How might hearing a colleague’s story about a monkey showing up at her campus out of nowhere help me with my job? It has everything to do with the value of professional development.
I spent much of the last week in Hershey, Pennsylvania. I could have used the time in the office, and I would have liked to of been with my family. But, as I reflect on what I have gained this week, I am thankful that I traveled across the country for a conference with other higher education leaders.
We have all the heard the anecdote about sharpening the axe. After we have chopped for some time and cut through a quantity of trees, our blade is going to get dull. Effectiveness lags, returns diminish, and we end up exhausted. At a certain point, it becomes much more efficient for us to pause and sharpen the blade so that we can return to our work with renewed perspective and vigor.
I cannot say enough about what I gained while I was away last week! Listening to consultants and colleagues talk about my field has caused me to rethink a few things and provided insights about the way forward. Even the work that I did preparing to present at the conference helped me; it caused me to reevaluate what I am doing in my work and why am doing it. The trip to Hershey influenced my thinking and broadened my perspective.
But new perspective is not all I gained.
I also benefited from the chance to connect with peers from across the country. They have reminded me why I do what I do. They let me know that I am not alone in my work and not only one facing the challenges before me. And their friendship serves they are an insurance policy against future challenges; I know that I will be able to talk to someone who understands when difficult circumstances arise.
Now, about the monkey: on the last night of the conference, I spoke with a colleague who had had an awful year. They have faced leadership turmoil, natural disasters, and strange, unforeseen occurrences. The appearance of a monkey on her campus was the cherry on top of a tumultuous season. As we laughed about the situation, I was reminded that it can always be worse at work. And more importantly, we were able to share stories and know that we are not alone. Such simple, human occurrences often make the difference between success and failure at work.
So, I have been reminded why professional development is so important. And I found myself thankful that I don’t have any monkeys running around my campus.