Personal and Professional Development – Teach to Reinforce Your Goals

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Learning and innovative thinking can be increased by teaching others your new skills. Discover how you can improve your personal and professional skills by training others.

Personal and Professional Development - Teach to Reinforce Your Goals

For people who work in education, we are used to different modalities of teaching. Often we’re skilled in facilitation, course development, measuring outcomes, and even in-class teaching. With training backgrounds (and education degrees), how comfortable would we be using teaching to help develop our own skills?

From a strengths-based point of view, we want to avoid developing a false sense of competency. In other words, just because assessment tools shows us certain qualities or traits, we might not perform them with high skill. In order to improve our skills, we need to think about them in the context of organizational culture.

You have have been told you have strengths in certain areas. But now that you know this, what are you going to do about it? How will you make sure your application of skills matches your noted strengths?

I believe that teaching others helps build an understanding and a practical application of our strengths. It also helps test out how to BEST use our strengths to solve problems – and know when it might be time to bring in another expert.

Creating the Management Plan

I have written about the Management Plan in previous posts. I addressed them from a place of working on your strengths in order to grow into your work and identify areas for personal development. Understanding management plans helps supervisors work with their staff to gain new and innovative skills that highlight their professional responsibilities. Especially now, I believe the present situation is a great time to begin looking at your strengths again.

Simply put, a management plan is different than developing and measuring operational and programmatic goals and objectives, since the focus is on the personal and not on the output related to your job title.

Often the annual evaluation gives some space for speaking about professional development but I find that when we remove our professional goals from our personal goals, we can look at what we personally need to do over the course of a year that will impact our professional work.

From Supervising to Strengths: Creating the Management Plan, April 22, 2019

A management plan is different than the development plan we put together for our annual reviews. In a management plan, we focus on what your personal goals are. We identify areas for new learning and refining skills we already have. Plus, we look at ways to share these new skills with others.

Creating Your Own Opportunities

Often our supervisors and senior administrators select our professional development opportunities. We are usually asked to continue development around skills related to our work. I believe we can work on our personal development plans through a ‘teaching others’ model. In this way, we have more ownership about what skills we want to work on. We can work on new teaching skills to reach new audiences. We can create our own opportunities that allow us to grow into our skills for our current jobs and the next job.

If your work-led professional development isn’t moving you towards your goals, create your own!

Using the Management Plan techniques, you can focus your efforts into three areas. Learn. Refine. Teach. Three simple concepts but each of the ideas helped me begin to own my professional development in ways that continue to serve me today. This post will focus on ways to refine your skills in meaningful ways.

Why Teaching Others Works as Professional Development

I know I’ve often heard that teaching others is a great way to reinforce what you know. I’ve given this advice in the context of tutoring students about in-class material. But where does this saying come from? On what is this based, and is it real? Can it work outside of a classroom setting? Researchers refer to this teaching tool as the protege effect.

The protégé effect is a psychological phenomenon where teaching, pretending to teach, or preparing to teach information to others helps a person learn that information. For example, a student who is studying for an exam could benefit from the protégé effect and improve their understanding of the relevant material, by teaching that material to their peers.

We’re all rooting for you to improve your skills. Learn something new while you’re teaching others what you know.

As you work on skills you wish to develop, but lack funds to do so, understanding the protege effect may help you. For instance, imaging putting together a training that you would deliver to several audiences, but only deliver to one. You have a personal developmental goal of improving communication with others during standardized trainings.

What differences would you have in case study discussions when training faculty, staff and students? What modes work best for each of the audiences? How would you do the same presentations in an online training setting?

Ultimately, how do you plan to take advantage of the protege effect in continuing your personal development?

How to Take Advantage of the Protégé Effect – an Exercise

There are three main ways in which you can use the protégé effect to facilitate your learning process. For the exercise, ask yourself the questions in italics to help you develop your professional development goals.

Learn the material as if you’re going to teach it to others. 

For example, this could entail trying to learn the material well enough that you would feel comfortable explaining it to someone else later, and finding the answers to likely questions that people might ask you on the topic.

