner's comment holds true in just about every scenario I can think of! Regardless of how great we are at any particular thing we’re doing today, the world around us is constantly changing. If we rest on the skills we currently have and hope to stay the best in our respective field, we’re in for a very rude awakening - sooner or later…

One of the first things we need to do is to develop a keen awareness of where we are, as well as how we got there, so we can have a firm appreciation of just how much we’ve had to adapt already. It’s really common for the folks who have developed a high level of expertise in their field to believe that much of what they’ve learned over a long period of time is “common sense” and that everyone else should know what they know. That’s just not the case! And realistically, what any of us do as “experts” today has very little in common with how we approached the same task when we got started; even our approach has evolved in one way or another whether we realize it or not. We had to get better along the way or we would have never gotten good at what we do! But that’s not a license to rest on our laurels…

Once we come to terms with that often tough realization, we can begin to truly analyze the areas we need to keep a constant focus on in order to continue honing our craft. And regardless of what those areas are, we’ll also need to find an approach to doing this that we can maintain long term. Professional development is much more like a marathon than it is a sprint! Just like the Benjamin Franklin quote I referenced as we started down this path, “an investment in knowledge always pays the best interest,” the compounding interest we see on even small, routine deposits can yield far bigger returns than a single quick burst that we never add to again.

As we develop a clear understanding of the areas that will require ongoing professional development, we will absolutely need a strategy. Just hoping it will happen won’t make it so. And working as hard as we can rarely does the trick either. As we move forward, we’ll begin working through some simple steps we can each take to make ongoing professional development part of who we are!

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