The Cella Slant: On Professional Development

By Jackie Schaffer

At the beginning of 2012, I pledged to read at least six books that would support my professional development. I am going to fall short of that goal—I am hoping to finish the fourth book in the next week or so, but am disappointed I didn’t meet my goal. I made the pledge before my son was mobile and not considering including a few pleasure books during my 2012 reading.

When I look back at 2012, professional development certainly occurred outside of the four books I will have read, but sometimes, in the moment, it is difficult to recognize professional development. In fact, if you are a manager, this is one area where you are most often under-recognized: for developing your employees. Overt training/development is always recognized, but those quick conversations and moments of guidance don’t always get counted.

My former organization had a strong “Management 101” course for all new managers; in addition, there was a “Management 201” class for more tenured managers. One of the many lessons I took from that class was to “get paid” for developing your staff—not in the literal sense, but in ensuring that your team members recognized the time you were investing in their development. One very effective way to do this is through your regular one-on-ones with your team members. I used to strongly recommend team members provide an agenda in advance of the one-on-one meeting utilizing a specific agenda format (because your staff nor you have time to shoot the sh#$ for 30+ minutes; you want the time to be spent constructively). One of the topics on the requested agenda format was “what I’ve recently learned.” Sometimes the staff member would have something in this category, sometimes not. When we got to that part of the conversation, for our mutual benefit I would be sure to bring up items they may have overlooked. It’s often a great opportunity to recognize and praise the team member’s growth.

These agendas, along with notes from the conversations, made a great starting point for performance review writing. For each direct report, I had a folder (yes, an old school manila folder) that I would store each agenda in following the meeting. Come review writing time, I’d pull out that folder and take ~20 minutes to review the 12–24 agendas from the past year. I was able to review challenges, accomplishments, learnings and more. And from there, I would begin writing about their strengths, growth opportunities and goals for the new year.

Jackie Schaffer, vice president and general manager of Cella Consulting, is a former in-house leader who has consulted for teams of all sizes, including Fortune 500 clients, government entities and educational institutions and has the unique opportunity to speak with hundreds of creative leaders each year. Cella helps creative leaders and their teams identify and execute strategic priorities, so they can increase their effectiveness and focus on creating high-quality creative.

Cella is a co-author of the In-House Creative Services Industry Report and authors weekly blogs on business operations topics pertinent to the role of creative leaders.