Don’t trust your approach to learning just because it’s worked for you in the past. Be willing to get out of the familiar, tried and true learning groove (journals and colleagues you’ve always consulted, for example) to get a handle on a new, complex issue. If you remain in the groove, you’re likely to come up with conventional solutions and much less likely to discover fresh insights. This is one of the major points that two really extraordinary association leaders – Michael Anderson, President & CEO of the Canadian Society of Association Executives, and Christopher Fox, Executive Director of the International and American Associations for Dental Research, make in this thoughtful – and thought-provoking – new podcast, in which they talk about their own never-ending professional development.
“Old dogs” not only need to – but must – continuously learn new tricks to stay at the top of their game in these times of dizzying change, according to Michael and Chris. Chris, for example, has given really serious thought to what he can do to transform board members into passionate champions for innovation and change, which he rightly sees as a survive-and-thrive strategy in this rapidly changing world. He’s keenly aware that merely feeding his board members more information won’t get the job done. And Michael tells us that while he was grappling with the complexities of creating a new CSAE business model he didn’t just rely on the counsel of his “birds of a feather” CEO peers, but he also sought out much younger executives he wouldn’t normally interact with, and he went beyond the familiar nonprofit and association management literature in seeking inspiration and insights – for example, perusing the Harvard Business Review. I could easily relate to Michael’s point, since it took lots of prodding and cajoling – and also hand holding – from my attorney son William to turn me into a player in the new (to me) blogging game.
Another of the really important points that Michael and Chris make in this fascinating podcast is that dedicating significant time to their own continuous professional development isn’t a piece of cake. It requires disciplined time management and even courage (for example, to resist responding immediately every time a board or staff member reaches out with a question). They have both learned that if they merely put their own professional development on a long list of to-do’s, it’s likely to get short shrift, robbing them of opportunities to grow into higher-impact leaders.
Rather than steal more of their thunder, I’ll let Michael and Chris speak for themselves. Remember: your comments on this and other podcasts and articles at dougeadie.com aren’t only welcome, they’re easy to post. We not only want your questions, we need the wisdom you’re willing to share!