Whoever ever told us that once we “think” we know it all that we can relax and stop learning? Hopefully, nobody! Yet, many people, seemingly at the pinnacle of success, often become complacent about professional and personal development. And this can become a recipe for disaster.
But the chorus of excuses is boundless…I don’t have the time…I don’t know where to start or who to call…I don’t have a budget for professional development…I have too many other priorities. This lineup is certainly not an exhaustive, but you get the point.
Leaders at every level in an organization must consciously build into their working schedule time for introspection, time to just think and plan, and time to learn and grow. This is particularly important for the leader at the very top of an organization. In fact, it should considered be a mission-critical top priority.
Professional development and learning can take place on many levels. But what is fundamentally important is the ability to have a “safe harbor” for deeper levels of thinking and engagement with others where openness and transparency encourage meaningful dialog. The specific topic, place, or activity has significance for learning and development, but not as much as working in an environment that is purpose-driven for mastery and greatness.
To be effective at virtually any worthy endeavor there must be a system and a plan to execute upon.
Systems abound, but what successfully works in a learning environment is the concept of “broad perspective”. This concept has multiple interactive parts to it, which principally include (1) critical thinking leading to issue analysis and problem-solving, (2) new knowledge gaining and sharing (leading up to creativity and innovation), and (3) intense customer focus that underscores the value of a great culture and operational excellence.
The concept of broad perspective also has companion components that include change management, goal setting, communication skill building, and fortification of business acumen. And each of these requires a foundation of accountability to nurture and sustain professional development.
Do you still think you can do all of this alone and in a vacuum? Think again!
To drill down further, the concept of broad perspective is most effective when the development process is able to effectively weave together the nuggets of new knowledge and shared wisdom into a leader’s daily work. This is where clear thinking traverses over into action with a plan. Then, what happens over the ensuing weeks and months makes all the difference on an individual’s effectiveness and routinization of activity.
So where does broad perspective come from? Well, some will certainly come from interpersonal communications with subordinates, key management, publications, consultants, and other industry gurus. These are all good, but understand that sometimes there are “strings attached” to this information, which means you may not always get the unvarnished truth on situations requiring a well-informed, pragmatic decision.
Another logical opportunity is to be part of a peer advisory group. The emphasis here is on peers who essentially sit in the same chair you sit in and similarly have the weight of the world on their shoulders. It also assumes that there is an interactive environment for new knowledge, and there is totally open and honest intellectual discourse between peers who have each other’s back and who truly care about the success of one another.
In sum, the central topic of this brief article has been about broad perspective, which sits high on the pedestal of professional development. And, measured another way, know that development is different from training. Development focuses on testing courage, “seeing” the future, maximizing potential, enriching the culture, focusing on solutions, and expanding influence—this is more evolutionary, and sometimes even revolutionary. Whereas, training is more about curriculum, indoctrination, compliance, efficiency, standards, and one-directional present day thinking—a more robotic, static process
Regardless of your chosen field of work, learning and professional development should not and must not stop. This is your ticket to stay in the game and remain relevant.
Stanford University professor Charles A. O’Reilly stated, “Competitive advantage comes not from strategy but from execution…and execution depends on people.” And if you are the de facto leader of an organization, then this process of professional development truly starts with you.
So, if you are still hesitant to take action on your professional development, then begin by asking yourself, What are the risks of doing nothing?