Let’s make a deal . . .

What development have you had in the last 12 months?

My development

Be honest.

Was your instinct to cite a training course you’ve just completed?

Well if it was, you wouldn’t be alone, and it’s a common answer. Training courses are great opportunities to acquire or refresh a technical, operational or functional competence, and so are spot on for getting you from where you are now to where you need to be. Maybe it’s to learn a new skill, or to re-accredit you in an existing one, and for psychomotor or cognitive domain learning, of course, they’re brilliant, and appropriate.

But there’s the rub. Training isn’t development. Or more precisely, leadership training isn’t leadership development. Playing semantics? Well, perhaps, but my experience of working with individuals and groups over many years tells me that there’s a vast difference between the two. In fact, I’m not even sure I know what leadership training is.

Do you remember that training course you went on ages ago? Maybe it was trying to teach you how to be a better manager or a good leader, and it offered you some tools, models and theories to help you along in your current role, or on your future career path. Great.

But can you honestly say you benefited from it just by virtue of attending it?

I wonder, rather, if the benefit of what you learnt was instead derived from the continuing professional development (CPD) you did afterwards? CPD you could do by yourself, or with others – your manager(s), your colleagues perhaps.  We’re talking affective domain territory.

Cards on the table? I am a learning and development professional. I’ve delivered more than a few training courses, in a variety of subjects, and I’ve even led events that others in my organisation wanted to call leadership training. But the phrase never, ever, gelled with me. I’ve always been uncomfortable with the concept of training people how to be leaders, and I was constantly trying to look for ways to do it differently. Truthfully? I always felt there was a better way to learn and to develop . . . especially when I saw huge success in people who were interested in their development beyond what I could facilitate in the time we spent together. (And I love that word, facilitate – because that’s actually what I do when I’m working with groups of willing learners who want to improve their leadership talents.)

And let’s acknowledge that resources for development are scarce. Constant change … organisational restructures … austerity measures… budget challenges… being tasked to do it differently … little if no hard cash for external opportunities … and the frowning upon of heavy abstractions of people that take us away from our day job and into a learning environment. None of them help, and they challenge us to be more creative about where we can take our chances and what might constitute true development.

And we can be creative. My own repertoire of development ideas is certainly wide-ranging: action learning, facilitation, cohort reviews, 360 feedback, mentoring, coaching, leadership conversations, elective modules, web research, blogs, networking events, free events, working with partners, secondments, attachments, visits, people exchange, taught courses, facilitation, reading, research, group discussion, lessons learned, reflection, reflective practice, team sharing, team development . . . I could go on.

So, how might you get from a training course (which I accept can very often be of superb quality) to the development that really needs to take place within you? How do you keep the momentum of that course going beyond the very genuine commitments you made on the last day of it when you wrote an action plan and swore to your course colleagues that you’d follow it through? (Yes, I’ve done that too . . . and then reneged on the promises I made to myself. Well, life gets in the way, doesn’t it?!)

Let’s make a deal.

As a development professional (and you must have someone close at hand you can work with), I’ll take some responsibility for supporting you by trying to offer new ways of doing things and saying yes (where I can) to your suggestions and proposals.

And you? Could you please promise to give some serious thought to your development?

Thank you.

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