Creative thinkers and leaders read books. They develop more innovative solutions compared to their peers who don’t grow themselves.
I’m not always talking about reading. It’s just one of the more natural things to do to better ourselves. We can attend conferences, seminars, set up lunch appointments, and the list continues. Unfortunately, mounting priorities provide little space for professional development.
Although this is true, on the job training will only solve some of our issues. People need to reflect on their work and how to be effective. That mostly happens within the pages of books, the words of mentors, and lectures by professionals.
Here’s my take: professional development should be a high priority. Here’s why.
You solve problems creatively
I listened to a book that changed my entire perspective on leadership. The book Extreme Ownership by Leif Babin and Jocko Willink presented the idea that leaders must have total accountability for all actions and non-actions within a team.
This idea struck me. I was early in my Army career and had made several mistakes that I felt it wasn’t my fault. Although these were garrison staff errors easily corrected by my superiors and peers, I felt justified in my actions and non-actions for the issues I couldn’t solve.
Then, I read this book.
From then on, I knew that the Army wasn’t going to give me a handout. I had to become responsible for what I did or failed to do because it was my job. If my boss needed something and I was late, then I was required to rectify the situation.
I started doing things differently. I asked leaders, peers, and subordinates for advice on how to take responsibility. When I arrived at meetings, I made sure I prepared myself. If I had an issue in my platoon or staff section, I took care of it and accepted the consequences of my actions or inactions. There were several times I missed deadlines as a platoon leader, and I paid the price for it. However, I have no regrets about the accountability I took in the face of an unfortunate situation.
Spread ideas and teach other
I had an inspired sergeant major talk to me about leadership following a unit conference. With a beer in one hand and a notebook in the other, he broke down leadership for me. As a young lieutenant, he taught me about how I can better lead the sergeants and soldiers in my charge.
He talked about barracks inspections, uniform inspections, good order and discipline, and tactical level leadership between officers and sergeants. Non-commissioned officers are well-trained on these tasks and execute them frequently. However, this sergeant major told me that it’s more meaningful when the officer, especially the tactical level officer, is involved because it shows the soldiers that the officer cares enough for the well-being of the soldier.
Soldiers build trust with officers who train them to be their best. Similarly, your employees will respect you for patiently grooming them for success.
When you have subordinates, it isn’t enough to send demands down through email, a phone call, or a chat by your desk. A leader’s job is to know the people they lead. People are not expendable, although many corporate leaders think so.
Think of it this way; people are not expendable because if they were, the Army wouldn’t pay thousands of dollars to send our fallen heroes back home in flag-draped caskets, some of which are barely recognizable. Less grievous, companies have vacation policies, emergency leave, and other methods to take care of their people. How leaders use those programs is their prerogative.
I would have never known these things had it not been for that sergeant major who took an hour of his time to mentor me in a bar after a leadership conference. I am forever grateful for his advice.
Expands your horizons
Are you thinking about being in your job until you retire? Now, it’s rare to see someone in their current positions long-term. Opportunities are abundant when you’re able to see them coming. That doesn’t happen until you make it happen.
develop a work network even if you’re “at the bottom.” There’s no better way to start than at the beginning of your career or new to a company. Meeting people can assist you in getting to places where you want to be.
Leverage connections when opportunities arise. Volunteer to take on jobs you wouldn’t normally do but aren’t too tricky. These tasks add up, and you’ll be able to call those people down the road for help as well. Inevitably, we’ll all be looking for jobs. Plant seeds for the future by networking. Let them blossom when you need them.
If there’s one thing I want you to know, it’s this: whatever you do, develop yourself. However that looks for you, just go and do it. That might mean volunteering for that business seminar, or setting up a lunch appointment, or talking with a boss after-hours.
It also might mean shelling out some cash for audio or hardcover books. The price you pay there is a lifetime of use, and that investment is far better than any coffee you can buy at your favorite coffee shop.
I mentioned Extreme Ownership in this article. If you want to read a review about it, click here.
Why do you think professional development is significant? Or is it? What are some ways you develop yourselves? Write them in the comments section down below. Thanks for reading!