Earlier this month I was with half a dozen colleagues who will have a lasting impact in the PD world. Not all of them hold a title in their organization that fairly reflects their aptitude, but they are all leaders in the profession. As I looked around the room and thought about each person and what I admired in them, I could see common characteristics that contributed to their success. Here are five characteristics that most of the successful PD people I know share. Every PD person can benefit from focusing on these qualities.
Successful PD people are givers. Truly successful PD people are givers. They freely share information with colleagues, and they know how to support the people who make them successful – from fellow staff to faculty to board members. They don’t act self-important, and they always share credit and shine the spotlight on someone else. They ask people how they need to be supported, they encourage them to explore their potential, they motivate them to carry out goals, and they help them get there.
Successful PD people are sociable. It’s unusual but I’ve met a few PD people who, but for their personalities, would be great at their job. The ability to successfully socialize with different people, and build personal and professional relationships, is critical to success as a PD professional. Whether you need information, services, cheerleading or guidance, you need help from many, many people every day. Knowing how to make people feel good goes a long way in making them want to help you.
Successful PD people expect, manage and own failure. You don’t have to be off the charts positive to make it in PD (in fact, we suspect most of those people are medicated) but you do need to be flexible and able to keep perspective. Something always goes wrong – from a late presenter, to a misprint in a program, to an unhappy stakeholder. Good PD people are ready for the fact that things go wrong, and when they do, good PD people try to fix the problem but take it in stride. They know the value of humour and humility, and they always take responsibility and move on.
Successful PD people work hard. Successful PD people are worker bees. They may be inspired visionaries and great leaders too, but they are worker bees first. There are very few spaces for prima donnas in PD (and most of the spots are taken). Good PD people get up early on program days, rarely complain, expect quality work from others and higher quality work from themselves, and never ask someone to do a job they wouldn’t do – from moving a table to hanging a coat to collating materials. The best PD people work hard. Some of them play hard, too.
Successful PD people are pragmatists. Sure, every once in a while opportunity knocks and you can’t resist opening the door, but that’s a lot different than exploring every opportunity. Good PD people are pragmatists – they know it’s unproductive to have lots of “maybe’s” going on and try to focus on what works. And when a unique opportunity does comes along, they do the research and respect the market. PD in every profession has a history – good PD people study it so they can identify core strengths, recognize new opportunities, and avoid repeating past failures.
Next time you’re wondering whether you’re living up to your full potential in PD, ask yourself if these are five habits or qualities you’re developing.
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