Sunday, March 6, 2016

5 Point Checklist to Identify Professional Development Needs

As a kid, I always loved watching commercials.  Even today, when my kids are watching shows, there are hundreds of companies selling toys online and on TV.  Back in my day, I would see different things I thought were cool, and after being told “No, we aren’t going to buy that” enough times, I would try to figure out a way to: a) purchase the toy myself or b) make the toy myself.  As you can probably relate, the purchasing of the toy myself would never materialize.  I always had to fall back on option b).

As a kid, you believe you can build anything and always just jump right into creating.  Inevitably in my “creativity” phase, I would encounter the same problem each time.   I would need a certain tool or need the know-how to operate a certain a tool to make a portion of the toy and didn’t have the knowledge or experience to operate the tool.  Instead of asking others for assistance and using the resources available to me, my production design would end at this point.  In reality, all I needed was some help and guidance.  I just never took advantage of it.  I’m not saying I would have replicated the toy, but at least I would have made the effort and had a better chance to see the production through.  I needed to focus more on where to start instead of re-creating the toy itself. 

As leaders, we encounter the same thing each day.  We have great ideas and have a vision of how we want to get there, but many times fail because of our lack of knowledge and experience in implementation.  Being a leader in any organization is not an easy task. Leaders have many different roles each day: managing different departments, organizing daily tasks, delegating responsibilities, and maintaining a healthy work climate and culture to name a few.  Depending on what organization you’re in, one can take precedence over the other and change on a daily basis.  While that may be the case, as leaders, ultimately we are still responsible for the daily growth of our organization and the staff.

The real talent in leadership is determining where to start when it comes to organization and staff growth.  Finding that exact point where to start before the plan.  Too many times we get lost in the overall outcome instead of focusing on the process.  Narrowing in on the process will make our overall goal stronger.  Having a plan for identifying the needs for developing your staff will make you a more effective leader, create more buy-in from your staff, and help strengthen building culture.  Let’s take a look at 5 areas to focus on when determining what your staff needs for development and how your organization will get there:

Align your Development with Building Goals & Vision
Your professional development needs to align with where you are going.  There is no reason to train staff on areas that are not part of your overall goal.  Doing so takes away from the overall growth and development of your organization.  Focus on your goals and vision and align your professional development towards both.

We don’t know what we don’t know.  Don’t know who first said it, but it is true.  If you are not visible and involved in your organization, you don’t know your strengths and weaknesses.  For example, as a building administrator in a school, it is imperative that you are in classrooms to see what learning methods your teachers are using and where there are opportunities for growth.  Sure, you could take others word for what is good and bad in the organization, but as a leader, it is vital to stay in the trenches and see it for yourself.

Ask Questions
Being visible is good, but you also need to ask your staff what they need to get better.  There are many ways to do this.  Many organizations use Google and Google Forms and surveys to collect information from staff.  A lot of times, face-to-face discussions with staff members are the most effective way to find out what they need.  Simple questions like: “How do you want to grow?” or “What do you need to get better?” can go a long way in discovering what your staff needs to excel.

Look at Data in a Different Way
Data isn’t always sales, results, or a letter grade.  While we can use this data to our advantage to grow in our organizations, we really need to look deeper within our staff to find out what we need to improve.  Gather data from what you see and hear within the organization.  For example, as a building administrator, I visit classrooms, analyze assessment results, and focus on content delivery to determine what we need and where we need to go.  You are collecting data as you go and using it to help your organization grow.  Don’t be old-school with your data collection and focus on what we always for years in business and education.  Go new-school data; gathering new data is more than just crunching numbers.

I am a firm believer that your best resources exist inside of your organization.  Find the people on your staff that can help others grow.  Encourage your best staff members to share their experiences and help the organization reach their goals.  If you follow the steps mentioned above, you will have no problem finding the talent in your organization. 

As much as I hate to say it, sometimes you have to spend money to get the best opportunity for growth for your organization.  If that is the case, find the funds you need and hire the best people possible.  Ask your colleagues and do your research on who to hire.  If you are going to pay for it, at least do the work on your end as a leader to find the best match for your staff and organization.

 Identifying what we need to get better is the first step.  Creating a plan and implementing the plan soon follow.  You can’t skip to the planning phase and hope to be successful.  Use your most powerful resource to find needs: your staff.  As a leader, don’t get lost in the planning phase like I did when I was a kid.  Go a step deeper and identify your needs to help you achieve the most success.  Your leadership skills will thank you for it.

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