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Professional Learning

Professional Development Comments Off

A client has approached you with the following question: “What is a professional development plan and how do I develop one for myself?” Zahava Starak, LCI’s Master Coach, answers…

As a coach there is reason for excitement when you hear this kind of question as you know that you are working with a motivated client. This client seems to be aware that professional competence is not something that is attained in one experience and that life itself is a learning opportunity.
 
Professional development therefore can be defined as a process that ensures the continued competence of the individual in any field of expertise and encourages an ongoing commitment to the ethical principles of the profession in question.
 
Further it is important to note that the concept of learning is central to any professional development plan. So you the coach can now discuss with your client some insights into the various theoretical viewpoints as to how a person learns and share with them the commonly accepted definition that learning is a relatively persistent change in an individual’s possible behaviour due to experience.
 
It is our curiosity and desire to discover that motivates the learning process. And this is a good thing – for in order to be marketable in a knowledge based economy we have to become life long learners.
 
Consequently although your client has proficiency in certain areas learning need not stop and professional development is one way to ensure the continuation of the learning process. Whatever your client’s profession it is important that they continue to develop and refine their skills and keep up to date with new and emerging trends in their field of expertise.
 
This client can be applauded for wanting to further their professional learning and personal development. It will be by answering questions such as how do you learn best; what do you want to learn; what steps can you take to achieve this learning; that your client will develop their best plan.
 
As learning is one of the keys to an effective professional development plan, it may be a good idea to implement a Learning Style Questionnaire to help identify your client’s preferred learning style. By discovering this preference you will be able to seek out experiences that draw on this style and source out the type of learning events that provide the maximum benefits. In addition your client can also make a conscious attempt to practice techniques to improve their ability to learn from other styles.
 
To complete this questionnaire your client is presented with 80 statements. An example reads “I quickly get bored with methodical, detailed work”. Beside each statement your client indicates either agreement or disagreement. Scoring then indicates your client’s learning preference from four different styles: Activist; reflector; theorist; and pragmatist.
 
Here are two samples of these questionnaires: VARK and Learning Styles
 
Each style caters to specific qualities within the learner. It is therefore easy to list how a person with a particular style will learn best and what strategies can be applied to enhance their learning.
 
Activists like to experience the learning and learn best when there is an element of risk and they can ‘bounce off’ and become energised by others. Role play, competitive team work, chairing discussions and giving presentations are all ways to promote their optimum learning.
 
Reflectors like to think things through, listen and watch. They need time to mull things over. Journaling in which they can ponder over their learning experiences is a good strategy for them.
 
Theorists learn best from anything presented as part of a system, concept or theory. They like being intellectually stretched and enjoy time spent reading books and journals and preparing a synopsis of new information.
 
Pragmatists are practical application learners and gain the most when they can link theory and practical application.
 
As a result of completing this questionnaire you now know how your client learns best and can chose appropriate strategies to implement your client’s learning. The next step clearly is to answer the what.
 
What does your client need to learn to promote their professional development? A self review is in order. Your client can gain clarity from an understanding of who they really are and an insight into what they want from their work-life activities. Your client also needs to consider the actual requirements of their profession and the competencies to meet these requirements; the opportunities for advancement and criteria for promotion.
 
They need a clear picture as to where professional development fits in with personal development and lifestyle choices and a reality check on how much finances can be committed to any development plan.
 
To find answers to this “what” you can encourage your client to ask themselves such questions as:
 
“Have I looked at my needs and values recently?”
“Am I working towards satisfying as many as possible?”
“Is the job I have the one I really want and am I working towards what I really want?”
“Do I know all I need to know about the work I am in?”
 
If not then…
 
“What more do I need to learn?”
“What do I need to do to improve my career development skills?”
“Do I have a supportive group of friends who would encourage any career transition?”
“How will any professional development activity I undertake affect my lifestyle?”
 
