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Develop Yourself

The What, Why and How of Professional Development

Our new routine has created more time in some of our calendars. Some of us don't have to travel to work anymore; some of us have fewer things on the agenda; some of us have more space to think in a different way and to consider things in a new way. With this extra time or space to think, we have the perfect opportunity to invest in our development. 

Today I want to offer the “why” behind professional development, and suggest a few “hows”. But those of you who know me know that I always like to start with the “what”. At its core, professional development is intentionally honing your abilities as they apply to your work world. It can take a variety of shapes, such as training, coaching, mentoring, assessments, on-demand trainings and webinars, book clubs, study groups, belonging to a professional association, certification programs, and many others. 

No matter what it looks like, development is incredibly important, and here are four reasons why.


1. Mastery brings motivation.

We know this because of Dan Pink and his wonderful research in Drive. It is not the paycheck that motivates us. It is autonomy, mastery, and purpose: autonomy meaning being self-led and self-directed, mastery meaning demonstrating forward progress and results, and purpose referring to being a part of something bigger than ourselves. If, in a workplace, we expect someone to engage with more than rudimentary skills, it turns out that mastery is a significant motivator. We are motivated by getting better. 


      • You as an individual may need to motivate yourself by getting better. There is a void in our employees as physical distancing has lasted longer than anyone really expected, and that vacancy will continue to grow until we get back to semblance of the way things were.
      • You can motivate your employees and give them a reason to stay connected. Offer them webinars or trainings so that they have opportunities to reach mastery, and you will be giving them motivation.



2. More skills makes the day easier.

Maybe you are stumped by a particular formula in Excel, and whenever you have to use it, you copy it from an old file or stumble through it with lots of “Edit, Undo”. Use this time to take a class so you don’t have to struggle with that same workaround every day. Or maybe it’s interpersonal relations. Maybe you would benefit from all the time you’d save by getting along better with someone else on the team. 


      • Take advantage of this extra time and make a case for yourself. More skills means higher productivity. 
        • Help your employees be more productive and improve your team’s bottom line with that higher productivity.



3. Development prepares you for what’s next.

So if all I do is laser-focused, nose to grindstone, then all I will ever know how to do is what I do today. I can’t move to the next thing. I cannot take on more responsibility. Professional development prepares you for change. It prepares you for the next thing you’re going to do.


      • Position yourself for growth by investing time in learning something that will help you get to your next career goal.
      • Help prepare your employees for their next promotion or to help your team succeed to an even greater degree than you do today.



4. Professional development shows them you’re serious.

Talking about development and actually putting time and money towards it are two different things. The latter demonstrates a level of commitment that can really pay off.


      • Let’s say you are an employee interested in Project Management, and you go ahead and join the PMI and earn your certification. Suddenly the people around you (the leadership, your employers, your colleagues) become aware that you are serious about this stuff. It will cause them to sit up and take notice.
      • From a leadership standpoint, investing in professional development for your employees shows them that you are serious about them. If you are willing to use your dollars to foster growth in others, you can grow the commitment in your relationship and increase their retention in a major way with years and years of loyalty.


What does that look like?

With the advent of the pandemic, many of us are pinching pennies and are not looking to throw money around. It’s time to get creative.

      • For yourself - What does this commitment to professional development look like? Be intentional and take a personal inventory. What are you interested in? What skill do you need? What do you want to do next? Spend time thinking about this and reflecting on yourself.
      • As a friend - What if you are engaged with a friend who is hemming and hawing? They are wondering what their next steps are going to be and looking for some motivation. Encourage them to look at affordable or free services, read books, listen to podcasts, or seek mentors. You could even consider being that mentor.
      • For an employee - Look for individual training, engage in the conversation, and invest time and dollars into making yourself even better.
      • As a leader - Use this time to connect with your employees and talk about professional development. 
      • For your team/organization - The same basic principle as the individual applies. Looking at the strategy, what new skills will your team need? While creating a pivot plan, look at development and how to grow your team.


How about you? How have you been using this time to become even better? We’d love to hear on social media! 


Topics: Leadership, General Business, YP, Sinikka Waugh

Sinikka Waugh

About the Author

Sinikka Waugh

Sinikka Waugh is a recognized leader in understanding people and in adapting tools, techniques, and processes to meet the demands of the situation at hand. Since 2006, Sinikka has provided compassionate leadership in transformation initiatives. When she isn’t in front of a class, she enjoys putting her background in English and French Literature to work, by writing blogs about the subjects she teaches every day. Are you ready? If you are, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!


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