Are you Standing Still When it comes to Your Professional Development?

Many of us make resolutions for the New Year and lose focus on them by mid-February.  Like our resolutions, our professional development requires a deliberate and consistent effort to improve.

While most people in your organization run in place when it comes to their skills and their knowledge development, a few committed souls manage to fight the gravitational pull of doing-nothing and break-away from the pack.

Is this your year to break-away?

Professional Development Success Stories to Motivate & Inspire:

Here are just a few of the examples from individuals I encountered in my work last year. They are to be commended for their efforts and results. Names changed for privacy purposes.

  • Jeff set his sights on moving into a front-line, corporate security leadership role last year. Along the way, he took on every possible assignment he could that might teach him what it takes to be a leader. Not only did he prove to himself that he was cut out for the role, he proved it to the people he worked with and most importantly, he proved it to the person who had to select him for the position he desired…his boss, our client.
  • Carol had long struggled with self-esteem issues in spite of her stellar work performance as a CISO. With guidance, coaching and a lot of effort on her part, she has become more comfortable with herself, and her excellent performance is now matched with an appropriate level of self-confidence.
  • Stan, a candidate of ours, was selected for a Regional VP of Operations position and inherited what seemed like a no-win situation.  He was given the directive to turn the region around in a hurry. His team was a demoralized and burned-out group and his budget was filled with overruns that would have scared off many other colleagues. Six months later, after working tirelessly to lead and support this team and return his budget back to a healthy status, the organization is looking to Stan and this group as the model for how a high-performance team should function.
  • Carlos consistently displayed great passion for his work as an Investigator for a Fortune 500 firm, but he was limited by his confidence – in part due to his struggles to master English. He finally did just that – and his boss described to me that he could see Carlos’s confidence and contributions grow overnight.
  • A little over a year ago, Adam was told that he needed to develop more “executive presence” to break through to the next level as Director of Security. Armed with the world’s most ambiguous advice (“You need more executive presence”) he researched and worked to strengthen his presence, authenticity and yes, confidence. Recently, we placed him with a large multinational firm as a VP of Security.

I love these stories…because they serve to inspire us all. Will you write your own success story in the next year?

7 Quick Ideas to Help You Take That First Step Forward:

1. Call a personal time-out to reflect. Take some quiet time and think about where you are going professionally and if you are comfortable with your direction, pace and progress. You know if you are running in place. You also know in your heart of hearts when it doesn’t suit you.

2. Ask Questions About You. While uncomfortable, you will be well served to find a small group in the workplace and ask them what they think of your professional performance, as well as areas for you to improve and develop, along with your visible strengths. Fair warning…not all feedback is created equal, so you need a few perspectives before you decide where to focus.

3. Focus on the Performance Feedback in Your Previous Reviews. While there’s not enough space here for me to pick apart most review processes, I’m a fan of mining them for nuggets of truth or at least clues to the truth. Be open-minded and you might learn a lot from your review.

4. Eat the Elephant One bite at a Time. You’ll be tempted to dive in head-first and “fix” yourself all at once. Resist this temptation…it’s a formula for failure. You’re better off starting off running a 5K and not the entire marathon. Identify one thing to get better at – and develop a strategy for doing just that. Remember, if you improve 1% per day….well, you do the math. The outcome will be impressive. Expand your areas of emphasis once you score some victories and build confidence.

5. Read Often and from Various Genres. In addition to reading about security related topics, try reading about people who have overcome adversity and accomplished great things in the process. Histories and biographies are great for this!

6. Surround Yourself with Positive Influences. You are better off reorienting your workplace relationships to those who like you are striving and moving forward. Don’t let the “Run in Place” crowd hold you back.

7. Celebrate the Victories, No Matter How Small. Give yourself a psychological break or reward. When you’ve scored a point, moved the bar a bit, overcome a historic weakness or fear, celebrate for a few moments. And then get back to it.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Remember, if you are running in place, you’re falling behind. Here’s to moving forward!

David Lammert

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