I Thought I Was Done Learning...

How a one-day course changed my perspective on professional development.

When it came to my profession, I thought I knew it all. After all, my professional ventures had me travel through multiple learning universes. It was these experiences that truly expanded my expertise. I thought I had a sound belief system, one that could stand the test of time. The belief was that experience would always carry the day and trump theory every time. I no longer needed to take professional development courses.

 'I am done with learning' became my mantra.

And a mantra it stayed until I took a one-day course on the role of the non-executive director at the Institute of Directors in London. It turned my perspective upside down and irrevocably changed the way I understood professional development.

Here’s the kicker: just 11 days after I took the course I was appointed in my first NED role. Perhaps the universe works with us when we’re willing to tweak our own perspective and open our ‘experienced’ mind to further introspection.

Don’t get me wrong. Before I took the course, I didn’t devalue the learning that came from collaborators’ ideas or advice from trusted mentors. That would always remain sacrosanct in my books. But I thought the days of attending those one-day workshops that offered a certificate and promised enlightenment to the peers in my industry were unnecessary.

Except, life happened. One of my new year resolutions had to do with jump-starting a non-executive-director career. Surely this aim would be supported by what I had learnt during my time working with corporate governance in business? Plus, all those years of life experience, weren’t they worth something too?

Nevertheless, having recently re-joined the IOD, I studied their professional development offerings with curiosity. ‘The Role of the Non-Executive Director’ caught my eye. The course seemed interesting, its framework appropriate, the one-day duration not too daunting, and finally, the calibre of its leaders appropriate to an experienced business audience. I signed up.

The idea that I might learn something new came as soon as I looked at the pre-course reading and case study homework. It all pointed to a well thought-through course.

The day of the event saw me meeting fellow students who were experienced, challenging and fun. The structure of the day was just right. There was a harmonious balance between theory and practice. The case study was the focus of the practical ‘board sessions’. It pushed us to examine the business and ethical issues we would encounter on future boards. At the end of the day, a head-hunter, James Parr, divisional manager at Executive Headhunters, gave us insights into the art of finding NED roles. Ian Dormer, managing director of Rosh Engineering, gave a witty account of his many and varied NED experiences. The day was peppered with engaging debates with fellow attendees. We also had a delightful dinner to cap off the evening. As the day drew to an end, we collected helpful collaterals that supported our new learnings on theoretical, legislative and practical levels.

So, what truly distinguished the course and made it exceptional?

I am very compelled to think it was because of the leader, Jo Haigh. The calibre of course leaders the IOD attracts is high and appropriate to the experienced business audience that attends them. Jo Haigh was insightful and her feedback relevant. All that said, she is not a teacher, or a trainer for that matter, at least not in a traditional sense. Jo Haigh is a professional, award-winning, serial NED, an influencer who has been there, done that and bought that particular T-shirt. Jo Haigh made the difference between a good course and a differentiator-event in my professional life.

This, in short, is my story on how a one-day course changed my perspective on professional development. I left the course buzzing with thoughts and ideas. Oh, yes, and in case you are wondering, my ‘I am done with learning’ mantra was crumpled and then promptly thrown away.

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