Professional development is that elusive thing I wish there were a formula to achieve. Since every person is different, he or she must develop and grow differently too. Not fair, is it? So what does it mean to develop professionally? For me professional development is an iterative loop that gains momentum as you progress. It's the flywheel concept presented in Good to Great by Jim Collins. The elements in the loop are the following 3 items:
Motivation and desire to change and grow: You must want to be better in order to actually, be better. That motivation should cause us to seek out feedback and mentors who can help us to grow. Having a mentor has changed my life and my perspective on business. Not only do I have a sounding board to help me through, I also have the encouragement and affirmation that I’m not the only one experiencing certain things in the workplace.
Self Awareness through feedback: You become self aware not only by looking inward, but also by looking to others to show you things you don’t see about yourself. Feedback can be hard because most of us don’t actually enjoy hearing criticism. There are a few people out there who are very skilled at delivering feedback in a positive and diplomatic way that doesn’t make you want to curl up like a hedgehog for protection. Having people around you who can give you feedback is critical to growth. I’ve been through phases where I had someone sharing their observations and perceptions, and others where I didn’t. It is, of course, easier not to receive feedback, but I didn’t make as much progress either.
Efforts to actually change: Once you have the feedback, it’s important to incorporate it. It takes churning the feedback in your head over and over and correcting yourself when you slip up. Only after time and practice can you tear down old habits and form new, better ones.
This whole thing may seem boring, but it’s one of the keys to success and one of the pieces of your personal formula for achieving your full potential.