Make ‘Professional Development’ Learning Stick!

professional development

​Professional development – most companies require it to varying degrees. This is a good thing, right? We all want to learn and develop new skills that make us better at our jobs. There is one major problem – how do we ensure these professional development endeavors stick? The truth of the matter is, going to an afternoon or even a full day of training, is not enough to master a new skill. New blog contributor and Advanced Certified Practitioner, Emily Bass, outlines the four stages of learning and discusses how professionals at the leadership level can increase efficiency and effectiveness of learning new skills – specifically by utilizing assessments to maximize the coaching process. Read on for details and recommendations from Emily on “how to make professional development learning stick”!

Make ‘Professional Development’ Learning Stick!

by Emily Bass

Making learning stick requires repetition and practice until a new skill is ingrained.

Athletes know it takes thousands of repetitions of a movement to generate unconscious muscle memory and perform a new behavior at an expert level.

Psychologists know it can take a minimum of 3 weeks to 3 months of repeating new thought patterns just to begin to change one’s thinking and then it takes practice to unconsciously carry out the resulting behaviors.

Like the athlete and the clinician, the executive coach knows change takes awareness, repetition, and commitment. So why would we, as leaders, expect ourselves or our staff to absorb a new skill or behavior without lots of practice?

As a professional athlete, leader, clinician, and now as an executive coach, the common thread to success for my clients is practice. If you want a particular development goal to adhere with you for the rest of your life, try practicing it again and again… and again.

Learning happens in four stages:

Stage 1: Aspiration – desire for new skill.

Stage 2: Awareness – understanding capability to perform skill.

Stage 3: Application – practicing skill in a wide range of situations.

Stage 4: Acclimation – successfully applying and teaching skill.

Moving back and forth and reflecting among the stages of Awareness and Application are the stages that make learning stick.

Awareness in leadership means learning sensitive things about your self, creating vulnerability. It takes courage to seek out our blind spots, whether physical or cognitive, and it takes time to accept them as opportunities. It then takes time to find the tools, the courage, the will, and the stamina to apply and practice until the learning sticks.

Fortunately, there are resources to support professional growth – no matter if you are seasoned or new to professional development.

The stages of learning present a process and Assessments-Based coaching presents an efficient and effective professional development process: combining your Aspiration to learn with your new Awareness from the assessments and Applying it until you have Acclimated the new skill as part of your natural behavior.

Assessments-based coaching is a useful resource because it promotes the two important stages (Awareness and Application) to make learning stick as well as provides accountability for implementation, which often gets lost in the business of life.

Assessments-based coaching is:

• Efficient: providing awareness of self and others quickly, objectively and thoughtfully.

• Descriptive & Prescriptive: providing transformational information as well as concrete tools to practice.

• Direct: holding you accountable to apply and master new actions.

The coaching relationship ensures accountability for ongoing application—letting you become the owner of the skills and behavior so you can do your own team building every day.


professional development
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Emily Bass coaches leaders to build organizations where everyone knows they matter. You can learn more about Emily and her upcoming Adventure Leadership Summits, Essential Skills Workshop, and coaching packages at www.EmilyBassStrategies.com.

“I have witnessed Emily for more than a decade now as she’s enthusiastically ventured into challenging situations. Her training and first-hand experiences in leadership and life allow her to thoughtfully assess situations and execute solutions that move people and organizations forward.”Dennis McMillian, Internationally acclaimed speaker, nonprofit consultant and author (Focus on Sustainability: A Nonprofit’s Journey).

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