The Big Idea, Written by David Wallis

Each year we all go through the same process, work hard for 12 months, take time to celebrate the festive season with our families and friends and then the clock turns on a New year and off we go again. January arrives too fast and we are immediately caught up in a whirlwind of work and resolutions understanding that there is often a question mark over our commitment to hastily made promises, however there is a simple way to overcome this challenge especially as it applies to personal development.

The Big Idea is a structure or model and it is as follows:

  • Invest in yourself.
  • Determine what skill gaps you have.
  • Expand your portfolio or repertoire.
  • Apply what you have learned.

Start thinking ‘Big’ for your own development, explore possibilities, consider wider horizons, scale those peaks and do not be afraid, you can start with a simple and easy structure to frame this opportunity, so when thinking about those professional or career development resolutions why not just use this framework and see where it takes you.

Invest in Yourself

When you invest you do so to achieve a long-term yield or outcome, this can be enhanced over time and improved upon if you contribute regularly. These principles also apply to personal development and your planned commitment to these goals with a specific purpose in mind.

So……What purpose do you have in mind?

Well with regard to finance the question is easier to answer, retirement savings, education costs, property purchase, travel, vacation, wedding costs, the list is endless and the objectives seem easier to categorize, but personal training and development is harder to classify and we do not always plan this with a specific purpose or plan in mind making it almost inevitable that this type of investment stalls as the pressures of getting the work done sweeps all our good intentions aside until the final quarter of the year when we become aware that we have not completed our minimum levels of continuing professional development.

Be clear about your purpose, short or long term and the advantage you wish to derive from the training especially in respect of how you will apply these new skills. This personal development commonly equates to a commitment of say up to 10 hours for each quarter which would be less than 3% of the working time available to you in the full year, so ask yourself whether you make the most of this commitment and what is your strategy? Are you making an investment or going through the motions, if it is the former, how do you decide what training and development to invest in?

Will you diversify or continue to specialize and how will that influence or impact your future performance?

Determine what skill gaps you have

We all need structure to help frame our thinking here and many of us address this challenge in a far too casual way, we look at the training catalogues, think about learning a new language, studying a new discipline or just reading more to acquire knowledge and that is all well and good but what professional skills will we need for the future, this question is more difficult to answer.

So, why not start small and build big, think about your 30 or 90 day plan and how are you going to approach this in order to improve your performance, for example your annual objectives and targets may well require a better understanding of leadership techniques or perhaps the application of project management tools and structures, how might you become more agile in your approach. It really helps if we can be aware of where our gaps are to support the development and delivery of our own strategy for improvement.

What are you going to do differently this year?

What goals have you set and what additional skills will you need to acquire in order to deliver outstanding results. Think about being ‘better and different’ how could you stand out from the crowd. Setting out with 30 or 90 day plans is a great start, but what about your development, is this professionally aligned (to your aspirations) and are you giving it the attention that it merits?

A simple skills gap (present & future) review will help you to make that assessment in a qualitative and quantitative manner, the skills on this list should point at improved or enhanced traction and/or results.

What is on your list?

Expand your portfolio or repertoire

Many people consider that they already have a full portfolio of skills to attack their objectives and often make the mistake of ‘only’ undertaking the mandated training set by each enterprise or business and as such their plans are shallow by comparison with the top performers who are always looking to expand into other areas of learning.

This can be challenging to contemplate, in short because there is often no immediate gain. We are human and often follow the path of least resistance, we often do what will suffice rather than what will challenge us. But and this is a big but, we all know what would challenge us because we would feel uncomfortable and this should help us contemplate what barriers or obstacles we may need to overcome. Why not take that class on systems thinking or problem solving?

We often make the mistake of considering ourselves to be the finished article, the simple truth is that we are NOT.

Development is constant, everybody continues learning, the top performers survey the field and take on challenges that will stretch them often before they are asked to develop and/or apply those skills, this gives them that professional learning edge and evidences pro-active self-development. Ask yourself whether you are expanding your portfolio or repertoire of skills?

What other career opportunities might you be able to consider if your portfolio had greater breadth and depth?

Apply what you have learned

How about testing yourself in respect of those key additional skills learned last year, what training did you undertake and how are you applying this acquired knowledge. Too many people ‘mothball’ their training rather than use it, how are you integrating these tools and techniques to ensure that your existing professional development investment is paying dividends.

This will be enhanced by constant practice, illustrating your personal commitment to your investment portfolio. If you are willing to reflect on what you have learned you will be able to prioritise the tools that gave you the best return and elevate them in your own skills repertoire, to do so you need to achieve a level of personal accountability that some find uncomfortable, but when we are uncomfortable we are learning and when we are learning we are making progress.

And this is what it is all about, we are human, we develop, we learn, we progress, it is part of our natural evolution. We often need that ‘kick up the backside’ to get us started as the models and structures have already been taught, but unfortunately are not always used!

So the Big Idea is not all that big, it is a simple framework that requires you to…

  • Invest in yourself
  • Determine what skill gaps you have
  • Expand your portfolio or repertoire
  • Apply what you have learned

Good Luck and very best wishes for your personal development.