In so many of the development programs I work with, people come in with an attitude of what will you teach me? Or worse yet, what is the minimum I have to do to get credit? If there isn't a change after the program, the assumption is that the program failed the person.
If you're trying to learn how to work a computer program, like Microsoft Excel, then yes, if you can't work Excel after the program, the program failed you.
If you're trying to develop yourself as a leader, however, you have to commit to the homework and reflection. If there isn't a change after the program, I suggest you failed the program.
Keeping that in mind, here are my recommendations for anyone considering entering a professional development program (works for a coaching relationship, too).
1. Be willing to commit to honest self-reflection.
2. Know how you will define success after the end of the program or relationship.
3. Do the homework! (If you don't, the only person you cheat is yourself.)
4. Spend time after each assignment, program, etc. reflecting on what you personally got out of it, how it relates to your work, and if/how you can use it back at the office.
5. Don't be afraid to try new things. Step out of your comfort zone and look for developmental projects.
6. Know what strengths you bring to the table and seek alliances with others with differing strengths.
7. Focus on one or two things at a time. If it all sounds good, keep notes prioritizing what you will work on next but maintain your focus until you feel like you've really incorporated a concept into your work.
8. Discuss what you're learning and working on with your co-workers. Give them the freedom to "call you out" when you slip into an old habit you're trying to kick.
9. Use your assessments. I like MBTI, FIRO-B, Gallup Strengths Finder, Discovery Insights, Birkman, DISC, Campbell Leadership Descriptor, and 360 Assessments. Be completely honest about yourself and not what you think "fits" best with your corporate culture.
10. Make connections between the material. If you view an extended program as individual pieces you will often miss some great insights. Is it possible that using that trust building seminar may actually decrease conflict in your office?
When it comes to professional development, you get out of a program what you put into it. If you make it a priority you will see real and continued progress.
What do you find as the hardest part about professional development in the workplace? What do you wish you had more of?