8 Reasons to Make Time for Professional Development

Personal Learning Strategies

If you’re a leader, you know how important it is to ensure your team is given plenty of training and development opportunities. However, it’s just as important to focus on your own learning and development.  Why?
When you make learning a priority, you increase your value – You’re more marketable as a professional, and you’re in a better position to get that promotion or challenging project.  Continuous learning also helps you develop expert power where others are far more willing to respect your opinion and follow your lead.
To do this, it’s essential to set aside enough time…..but how can you make time?

1. Set Learning Goals
Identify your learning objectives, and visualize how these will help you achieve the other professional goals you’ve set. What do you want to get from your learning? And why are you making time to learn?  Break the goals down into chunks that you can add to your daily/weekly to do list.

2. Identify Obstacles
Come up with strategies to overcome obstacles that most likely will come up. Example – you’ve committed to spending half an hour reading a book when you get home. What do you need to plan for to ensure this time is not pushed off?

3. Think Small
Many assume that we’ll need large chunks of time to devote to learning. However, short blocks of time can be just as effective, if you focus.  Look at your To-Do List, and see what you can achieve in the time available.

4. Learn at Your Best
Many people schedule their learning for a time when they’ve completed everything else. However tempting this may be, think about how you feel when you’ve accomplished everything on your to-do list. You’re usually exhausted, right? Everyone has different peaks and valleys in their energy levels. Find yours.

5. Make Learning a Habit
You’ll only be able to sustain your learning if you make it a habit.  Developing any habit takes work, at least 21-days of repetition and self-discipline.  To build a habit, look at your schedule and see how you can work time for learning in every day.

6. Choose the Right Learning Style
Do know how you learn best? Some people learn and retain information best when they can read and take notes. Others are active learners; they need to learn by doing something themselves. Find yours and resources to embrace your style.

7. Collaborate
It’s often easiest to learn in collaboration with others; when you join a community that makes learning a priority, these people can also hold you accountable for your learning goals.  Perhaps colleagues with the same goal of learning?

8. Delegate Tasks
Your day is likely full of tasks that you’re responsible for. So, how are you going to fit learning in?  Is there anything you can delegate with your professional or personal responsibilities?  Even a half hour cleared in your schedule can then be used to work on your learning goals.

Key Points
Lifelong learning is essential if you want to stay “in demand” in a changing business world.  Will you devote the time in the coming year?

Source:  MindTools

Stop, Keep Doing, Start


Simple Questions for Improving Performance

Feedback is essential for our professional growth: it helps us identify and build the skills we need for success. But asking for feedback can be daunting, particularly when we fear that it might not be wholly positive. “Stop – Keep Doing – Start” helps us ask for focused, action-based feedback.  The questions are simple:

  • What should I stop doing?
  • What should I keep doing?
  • What should I start doing?

These questions are affirming, action-focused and quick.

  • Affirming – The questions push others to think of specific things that you do well, as well as encouraging them to say what you could do better.
  • Action-focused – The comments made give you a practical insight into the impact of your behavior on others, and explain precisely what you need to do to improve.
  • Quick – In many cases, they allow people to give good-quality feedback in just a few minutes.

Stop – Keep Doing – Start can be used in requesting help and feedback from others as well as giving feedback to others.

Also, this works best when the questions are asked verbally: It’s not intended to replace more formal feedback processes, such as performance reviews.

How to Use

What Should I STOP Doing?

  • Look closely at the behavior that you’ve been asked to stop doing. Do you understand the feedback, and why it’s important to the person who gave it? If not, ask for clarification.
  • What opportunities will changing your behavior create, and how will this change improve your working life? Think about the positive impact that change could bring.
  • It can be upsetting to learn that you’re doing something that your boss or your peers want you to stop. However, remember that they will hopefully be looking at this from a business perspective, and not making a personal criticism.
  • Try to manage your feelings, and focus on the value in what they’re saying.

What Should I KEEP Doing?

  • These are the actions and behaviors that your colleagues appreciate. To understand how you could incorporate these tasks more fully into your role, think about the following questions:
  • Do any of these suggestions surprise you? If so, why?
  • Do any of these behaviors resonate with you emotionally? For example, do you experience a state of flow when you’re engaged in them?
  • What specific skills are you developing as a result these actions? Are you using strengths that you didn’t realize you had? If so, how could you apply these strengths to other projects?

What Should I START Doing?

