Month: February 2017

Develop or Become Obsolete: Part II – Your Professional Development

“Develop or Become Obsolete!” was the rally cry of a former HR executive during a season of intense organizational change. It was his way of encouraging us to become greater than we ever imagined.  As stated in my last post,  this quote has become a foundation of what I believe it takes for business professionals (or athletes, for that matter) to remain competitive and successful contenders at the top of their game over time.  We must continually learn, develop, grow and expand our skill sets, so that we may not only keep up with our customer demands, but also outpace our competition.

My coaching clients are typically focused on development in one (or a combination) of four domains: Personal, Professional, Leadership or Business. Today we will continue this four-part series with a focus on Professional Development.

Professional Development

No matter what role we play in society or position we take in business, our jobs require us know and do certain things, even beyond the technical skills. To be successful in any kind of business, we must learn how to have intelligent business conversations, make decisions, negotiate contracts, deliverables and timelines, manage projects, run meetings, develop and deliver presentations, and sell our products. We must learn the business of conducting business.

For example, when we teach interns to become professional employees, the key differentiators are communication, teamwork and influencing skills. There are fundamental skills that professionals must learn without exception, and then there are the professional skills that truly differentiate one person from the rest. We expect our employees not only to show up, deliver results and submit reports. We also expect them to build rapport with stakeholders and customers, communicate with management and team members, and influence colleagues without authority. At first, some of these professional skills might seem awkward or unnatural. But the reality is those who develop mastery in these “soft skills” receive more recognition and promote faster. Moreover, these are the professionals who get invited by leaders to participate in mentoring, interesting projects, both developing their capability and accelerating their success.

The same is true in any profession. 

There are technical skills, and there are the key differentiators. What are the skills that truly set people apart from the competition in your field of expertise?

One of the most frequently asked questions I hear sounds something like this, “I need to add a professional development goal to my plan. What classes or workshops are coming up?”  Now, I like promoting my workshops as much as anyone. But classroom or traditional learning is only the seed. What matters most comes after the workshop: How is the seed fostered, watered, and nourished to grow? How is the new learning reported back to the team, applied on the job or given feedback?  What follow up support do you need to ensure growth of your newly developed skills?

The most often cited learning goal I hear is the need to develop presentation (or public speaking) skills. Of course, the research shows fear of public speaking is among the top 5 greatest fears people report (usually up there with death, spiders and snakes).  However, the good news is skills can be learned.  When clients ask me, “How do I develop public speaking skills?” Guess what I tell them. The best way to learn presentation skills is to give presentations.  They hate it. But they know it’s true.  So I recommend Toastmasters or Rotary clubs or other opportunities to stand up, express a thought and receive feedback.  In our Powerful Presentations workshops, participants will profile their audience, develop the message content, practice delivering the presentation, and receive feedback, including a video recording. Practice is vital.

Suggestions for Professional Development:

  • Read a book or subscribe to audio books. Not only do you learn interesting information, hear fascinating stories, but also you are developing a stronger vocabulary as a secondary benefit!
  • Take a class (or webinar). One tremendous benefit of being a knowledge worker society is we have access to more wonderful learning opportunities and experiences than we might have ever imagined.  Peruse our workshops on Powerful Presentations, Creating Your Brand, Leading in Times of Change, and the Ultimate Career Makeover to name a few. Follow me on social media for a plethora of suggested programs.
  • Check out your local Small Business Administration,  Chamber of Commerce or professional associations for additional offerings.
  • Tell your colleagues what you learned and ask them to give you feedback. For participants in my Powerful Presentations workshop, they must ask someone to observe them in meetings and give feedback when they present. This can be done with many different professional skills. This is particularly effective when experimenting or practicing new techniques.
  • Consider how you will apply new skills in your current job.  Post reminders around your workspace to prompt new thinking, new behaviors, and new habits.
  • Identify motivators. Be very clear about how this new skill will raise your game.  Tell people.
  • Find a mentor.  Identify someone who exemplifies the skill. Watch them. Ask them questions, observe their behavior and apply what works for you to your own situation.
  • Practice. Practice. Practice.  I played softball through college, and my dad would say, “What you do in practice is what you will do in the game. Make it count.”
  • Hire a coach. Elite athletes do it. Executive leaders do it. Sometimes only the coach is able to provide feedback that other stakeholders may not be willing or able to give. When performance is important enough to succeed, it’s worth the investment.
  • Don’t miss our special self-paced online Courage, Risks and Rewards Program, which we are offering at a special low price through the month of February.

