Tag Archives: Professional development

3 Ways We Waste Our Professional Development Time and More …

Class circleA workshop is not learning.  Learning is what happens as you absorb and use the information gained in the workshop to change your behavior, attitude, and world.


Three things happen too often in organizations when people attend off-site learning events:

1)  They do not learn anything

2)  They learn, but are not recognized for what they have learned

3)  They learn and are recognized, but nothing else happens


The reasons why this is so vary:

1)  Those responsible do not set professional expectations for those attending.

If the employee has not been told why they are going away or what is expected of them as they return, they will fill that void with their own ideas about what should occur and what is important.

This is great for those at the higher end of the self-motivated employee list, but disastrous for most others.

2)  Those responsible do not follow-up in a timely or focused fashion with those who attended.  

Asking and probing about what the employee learned goes a long way toward reinforcing both the focus of the employee’s time away and the importance of what they bring back.

Asking a month later doesn’t count …

3)  Those responsible do not trust the change process to actually, well, change things.

Ever had the experience of coming back from a workshop or conference just brimming with enthusiasm and on fire to make things different … to be eitehr ignored or even worse, told to cool it?

To use the professional terminology, that “sucks”.

4)  Those responsible do not recognize or accept the value of learning.

Sigh … I hate to speak ill of those responsible, but some managers and leaders just do not value learning.   Maybe they believe that learning consists of fads which are temporary and just waste time.   Possibly they feel that formal learning, as occurs at workshops and professional conferences, is not a valid method for transformation and change.   Some may just not be very bright and do not appreciate the value of learning, because their own learning has not been valued by others.

Whatever the cause, if the learning brought back by the employee is not valued, it will probably not survive.

5)  Those responsible view learning events as just that – events, to be checked off a list or a personal development plan. 

This reason relates directly to number 4.  If learning is not valued. learning events are seen at best as necessary evils.   Something to be endured, completed, and filed away.  We’ve probably used the term “butts in seats” to describe this mentality, which views the events as the requirement, rather than the outcome of the event.


So, some simple guidance:

1)  Identify the expected outcomes of any learning event and communicate those expectations clearly to those attending … before the event.  

2) Explain specifically  how you expect them to meet these expectations.

3)  Prepare those attending by providing support materials or preparatory activities to enhance what they will receive at the event.

4)  Schedule immediate follow-up after they complete the learning event.  No, not the morning after they return … a little later.   Let the learning gel for a small amount of time.  

5)  Listen to what they say.  Ask questions and probe to find how their knowledge has changed and how deep their committment is to what they have learned.  Reflect on what they now have to offer.

6)  Collaboratively plan on how they will share their new knowledge with the organization.  Keep in mind:  They are now the experts in whatever they were sent off to learn.

7)  If  legitimate and overriding reasons exist not to use the new knowledge, explain those and thank them for their efforts.   These reasons must be compelling and significant.

8)  If change is to occur (Best Scenario), support them with resources, action, and words through all levels of the organization.

In this day, formal professional development less often comes in the form of a day away at a workshop or a week at a professional conference.   The advent of online professional development, distance learning, virtual conferences, and other cost-effective learning events has changed the landscape … in some ways.

You still have to plan, follow-up, and support those who learn on behalf of the organization.

What have I missed or misstated?

Remembering both time-wasting and world-changing conference experiences in the Heartland ….




Character Counts For Something, Right?

“Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

John Wooden   as quoted in How to Be Like Coach Wooden: Life Lessons from Basketball’s Greatest Leader (2006) pg. 5

I hate getting wisdom from athletic coaches.

As  a boy, I was rather non-athletic and I lived in a rural area where most boys were “real” boys who enjoyed hunting and fishing, were rugged and strong, and enjoyed the heck out of team sports.

Since I was “none of the above”, I felt a little out of place.   A little time in the Army cured me of the delusion that I could not become stronger and more rugged and a long period of running 5Ks, 10Ks, and longer races did help me see myself as somewhat athletic.   

But that’s not the point of this post.

Wooden points out a great reality:   You control your character, but you do not control your reputation.

Reputation is in the mind, but not yours

Your reputation is in the minds of other people.  You can influence, you can manipulate, you can campaign, you can try to trick, but ultimately those other brains still function independently of you.

Good thing to keep in mind about a great many life issues.

Character is all in your head

Character is built on what you think, what you say, and what you do … all of which are in your span of control.

Character is visible to other people, at least in part, so your overt behaviors may influence how someone else regards you.  Just remember you cannot control that regard, only influence it.

Character ultimately has more to do with how you view yourself and your world.

   Character really is all in your head.

Trying hard to remember this one because it’s important in the Heartland ….


Steve Wheeler explains Personal Learning Networks …

No, that is not Steve Wheeler to the left … bear with me for a while.

In the olden days, we went to school and learned from professors and possibly some of our fellow students.  Usually when we left school, we also left these relationships.  This was our first Personal Learning Network (PLN), although we did not call them by that name then.

After school, we worked and our PLNs expanded to include bosses (if we were lucky), colleagues, and professional gurus.  Some of these relationships happened during the give and take of the workday, while others took place at professional development events both large and small.  Relationships were somewhat dependent on our job and our career field.  Our PLN changed as our career aspirations and situation changed.

Maybe we had a friend or two, maybe someone who had a special skill who we learned from as well.  Well, that was then and this is now.

A Personal Learning Network (PLN) is those people from whom we learn and with whom we share knowledge and information of value.  

The online world has transformed this concept by allowing us to create and grow a PLN with a wider reach and stronger power.

Forget silly updates and stupid photographs, never mind the inane games and celebrity updates … this is one of the real values in social media.

We can now connect with others globally in ways simply not available to us in the past.  At one time, I would get no closer to the stars in my interest fields than an occasional seat with hundreds of others in a crowded hotel ballroom.  Now I can send a message directly to one of my “idols” and more often than not, receive a personal response.  We might even “like” each other or become “friends”.    The chance to develop a true relationship now exists … which is better than being one of thousands with an autographed copy of their latest book.

Laugh if you want – social media provides the opportunity to connect and learn at a level unimaginable just a few years ago.

Steve Wheeler explains Personal Learning Networks (PLN) and why we all need one in a helpful article that focuses on the use of online media such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and the like, as well as the increasing number of high quality professional blogs in many areas.  It’s a good read and I recommend you click the link.

Now consider these questions:

Who is in YOUR Personal Learning Network AND hoW WELL ARE YOU USING THEM TO LEARN?

Who else needs to be IN YOUR pln and how will you connect with them?

What do you have to share that someone else needs to know?

Trying to share, collaborate, and grow my PLN in the Heartland ….