Updated: Feb 27
As I mentioned previously https://www.strengthsuniversity.org/ourblog/reframing-delegation-as-an-engagement-tool, professional development is an important way to keep employees engaged. But that’s not just true for your staff, it’s true for you. Two of Gallup’s Q12 Engagement Survey questions are directly related to professional development opportunities:
Q06. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
Q12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.
When I worked on campus not so long ago, the pinnacle of development opportunities was going to a conference or a workshop. You get to go somewhere exotic – like Florida, California, or even sunny Nebraska. You get to hobnob and network with your fellow wizards. There are opportunities to both present and attend a multitude of sessions on a variety of topics. Woohoo!
Conferences can definitely be a great opportunity. That being said, conferences are usually expensive, especially when you add in travel costs. Travel can be fun, but it can also be a pain. Then there’s the potential awkwardness if you’re going with a colleague you’re not so fond of…especially if you have to share a room with them. Conference dates are predetermined, so there’s no flexibility if you have things going on at work you can’t miss. Finally, I don’t know about you but even though I spend days attending sessions, when I get back to work, I would be lucky if I incorporated one or two things I learned. When I was a new professional, I’d take diligent notes at conferences. After a few years I realized they almost always ended up in my “one day maybe” pile, so I significantly lowered my expectations and just focused on finding one or two nuggets I knew I could realistically implement.
Webinars are a more cost-effective option. You can have your whole team watch it. You can pick exactly which topic you’re interested in (if they have that particular topic available). I’ve definitely listened to my share of webinars. While I found a few that really nailed the issue I was interested in and how to implement it, most were way to general to be helpful. Alicia and I did a webinar this spring and ran into that issue ourselves. Half the attendees said it was great, but other people who were further along in the process and were looking for specific ways to add to their programs. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get too specific in that format because everyone’s campus is different and it’s hard for the presenters to balance the needs of each attending institution.
Books are the cheapest route. There are a ton of different and specific topics to choose from. You can do a book club with colleagues or read solo. I’ve purchased many, many books over the course of the years. I’ve even read some of them. Lol. Of the ones I read, some made a huge impact on my life. Others were good reads but I never quite got around to using anything I learned. I definitely like books, but applying them to your life can be a challenge because they aren’t customized for your talent set. We all see the world through our talents. Books give general advice or techniques, but those may or may not work well with your unique set of talents.
When I worked on campus, I didn’t consider doing one on one coaching as a development option. Why? Primarily because I didn’t know it existed. I’d heard of life coaches, but not work coaches. (Plus aren’t life coaches just anyone who thinks they’re good at giving advice? No thank you.) It wasn’t until I went through training to become a Strengths Coach that A) I realized there was such a thing, B) there are coaches who have actual training, and C) how valuable it could be to professionals in education to help people address their issues within the scope of their talents.
If you’ve never thought about coaching before, I wanted to run down a few of the benefits:
1) Coaching is personalized for just for you. Strengths Coaches focus on your specific set of unique talents and how you can use them to be more productive, creative, and engaged. We start by helping you better understand your talents, but that’s just the starting point. Then we focus on the actual problems you’re trying to sort through and the goals you’re trying to achieve. Want to know how you can apply your talents to resolving problems between team members? We can do that. Want to know how to better develop some of your talents to be more productive as a supervisor? Done. Want to figure out how your talents can get you to that next step in your career? No problem. It’s up to you, where you are, and what you want to do.
2) Coaching is flexible. You can do coaching whenever it fits into your schedule, including evenings and weekends. There is homework between sessions, but a reasonable amount that is designed to help you integrate Strengths into your daily life. We want you to use what we discuss every day, so we give you things that can easily fit into your schedule as long as you’re committed to doing them. It’s also flexible in that you control what we focus on.
3) Coaching is cost effective. When you think about your return on investment, coaching is a great option. It’s cheaper than traveling to a conference. Yes, it’s more expensive than books or a webinar, but the entire process is devoted to you and your specific goals. Even the work you do between coaching sessions is structured to help you better use your talents to solve your problems and help you integrate being more intentional in using your Strengths in your daily life.
As a Strengths Coach, I admit I’m a bit biased about coaching. I’ve just found that this framework can be an extremely powerful tool to help you become more productive, creative, and engaged. Most people stop after they take the CliftonStrengths (StrengthsFinders) assessment and maybe have an hour or two of training to explain their results. Unfortunately, the magic doesn’t really begin until you start to understand how you use your talents now – both productively and not so productively – and how you can invest in those talents to turn them into Strengths – aka always using them productively. Coaching helps you better understand how your talents are showing up for you and even more importantly, how you can better use them to solve problems and achieve goals.