Who Has Time For Development?

Deadlines, work overload, unrelenting boss, ever more demanding customers and clients ... who has time to learn?!? Conferences, workshops and seminars are luxuries reserved for...well, some managers, or those with too much time on their hands. The rapidly changing business environment requires you to put out fires and to juggle multiple roles. Your more pressing and immediate requirements do not allow you to pursue a serious course of personal and professional development. Learning, in many organizations therefore, is put on the back burner. Reach company goals and objectives first, develop yourself second. That is not to say that the leaders of today's organizations do not recognize the need to meet the ever more complex competitive and financial challenges. U.S. firms are devoting more resources than ever to training and development efforts. An amount in excess of one billion dollars, WEEKLY! Unfortunately, training and development are viewed as isolated events that occur apart from daily work responsibilities. The hope is that if you string enough of these distinct episodes together you emerge a person improved, ready to compete in a more challenging arena. But like moments of excitement in a baseball game, there's too much space in between.

Successful modern organizations, and those that aspire thusly, may be universally described as "adaptable." They implement change as needed, on the fly. This type of system does not rely upon strict evaluation of individual performance against a static set of standards or job description. Rather, an individual's capabilities are assessed and learning strategies specific to their needs are developed. Ultimately, success on both a micro (individual) and a macro (organizational) level are contingent upon versatility. One must be able to adapt to changing demands. Learning must be interwoven into daily work life! In plain language this means that development does not only occur by attending mandatory training sessions or quarterly refresher workshops. It occurs in between these points in time but only when one "learns to learn." True development requires a heightened awareness of our interaction with daily work demands. Each challenge, new or familiar, provides us with a laboratory within which we can test our methods, try new approaches and reflect upon the results. We learn about ourselves, increase our insight, but only if we pay attention. Some points to consider if you plan to embark upon a planned and targeted course of development.

Maximize chances for success from the outset.

1) Development requires a conscious personal effort to deepen self-understanding. We must take stock of our strengths, our areas in need of growth, and our level of commitment to truly grow. This can be accomplished in part by honestly and objectively reviewing personal capacities. Then compare your list with the requirements of your present position.

2) The goals must be personally meaningful and in alignment with company objectives. Thus a partnership can evolve supporting the learning process. Both parties will commit, and feel motivated, if each can say, "It is worth the effort."

3) Focus on one area at a time and do not take on multiple objectives simultaneously. Set realistic goals. Create a list of development priorities. Success is more likely when one focuses on developing an existing strength than if one focuses on perceived weaknesses.

Resolve to take advantage of learning opportunities every day.

1) Try to anticipate what challenges each day will bring and decide to respond differently.

2) Prioritize the areas in which your behavior change will have the greatest impact (i.e. situations, people, places) and know ahead of time how you will react differently.

3) Recognize that some discomfort is to be expected and is perhaps desirable. This is an indication that you are stretching your capacities. Just as body builders create physical strain as an impetus for muscle growth, so must we challenge ourselves psychologically and professionally.

Ponder the results.

1) What did I do differently? How successful was I? Why did it work? Why didn't it work? Under what circumstances did it seem most effective? How did my co-workers respond?

2) Taking time to reflect each day on your experiences ensures that you derive the deepest understanding of your efforts to grow and prepares you for movement to the next level of challenge.

Solicit feedback from others.

1) Do not wait for your next performance review to assess the effectiveness of your change efforts. Ask a trusted colleague, an office mate, or your supervisor about their perceptions of you NOW ! Real-time feedback allows you to adjust your approach immediately preventing an unfortunate passage of time and misdirected energies.

Pay attention to the environment.

1) Maintain a focus both on yourself and the changing demands of the workplace. This will allow you to make adjustments to your development plan as needed. Sometimes goals and objectives become outdated before they have been attained.

Source: Hicks, Mary D., and Peterson, David B. (1997). Just Enough To Be Dangerous: The Rest Of What You Need To Know About Development. Consulting Psychology Journal, Volume 49 (3).