  • What differences do you need to know to present the material to different audiences?
  • What mode would work best for each audience? Powerpoint? Online module?
  • Is the training scripted or will you be able to expand/shrink to any available time?

Pretend that you’re teaching the material to someone. 

The more realistic this will feel, the more you will benefit from the protégé effect, so it can be worthwhile to put effort into visualizing this and to do this aloud. Furthermore, while doing this, you can go beyond just explaining the material, and also pretend that you’re being asked specific questions about the material, by the person that you’re teaching it to.

  • Imagine you are presenting your learning in different types of professional venues. What material do you need to know for a professional conference? A faculty training? A student leadership conference? If you’re able, video yourself and watch it. What feedback would you give yourself to improve you performance?
  • What questions would you anticipate from each audience? How would you deliver the most concise answer? Is this information each enough for you to learn?

Teach the material to other people in reality. 

This involves actually meeting other people and teaching them, either one-on-one or in a group setting. Though this approach takes the most effort, it can also lead to the greatest benefits, especially since knowing that you’re actually going to teach someone will likely provide you with the greatest boost to your motivation.

  • Challenge yourself to present your material in a new modality. How would you present in a webinar? 30-minute quick training? To your peers at a conference? Submit your training and get some feedback!
  • How would you training go as a one-on-one approach? What are the best ways to deliver it one-to-one? What questions do you anticipate being asked? And what are the best tools to use – do you have them in your skill-set?

Adding A Professional Skill Using a Teaching Others Method

During one of my former jobs, I wore several different hats including work in a first-year students office and a student activities office simultaneously. I was curious how to better balance my efforts to meet the needs of the students I worked with. I believed this included measuring the impact better using assessment techniques.

My masters degree program did not have an assessment class, so I knew I would need to learn the skills on my own. Using the Management Plan techniques, I set out to learn different types of assessment tools – from conference workshops, from friends, on my own. But in order to reinforce my learning, I knew I would need to teach my skills to others.

I began with my colleagues – my supervisors, departmental peers, those in other offices. This would often take place one-on-one, encouraging the development of shared outcomes to measure. Eventually, the Dean of Students in my division asked me to develop departmental trainings to take to each director. I would eventually train student affairs staff on how to measure our divisional goals, and our student leaders on how to measure learning among their members.

Two of my strengths are Communication and Individualization. I felt it was important to learn how to train others in ways that had the most meaning. I followed up with my supervisor recently who shared that what I taught her and how I taught her has lasted over ten years!

Teaching others my newly learned skills helped me understand how to use my strengths to inform others. While I was adept at helping others understand and how to individualize my training, I lacked the skill to use my skills to think strategically. I found it useful to learn the boundaries of my skills and strengths to know when I needed help from others to achieve shared goals.

Using the Management Plan to Track Progress

There is no one way to develop these skills. However, like all good goal setting plans, commit to your goals with established timelines and benchmarks for tracking your efforts. Download the Management Plan document from the E-Store or create your own.

In whatever method you use to track your progress, make sure you reward yourself when you finish. Since these goals are not attached to your professional evaluation, only you know when you’re finished and can evaluate your progress. And unlike these annual evaluations, give yourself more than a year if you need. We do better when we give ourselves the grace to be human and listen to ourselves.

I hope that you find a learning journey to go on in the coming year. Especially if it brings you closer to your own personal growth and potential. Good luck to you!

Continue the Conversation

We all need different things to happen in our lives in order to level up our careers. For some, it’s learning how to characterize strengths. For others, it could be learning how to self-advocate and negotiate for a better title or pay. Do you need some help figuring out what you need to do?

I have worked with mid-level career professionals for nearly ten years, helping them reconsider their strengths and ways to learn new skills. I can review your resume and cover letter, and give pointers on how to better answer questions during in-person interviews.

Schedule an introductory meeting so we can discuss a plan that works best for you.

Read More about Personal and Professional Development

About Post Author

Joseph Rios, EdD

I am Joseph Rios and I believe that leadership is an expression of our values
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