Long before I started developing and delivering programs, I was both a client of the professional development community and a participant. I invested in professional development for my teams, and I experienced every format available during those decades.
We invested in sales training (many times), communication training in many forms, negotiation training, media training, leadership and management development, executive education, product management training, coaching, and just about everything you can think of on the professional development menu.
Having spent millions of dollars of my budget and many hundreds of hours of my time, and probably tens of thousands of hours of the combined time of my team members, I’ve cultivated some strong likes/dislikes and some powerful lessons learned.
Use these in outstanding professional development health with your teams and colleagues.
Nine Things To Consider for Your Professional Development Efforts and Investments
1. One-and-done training is uniquely useless.
There’s a half-life to these programs that are measured in hours and days. Don’t waste your time or money if they don’t incorporate much of what I outline below.
2. Everything sounds easy on-screen—It’s too bad no one learns this way.
The interest-killing/ mind-numbing death marches through slide decks don’t promote learning. They are extended exercises in instructor jaw-flapping. This applies to e-courses as well. If the e-course doesn’t offer detailed guidance on practicing and applying the ideas in the workplace, it’s not worth anyone’s time or budget.
3. Everyone learns differently, but we all grow through doing.
People learn in unique ways; however, learning-by-doing is universally applicable. The better professional development programs emphasize in-session practice and active, real-time coaching and feedback plus post-session practice.
4. Professional development that blends training and coaching is potent.
The combination of exposure to tools and approaches plus in-session practice and post-session actions PLUS coaching is a superior model for promoting behavior change and growth. It’s even better if it incorporates quality 360-degree feedback. (Thank you, Center for Creative Leadership)
5. It’s what happens after the session that determines return-on-investment.
Great professional development sends the individual back into the workplace with guidance on applying the insights and approaches and how to gain follow-on feedback. If the work of development stops at attending the training, it was mostly a waste of time and money.
6. Managers must be held accountable for reinforcing the growth of team members.
My favorite providers were the few who indicated they wouldn’t train my team unless they trained and coached the managers responsible for the team. I contrast this approach with traditional organizational practices that lack integration with managers. As an executive, I have a significant stake in making sure what I’m teaching my contributors is reinforced and reflected in the behaviors and measures of my managers.
7. Sustained development experiences are the most powerful.
I’ve had the good fortune to deliver these to multiple clients and observe the excellent outcomes. The provider works with the group over multiple sessions extended over weeks or months. In-between sessions, individuals are challenged to put the ideas to work either in groups or in their domains and bring back their insights and lessons learned in the next group session. Ideally, the managers or executives are active sponsors of the team or individual initiatives.
8. Encouragement to think and act differently is a must.
In particular, for non-process-oriented training, I want team members exposed to radically different ideas and approaches to challenging problems. Great development demands individuals to think and act differently as a result of exposure to new ideas.
9. The “brains boiling” with ideas is a key performance indicator!
If the experience leaves an individual with their brain boiling with excitement and anxious to engage and experiment with new ideas and approaches, you know something magical happened. Yes, it’s hard to measure the ROI of this, but it’s these experiences where people are challenged to think & do differently that propel innovation and growth.
If the development experience doesn’t leave their brains boiling over with ideas, it’s not worth investing in going forward.
The Bottom Line for Now:
Don’t just engage in checkbox compliance for your development efforts. Make it worth everyone’s time as part of transforming your organization.