Next time, I will continue the discussion with a focus on Leadership Development. Meanwhile, stay connected with us on social media, enroll in a workshop, contact us with your suggestions and feedback, or schedule a Complimentary Coaching Consultation to determine which solution best fits your needs.

©2017 Blue Horizon Solutions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Develop or Become Obsolete: Part I – Your Personal Development

personal development concept on blackboard

Earlier in my career, I worked for a VP, Human Resources, who was fond of saying, “Develop or Become Obsolete!” He meant this for our own professional development, as much as for business strategy execution. While this bold statement initially caught me off guard, I learned that he was fostering a culture of continuous learning. He was challenging us to learn and practice as much as possible to stay competitive and successful. This quote has since become a staple in my own mental model of what it takes for business professional (or athletes, for that matter) to remain competitive and successful contenders at the top of their game over time.

Let’s face it! The world changes. The market shifts. Our customer needs and demands evolve. If we as business people are not prepared and even proactive about continuing to learn, develop, grow and expand our skill sets, we will be outpaced not only by customer demands, but also by our competitors. Another colleague uses a different metaphor: “Even if you are moving forward on the train tracks, the train will overtake you if you don’t outpace it.”

The same is true in learning and development. My coaching clients are typically focused on development in one (or a combination) of four domains: Personal, Professional, Leadership or Business Development. Over the coming weeks, I’ll address each of these topics in a four part series on development. Let’s start this week with Personal Development.

Personal Development

As much as we may try to “leave our personal stuff at home” when we go to work, the reality is we are whole human beings. Who we are outside of work – parent, spouse, partner, sibling, child, neighbor, community member, volunteer – is reflective of our identity, our values, our mission and purpose in life. Interestingly, it always finds a way to show up in our work lives, our leadership style and in our work performance. Similarly, who we are at work – leader, business owner, entrepreneur, professional – is also reflective of these aspects of self, including personality and aspiration. We are the common denominator in our own experience. The better able to reconcile these two aspects of self, the more equipped we can be to show up with our most authentic self when it matters most.  In fact, it is when we become clear on these intrinsic motivators and drivers, that we are able truly to unlock our highest potential.

Personal Development has to do with who you are as a person.  It often shows up in things like New Years Resolutions – lose weight, learn Spanish, exercise more, eat healthy. All of these are designed to create a better quality of life based on some intrinsic motivator, some value. What I find to be most interesting with my coaching clients is how these same motivators and values make their way into professional and leadership development conversations. When we attempt to separate or bifurcate our identities, we not only diminish all the good and right qualities we can demonstrate, but it also arguably leans toward psychological disorders and becomes unhealthy at its extreme.

Suggestions for Personal Development:

  • Give yourself permission to be a whole human being. Experiment with integrating your whole self into multiple aspects of life.
  • Meditate. Reflect. Journal. Pray. Whatever practice or methodology you choose, our brains require some form of “time out” to process, reflect, assimilate learning and grow. Brain research shows that similar to muscle development after a hard workout, the learning actually sticks when we give our brains time to reflect and process.
  • Set more challenging stretch goals for yourself. Then go achieve them! It’s amazing how alive it feels to cross the finish line on accomplishments, especially when you never imagined you could do it. It also sets a beautiful example to those around you.
  • Write down your goals and say them out loud. There is no greater accountability than when someone says, “Hey, I remember you were going to (fill in the blank with your goal here). How’s that going?” Tell people your goals, so they will celebrate with you when you achieve them.
  • Team up with someone to accomplish goals together! Join a team, choose a workout buddy, find an accountability partner.
  • Consider our Courage, Risks and Rewards Program, which we are offering at a special low price through the month of February.

Next time, I will continue the discussion with a focus on Professional Development. Meanwhile, stay connected with us on social media, contact us with your suggestions and feedback, check out our workshops or schedule a Complimentary Coaching Consultation to determine which solution best fits your needs.

©2017 Blue Horizon Solutions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.