The answers to these questions will determine the specific details of your client’s professional development plan and enable them to set learning objectives. They will know if their values are in sync with their present career path and if not, they will assess whether their first real step is to change their career. If career and values are supportive of each other, your client can then go on to determine what skills and capabilities they want to enhance in their present job and they can list the competencies required for promotion.
 
Now based on their learning style preferences they can explore professional development activities that will meet the set objectives. These activities include undertaking further course work; attending seminars, presentations and conferences; private reading programs such as professional journals and articles; mentoring or supervision with those more experienced in their field; facilitating relevant workshops, seminars or presentations; or writing articles for publication in professional books and journals.
 
With your assistance your client can tailor a plan to meet their needs using strategies which best meet their learning style. For example, your client may have indicated that they would like more understanding of marketing strategies. If your client is a theorist they may undertake a course of readings and prepare a report on their findings.
 
If they are a pragmatist they may chose to develop a marketing plan based on specific principles and see if it works. An activist may chose to join a marketing forum where they can bounce off ideas and a reflector will research date and diarise their thoughts on marketing concepts.
 
To complete your client’s professional development plan you might suggest that they also consider listing some ideas to enhance their personal development or self awareness as well as list strategies to reduce their stress levels and prevent burnout.
 
Such a plan is very comprehensive and promises your client not only an exciting learning experience but a healthy one as well.

Motivating Your Clients

Professional Development Comments Off

How can I motivate myself and my clients towards coaching goals?

Significant, rewarding achievements are never easy and do not happen overnight; they are derived from fruits of hard labour, progressive development and the resolve to keep going. Sometimes, even when strategy and planning are well designed, people fail to achieve their desired outcomes. Why? Because they can’t keep themselves motivated enough to move forward and hence fall back to old habits.

But as marketing guru Zig Ziglar has quoted, motivation is an indispensable part of any process of achievement: “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”

Here are some tips to help you (and your clients) keep motivated: 

  1. Ensure your original vision is a true desire, motivated intrinsically rather than by the expectations of others or a sense of what you “should” want. Your vision should be emotionally alive and have the potential to energise and motivate you.
  2. Ensure that you are aware of the benefits (and also the possible downsides) of attaining your vision (e.g. you may be eager to build muscle mass but are you willing to sacrifice your otherwise free time for the gym in an effort to maintain that achievement?)
  3. Set achievable short-term milestone targets, ensuring that the targets cannot be too easily achieved. Goals that are “easy” to achieve don’t contribute to the sense of accomplishment and achievement that is necessary to build the momentum for long-term motivation.
  4. State goals in the positive. The unconscious mind doesn’t recognise terms that are negative. If, for example, you are asked not to think of a ‘pink elephant’ – it is likely a pink elephant will pop immediately to mind. If goals are stated in the negative, you are likely to focus on the negative.
  5. Identify specific actions that will lead to the outcome you desire. Record them in an action plan and take steps daily to complete them.
  6. Reward accomplishment.

Work Relationships

Business Development, Professional Development Comments Off

A client has approached you with one of those situations that most people have encountered in their working life at some time or other: “What are the best ways to approach a person in the office I don’t seem to be able to get on with and ‘clear the air’ with them once and for all? Terry Neal, LCI’s Master Coach, answers…
 
This can be a challenging situation for your client who feels that this needs to happen as well as for those other staff members who may be indirectly affected by this as well. As the coach in this situation I would start by checking with your client as to what relationship they would like to have with this person once the “air is cleared”.
 
Does your client want to have a once only meeting with no further thoughts of interaction with their colleague other than what’s necessary for business – or do they want to establish a better long-term working relationship as well?
 
Initially you may detect that this situation could be a case of sexual harassment, bullying or discrimination. If this is the case, then ethically you would need to assist your client by providing information about appropriate government departments which can assist them with these matters. If this isn’t obvious at first, be aware in case your client talks about certain behaviours during the course of their session with you that could lead you to feel that one of the above scenarios is taking place in their work place.
 
