Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Take charge of your own communications training. Here's why.

Harvard Business Review's recent article, Plan your professional development for the year, has some great suggestions--but the best one is in the headline. As a speaker coach and media trainer, I can tell you that it's the planning that's most often missing in bringing professionals' skills up to a higher level.

How can I tell? The random nature of some of my gigs. I'll be in a company training one group, and the group next to them says, "Hey, we need training, too." Or I get calls at the very end of your budget cycle, when you realize you're about to leave training money on the table. Neither situation leads to an ideal start for training. And I am sometimes called to do "corrective" training for executives whose presentation and speaking skills have become a performance issue...yet no one offered them training before it became a problem.

Seth Godin tackled recently the return on investment for training, and why so many companies are missing out on those returns:
The short-sighted organization decides it's 'saving money' by cutting back training. After all, the short-term thinking goes, what's the point of training people if they're only going to leave. (I'd point out the converse of this--what's the danger of not training the people who stay?) 
It's tempting to nod in agreement at these obvious cases (or the similar case of getting, or not getting, a great new job based on how skilled you've trained yourself to be--again, a huge cliff and difference in return). What's not so easy is to take responsibility for our own training.
We've long passed the point where society and our organization are taking responsibility for what we know and how we approach problems. We need to own it for ourselves.
That goes double for communications pros, who often act like the shoemaker's children, securing training for everyone but themselves. While I'm flattered by the number of comms pros who tell me "Your blogs are my professional development," there's yet more you can do to improve your skills.

So there you have it: You're going to have to be in charge of going out and getting your own training and professional development. On The Eloquent Woman blog, I offered speakers a memo to send to the boss with 8 reasons why you need speaker training, and you can adapt it for whatever else you're seeking to develop as a skill. If your workplace doesn't offer such training, ask your professional membership groups what they offer, and take advantage of it. If you're assuming a new leadership role--president of a volunteer group, chair of a conference, keynote speaker--ask whether training is available to help you make the most of that new role. Even if you're an entrepreneur, you need to take this action. (I shared 6 things I do for professional development here.) But ask, and act. You'll have so many more advantages if you do.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Laurie Sullivan)

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