  • The feedback that you receive with this last question points to gaps in your current performance. These suggestions can help you look at issues that you might not have addressed until now.
  • Look carefully at the things that your colleagues think you should start doing. What advantages will they provide to you and to others?
  • Do any of these tasks, projects, or behaviors make you feel anxious or afraid? If so, have you avoided these things because of a fear of failure or some other blindspot?
  • Think carefully about why you haven’t addressed these things in the past, and what you can do to overcome your reluctance to start them.
  • Do any of these new activities require skills or information that you don’t have? If so, create a plan for gaining the skills you need to succeed.
  • If, after reflection, you still don’t understand why starting something new is important, ask for clarification from the person who gave you the feedback. You may also benefit from some coaching on the subject.

Learning what others think of our performance can be a little scary as we are just not sure what to expect – It is our reaction to it the feedback that makes all the difference.  Will you embrace it?   Your response to this question can mean the difference between good performance and great performance!



Source:  Mindtools





4 Reasons 1-on-1’s Get Results

There are several key behavioral habits that make a significant difference in your leadership effectiveness. One habit is to have regularly scheduled 1-on-1 meetings with your direct reports.

Managers consistently say, “But I talk to my staff all the time, why do I need a separate meeting?” In the course of a day or week you talk with your staff about the tasks they are working on – answering questions, resolving problems, providing direction, dealing with immediate issues – but you both need something more – You need time to have a dialogue!

Four reasons why you should have 1-on-1 meetings with your employees…


#1 – Creates Routine

1-on-1 meetings give you the opportunity to better manage the work and develop staff. You can create a routine to discussing work progress – discuss updates, obstacles, next steps and what the employee is learning. Rather than having these conversations “on the fly,” managing work through regularly scheduled conversations increases efficiency, productivity, accountability and development.


#2 – Builds Relationship

1-on-1 meetings build relationships. To lead well you need solid relationships. You need to understand the uniqueness and individual needs of each of your staff members. What do they like/dislike working on? What’s important to them – at work and outside of work? What interests them? Creating opportunities to talk with staff beyond the immediate tasks at hand is a critical part of leadership. An effective leader talks with staff members about broader topics and use this “data” as they focus on motivating and developing each person – Gaining insights into each person’s perspective on their work, the work environment and their personal drivers can be invaluable in leading and retaining staff.


#3 – Opportunities to Speak Privately

1-on-1 meetings provide routine access to you. While you think your employees talk with you “all of the time” – chances are they have more to say. Without a regularly planned time to speak privately, it is likely that team members have things they’d like to share but can’t find the “right opportunity.” With routine 1-on-1 meetings, and a solidly built relationship, as you ask staff, “what else would you like to discuss” or “what else is on your mind,” you are much more likely to hear their ideas, their concerns and their get their feedback.


Many managers are surprised when an employee suddenly gives their notice. If the manager had been “paying attention” and having more regular conversations, the likelihood of knowing an employee’s level of satisfaction and being able to address concerns or provide development opportunities increases significantly.


#4 – More Efficient

“But I don’t have time.” Think about how you invest your time. Just imagine that your staff are working in the right direction, managing their work well, motivated, satisfied – that you have a solid relationship in which each person – confident that if they have an issue they will bring it to you, knowing you will regularly hear updates and discuss progress. Think about this happening routinely, rather than spontaneously with interruptions throughout each day. Sounds more efficient? Good planning and structure in having these meetings can actually save you time and increase your own productivity.


How To Organize a 1-on-1 Meeting

How often should I have these meetings? It depends….on the needs of the position, the work and the person. Some jobs require more regular contact due to the pace of the work, or an employee who needs more frequent guidance, or is new to the position and needing development. You may find these situations benefit from a weekly conversation. More senior staff, and those with whom you have more established relationships can be less frequent. You and the employee should decide the frequency that works – knowing that it may change over time.

Your agenda should include discussion around:

  • Current projects – status/progress
  • Follow-up items
  • What were your successes since we last met? Challenges?
  • What can I help you with?
  • Other discussion categories should be added based on your industry and position focus.

It may surprise you, but it is OK to ask any of these questions. Studies have shown that employees want leaders who care. It may feel awkward at first, but engaging in different conversations – routinely – will increase your success as a leader.

Go ahead start implementing this successful habit. Make changes as you need to. I am sure that after a few months having 1on1s, you will see the advantages.

Do you already run regular 1-on-1 meetings? If so I would love to hear your success stories – aha@ahaleadership.com