A Solid Framework to Build On

An article I recently read on the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) website titled In Search of Soft Skills: Why you should teach employees to be more resilient, communicative, and creative opened by stating “Being gifted at performing the technical aspects of a job can take an employee only so far. To become a stellar employee or an admired leader requires an arsenal of skills that are harder to measure but critical to success.”

I agree with most of that statement, kinda… To me, the idea of gifted implies that someone is naturally good at something. While we all know a few folks who seem to pick up on certain technical skills faster than the rest of us, I’ve seen far more people who master their craft through an intense amount of dedication and effort. I’m betting that calling those folks gifted and acting like they didn’t work hard to become great at what they do will piss them off! I do, however, agree that mastering the technical...

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What Do They Mean by “Soft Skills”?

In his Forbes.com article titled Here Are The Top 5 Soft Skills I Look For In Candidates, Mark Pena opens by saying, “In an automating workforce, soft skills are the irreplaceably human element of work - and the thing employers are desperate to find.”

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard the idea of soft skills referenced throughout my career, but I’ve rarely heard anyone provide tangible examples of soft skills that I could learn quickly or apply immediately. I’m not suggesting that it’s not possible or never happens, I’m just saying it’s rare… Soft Skills seem to almost always be something that’s ambiguous, or something that you either have or you don’t. I’ve just never been willing to buy into that idea, especially when I hear things like “you get hired for what you know but you get fired for who you are…” (There’s even a Psychology Today article with nearly that exact...

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Is the Juice Really Worth the Squeeze?

Once we’ve accepted the reality that ongoing professional development is actually critical to being successful in each new challenge we take on as well as maintaining success in even our current role, and we create clarity around what we need our professional development process to look like, we need to make sure we’re taking advantage of the resources that will serve us best as we chase our goals.

Following strong examples is a great start, and finding the right people to mentor us along the way plays a key role too, but we’ll still need to make sure we’re taking advantage of every other resource we can get our hands on if we truly want to separate ourselves from the pack! So how can we determine which resources will give us the most value? How can we make sure the juice really is worth the squeeze?

The sky's the limit for what we can accomplish, but the one restriction we all have in common is the number of hours we have access to in our day. And...

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Professional Development Examples

Leading up to this point, we’ve looked at several answers to Why is Professional Development Important? and we’ve worked through several key things we each need to consider as we set our Professional Development Goals. While that should serve as a reasonable foundation that we can build on as we’re intentional about growing professionally, there’s no reason we should feel like we’re alone in the process! Having strong examples to follow can help the process go much more smoothly…

Let’s face it, no two people will follow the exact same journey when it comes to their professional development. We all have different experiences we’re building on and it’s extremely rare for any of us to have the same long term goals - especially when we’ve invested the time and energy necessary to gain the kind of specificity my friend challenged me to get. But regardless of where we’re coming from or where we’re heading,...

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Not Just Busy; Effective!

Are you busy? That’s a stupid question, huh! We all are… If you’re anything like me, there are times where you feel like there’s just not another second in your day to squeeze in one more thing.

But are you getting the results you’re after? Are you productive?

Let’s be honest with ourselves here, being busy and being effective are two very different things!

Whose face comes to mind when you really consider this? I immediately think of a few different folks I know who constantly seem to be putting out fires but never reach any of the goals they’re working toward. They’re incredibly busy, but it would be a pretty big stretch to describe them as productive…

In complete transparency, I’ve fallen into that scenario myself far more than I care to admit. My DRIVEN approach to nearly everything tends to result in me taking on just about any task that falls within reach and going at it full speed ahead until it’s done or I...

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You Can’t Hit What You Can’t See

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...

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Professional Development Goals

Through the last few messages, we’ve taken a look at some data answering the question Why is Professional Development Important?... I closed last time by emphasizing that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach and promised to work through some things each of us need to consider as we’re moving down our own growth path. But before I cover a few examples, let’s be sure we’ve all got the right thought process. Without that, the rest may not even matter…

More than a century ago, James Allen said that “people are anxious to improve their circumstances but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.” Oh my goodness! What if Mr. Allen was around to see the mess we’re dealing with today… 

All too often, folks want to be respected as a leader before they take full responsibility for leading. But that’s not where it stops! How often have you heard someone say that they’d be...

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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...

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Some Very Tangible Intangibles!

OK, let’s pretend the nearly 275% increase in profit that we just looked at doesn’t make a strong enough case for being intentional about focusing on ongoing professional development… I mean those particular numbers were only based on the study referenced by the Association for Training and Development, showing the impact on revenue per employee and overall profitability. But other areas of a business can ongoing professional development impact?

Over the last two decades, I've taken part in the orientation process with more new employees at the various companies I’ve worked with than I can count. It’s pretty exciting when hiring happens because the company is growing, but it’s far less of a thrill when the push is to fill the spots of people who leave the company voluntarily. And more often than not, this is a significant cost that’s not tracked all that effectively - with regards to the direct costs of recruiting or the total indirect...

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Speaking of Benjamin Franklin...

I closed the last post with a quote from Benjamin Franklin, “an investment in knowledge always pays the best interest,” and I promised to circle back with a look at how we can each expect to get a solid return on what we invest, personally and in our organizations. Interestingly enough, that same idea was the topic of conversation for me and Cindy earlier today as we filtered through a massive amount of junk mail and looked at the two pieces that actually had a bit of relevance; our quarterly IRA statements…

As we each made career changes over the last several years, we’ve rolled what we had in our respective 401(k) plans into IRAs; partly to avoid the crazy tax hit we’d take with an early withdrawal and partly to maintain some potential to recognize some level of ongoing interest. While our risk tolerance for our investments are nearly as different as our behavioral styles, the historic return on our plans have been nearly identical. Cindy’s,...

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