This week I've been exploring the power of positive questions in professional development. Yesterday I looked at some questions for setting the stage for learning. Today I want to propose some questions that can help us better define what we want to learn.
Professional Development Action vs. Activity
This is related in some ways to my earlier post on action vs. activity. I've found that it can be easy to engage in professional development activities that give us the illusion that we are developing ourselves because we are learning something. But if that learning isn't tied to a larger strategic vision of how we want to develop ourselves and in what ways we want to grow professionally, then we can find that our efforts don't really get us anywhere. So for me, taking the time to really look at what I want to learn and how it ties to a larger vision of where I want to go for my career is the difference between engaging in professional development activity vs. professional development actions.
While we're on the subject of positive questions, I think it's also helpful to focus on our assets. That's the premise of Marcus Buckingham's First Break All the Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths and I think he makes a great case for building professional development on the notion of playing to your strengths, rather than trying to overcome your weaknesses. Clearly in specific occupations you will need to develop specific skills. At the same time, I think there can be a lot of latitude for looking at finding your niche within your occupation, assuming that you're working in something that plays to your strengths, of course.
Positive Questions for Deciding What to Learn
Again, some of these questions come from the excellent Encyclopedia of Positive Questions. I've also been using Appreciative Living for inspiration. As with yesterday's questions, feel free to pick and choose. In some cases, the questions are pretty similar--just taking a slightly different look at things.
- Find your positive core--list every professional strength, skill, experience and attribute you can think of. What are the BEST things about you as a professional? What themes do you see? How could you develop on and expand those strengths? What additional skills could you develop that would make your positive core even better?
- What do you feel are your greatest strategic advantages professionally? Which of these gives you the greatest sense of pride and purpose? How could you further develop these?
- Imagine your career 5 years from now. What are you doing? Where are you working? Who are you working with? How does it feel? Once you have a clear picture of your career, describe the steps you've taken to develop yourself professionally to get there. What have you learned? How have you learned it? With whom have you worked?
- What are your personal learning challenges--the things you're curious about, that you'd like to learn more about, that will help you to become a bigger, better person? How do you see learning about these things fitting into your vision of yourself and your career? How do you see these things contributing to your organization or to your business?
- What are the important questions in your industry or your line of work? Which of these important questions get you excited and passionate and filled with energy to learn more about?
- Think about the shifts happening in your profession, your industry, your personal and professional life. Which of these shifts generates the most hope for you? Which of these nurtures your hope for building a better world and a more positive future? How could these ideas fuel your learning? How could you learn more that would help you take advantage of these changes?
The goal here is to look for those things to learn in which you find energy and passion. Professional development that's driven by inspiration is necessarily about finding learning opportunities that get you excited to know more. You want to engage in inspired learning, not desperate learning.
How do these questions work for you? Are there other questions we could ask? How could we use this in the context of an organization?