Continuous Learning – Essential for Success

3 keys to maximize the effectiveness of professional development

The big question for professional development used to be “how do you stay up to date in your field?” Today, a better question to ask may be: “how do you stay flexible in order to adapt to the changing workplace?” This is true for people in all types of jobs, from front-line, entry-level positions through to the most senior managerial roles.

Did you know that continuous learning has been identified as one of 9 essential skills that are necessary for career success now and into the future? According to many experts, we’ll increasingly need adaptability, flexibility and an ever-changing variety of skills – including both technical and interpersonal skills, along with the ability to learn efficiently, and the acuity to solve complex problems. 

Although some of our existing skills continue to remain relevant, we will need to build on these in new ways, and we will also be required to develop entirely new skills. If you’re a manager, you may also be involved in rolling out frequent changes to your team, and helping your staff with their own continuous learning.

So, given that you probably find yourself time-crunched and stressed by demands both at work and at home, what’s the best way to approach your own workplace learning as a manager? If the thought of spending time for professional development in your already busy life seems overwhelming, read on. These tips will help you to learn more efficiently and to accelerate that feeling of confidence that comes with upgraded skills and knowledge.

  1. Connect with others for professional development. We are social creatures and we are designed to learn in community with other people. This doesn’t mean you have to attend a class, or in-person seminar – although this can still be a highly effective way to learn. A lot of learning now happens informally, through online groups and forums where people share their challenges, thoughts and ideas. Another great option is to share new concepts with colleagues through informal conversations, lunch and learns, or by adding a professional development component to regular management team meetings. And, if you’d like to pick up some quick tips and join the discussion on how to motivate your team, join me live on my Facebook page Monday mornings at 9:00 Eastern Time (or catch the replays) Here’s the link.
  2. Build your learning on what you already know. Even in the complex world of a manager in today’s workplace, we learn by linking new knowledge and skills to our existing familiar base. By consciously making these connections you will learn faster and more effectively. As a coach and trainer, I find that learning breakthroughs often result from conversations that draw on people’s experiences. When faced with new material, challenging concepts or unfamiliar techniques, some of the best questions you can ask yourself are “What does this remind me of?”, or “Where have I seen something like this before?”. Then, rather than dwelling on that past experience, shift your thoughts to “How can I apply this to what I’m learning now?”
  3. Put your new leadership skills into action right away. Have you ever completed training or professional development and then returned to your desk, placed your new binder of handout material on the bookshelf, and never looked at it again? In order for learning to “stick” it is essential to apply that learning as soon and as consistently as possible. Some best practices here are:
    • create an action plan for implementing your new skills
    • journal or chart your progress
    • commit to continuous improvement
    • engage with peers to keep each other accountable (see number one, above)
    • work with a coach (this increases your retention of learning by a factor of 4 or more)

Read more about professional development for managers here.

What are your thoughts? What methods or techniques have you used to maximize the effectiveness of professional development?  Email me or connect with me on social media. I’d love to hear from you.