I recently challenged you to think about Why is Professional Development Important? then we looked at the importance of intention Professional Development Goals in the last post. But we have to be very honest with ourselves when we’re considering either; we need to have a clear picture of what we’re hoping to achieve or any of the effort we put in will only have a limited impact - at best!
About six years ago, I was on a call with a guy who owns one of the largest landscaping and irrigation companies in South Florida and he was sharing some ideas on how to approach professional development in a way that truly delivered the best possible return on investment. That really got my attention. I had recently accepted a position with a different company after nearly two decades with the same one. I had worked extremely hard in every role I held to that point and I had also invested in nearly every type of professional development resource I could afford (I was paying for almost all of it out of pocket). While I had earned some pretty good opportunities, I wasn’t where I had hoped to be by that point in my career. I knew I was missing something…
One of the questions Scott asked me during that call was, “What do you really, really want?” I thought I had an answer but each time I tried, he pushed back by asking me WHY I wanted that particular thing. The concept wasn’t new; I had been through some in depth training on the 5 Why Methodology as it relates to incident investigation and problems solving, but this time it was focused on me! He challenged me to define what I wanted most, the real reason I was even considering doing any of the work I had been doing to develop myself professionally. He said that once I had that defined, I would absolutely have to begin picturing the end result I was working toward in my mind clearly - with the same level of specificity (he really used that word!) that I had when I thought about the shirt I had on right that moment or what I had eaten most recently. He told me that when I had goals that were this clear in my mind, every action I took toward reaching those goals would have more impact!
Think about it… If we start taking classes but don’t have a plan for what we’re hoping to learn, we’re not very likely to complete a degree - and maybe not even any given course. If we start going to the gym but don’t have any specific goals, we’ll probably see some incremental improvements over time, assuming we keep going, but there’s just no way that we’ll achieve as much as we would if we could by having clarity about the end result we’re working for.
This same idea applies in every area of our lives, including professional development! When we invest the time and energy on the front end to develop absolute clarity about the goals we want to achieve, we can build a plan that matches those goals and we can put so much more focus on that end result as we’re doing the work. That specificity Scott challenged me to develop as I mapped out my goals was critical in helping me make sure every action I took tied back to the result I was hoping to achieve. Any ole action wasn’t getting me there. Specific action would. And we’ll dig into some ways we can identify those specific actions next time...
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