By Amira Pollock
Part 1 of this series explored how Professional Development can serve as a catalyst for creativity, positivity and connection.
“When people stop learning, when they are just focusing on bailing the water [from a sinking ship], that is exhausting and it becomes unsustainable. And you cannot have a thriving, innovative workplace if that’s your constant and your default. You have to get people learning, growing and thinking.”
Emil Kresl, Director of Learning & Development at The University of Texas at Austin
Last December, UT’s Center for Professional Education presented a three-part webinar series that I hosted. Each featured a thought leader with a different perspective on leadership. Part 1 of our webinar series explored the bright side of leadership in turbulent times with Emil Kresl, Director of Learning & Development at UT Austin. Here are some highlights from our conversation.
Distinguish professional development from training and make time for it.
Emil voiced concern that people often confuse professional development with training. Training is directly related to job functions, whereas professional development is more complex learning and thinking that fosters exploration and curiosity. He advocated for teams to make time for professional development, particularly during challenging times. He added that money, time, and today’s virtual landscape are no excuse to avoid it. Not investing in professional development was compared to trying to stay afloat a sinking ship that’s headed in the wrong direction – instead of repairing it and changing course.
Identify professional development ideas for your team.
It’s not easy to achieve a continuous learning workplace culture but it is worthwhile. Emil recommended leaders go beyond simply encouraging professional development. They must provide the necessary resources to be able to require it for all employees, and then follow up regularly by asking what they are doing to learn and grow. Staff could regularly share what they learn at meetings. For example, employees could join book clubs and discuss what they read. Additionally, they can attend webinars, panel discussions, and an array of newly added digital options.
Seek out the bright side of leadership by embracing change and innovation.
So what is the bright side of leadership in these challenging times? As we adjust to an altered workplace, we are primed for change. We need innovative thinkers to address the problems we currently face. Emil shared, “When people stop learning, when they are just focusing on bailing the water [from a sinking ship], that is exhausting and it becomes unsustainable. And you cannot have a thriving, innovative workplace if that’s your constant and your default. You have to get people learning, growing and thinking.”
Fortunately, we have many online learning opportunities available to do just that. As we collectively explore this brave new world, we’re finding that through professional development we can do more than just keep the ship afloat. Chart a course for your team where you can discover your own bright side in leadership.
Watch the webinar to learn more.
Amira Pollock is an instructor for the Center for Professional Education and a leadership/communication coach and frequent presenter for the Texas MBA+ Leadership Program, McCombs School of Business, at The University of Texas at Austin. She is also regularly selected as a presenter at SXSW.
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