However for this example, let’s assume that apart from clearing the air that your client would like to be able to have a better long-term working relationship with their colleague. Therefore to begin with you could ask the client to imagine themselves in the perfect scenario with this colleague.
 
You could ask them something like this: “Let’s imagine that tomorrow morning when you come into the office that the difficulties that you’ve been experiencing with your work colleague aren’t there anymore. How would you know that this has happened? What would you notice that was happening differently with you?
 
This could be a great way to encourage your client to image their ideal office scenario with their colleague. You could then follow this up with more questions that draw out the details of this picture; questions like “What else would be different if this miracle happens?” and as they talk about some of the ways that they’d feel different, encourage them to talk about what they would be doing with or saying to their colleague if they were “less angry” or “not feeling belittled” – or whatever the challenge was that they were having with that particular colleague.
 
It would also be important for you to help your client to see what the contrasts would be from before to after the miracle had occurred particularly if your client starts to rehash the original situation over again and starts to get stuck in that cycle of hopelessness. Keep on bringing them back to the positive where the problem has been solved through a miracle. You could then ask your client to look at how the other person might be in this miracle situation, how they might be different. What would your colleague be saying or doing in this miracle situation – especially towards you?
 
Now at this point you may find that your client may be saying that it’s OK having this miracle picture and it sounds great BUT it’s not happening in this way NOW and that they’re still in a situation of being in conflict right now – and that they have to be back with their colleague tomorrow morning at work.
 
If this scenario is raised by your client through their frustration with the current situation and they’re not able to entertain the possibility of a “miracle” happening, or if they are excited by the prospect of such a “miracle” scenario happening, you could assist them to begin creating a different relationship by asking them to recall if there have been any times in their interactions at work (or elsewhere if this also occurs) when there hasn’t been any conflict or when they thought that there might have been a difficulty but it didn’t happen?
 
Most people can bring to mind some occasion, an exception, when there was no conflict and maybe there was even agreement on a particular issue or topic. Encourage your client to focus on such a situation/s if they have happened more than once over a number of topics.
 
If your client cannot remember a time when there was an exception or an area of common interest was shared by them and their colleague, you could suggest one of two things. First, go back to the miracle question and review the scenario created by your client and ask more questions about this scenario that they would like to have with their colleague.
 
You would do this to see if what your client wants is at all feasible for while a miracle is always possible, there may be another miracle scenario that your client can imagine for which there are some workable exceptions. For example if your client said that in a miracle scenario, their colleague wasn’t at work and/or had been fired, this could be a scenario but maybe not the most appropriate one to work with. Rather than “clearing the air” or possibly creating a better working relationship with them your client has merely removed them from the picture.
 
Second, you could ask your client to observe their colleague and to note any situation where they could be involved with them in a positive way; for example listening to their point of view on a particular issue and stating agreement with them if it’s also your point of view. In other words noting ask your client to note opportunities however small that could help to create some measure of connection between your client and their colleague.
 
It would now be a good idea to assist your client to review where they are in relation to the whole office situation after imagining a miracle and noting possible exceptions. You could ask your client: On a scale of zero to 10 where 10 is where the office situation is exactly how you’d like it to be while zero is where it’s as bad as it could possibly be, where are you right now? You could then follow up with a question like: What would need to happen for you to notice a small improvement so that you could say that things have moved up a little bit on the scale?
 
If your client seems confident and has expressed a desire for change you could also check out how confident and motivated they are by asking once again using a scale of zero to 10 with zero being “not at all” and 10 being “totally confident and willing”, how willing they would be to make things better and how confident they are that things are going to get better.
 
So the final step in this process using solution focused therapy would be to set your client some tasks that are either active (e.g. pick a day between now and next time we meet and on that day pretend that you miracle has happened and note how the day goes) and/or observational (e.g. observe your colleague and those around him or her and note the colleague’s actions and what they talk about to those around them). This could assist your client to find a point of common interest which they were not aware of before.
 
It would be important once again to mention to your client that this unobtrusive observational action may assist them in finding a common point of interest that could act as a starting point for communication with their colleague