Fellow learning professionals: Is your social media awash in well-intentioned but impossible-to-maintain suggestions for New Year’s resolutions? Many people find the New Year a great time to reassess professionally and personally. But then we fall into that easy trap of creating a daunting list of so many resolutions that instead of being the motivation intended, they turn into a dispiriting list of things not done.

Ring in this New Year with a new approach to your professional development. Lean into your existing skills to focus on the areas that will help you succeed as a learning function leader. If you are in a leadership role now and seek to deepen your skills, or if you hope to transition to a leadership role in the near future, focus your professional development efforts on these three core areas: emotional intelligence (EQ), goal setting and developing a growth mindset.

Emotional Intelligence: Be Smart in Your Communications

Most learning professionals have completed training and often have also delivered training around personality types (e.g., DiSC, Myers-Briggs, etc.). Our experiences, preferences and emotional state shape how information is delivered or received.

Additionally, we have completed, if not designed and delivered, training around written communication, presenting skills, and verbal communication. Almost every training catalog includes communication courses because being able to communicate effectively impacts every role in every industry. And yet, many learning professionals tend to think of personality profiles and communications training as two separate categories that are just part of the foundational professional skills.

For the year ahead, tap into your personality type knowledge and communication training to further your EQ application in your interactions, engagements, facilitation work and consultations.

EQ is the ability to use your understanding of your emotions to have respectful, empathetic and influential interactions with others.

  • Re-read that email from the consideration of how others may react to it. What changes would help others receive the information or take the action you intend?
  • When leading a meeting, note how others in the (physical or virtual) room respond and adjust to foster open communication where you can.
  • Consider how often you use any of these phrases with others throughout the day: “Thank you for your help,” “How is your day going?” or “Is there anything I can do to help you?”. Don’t let the pressures of your day lose sight of the fact others are also dealing with their own stressors.

Leaders who guide their teams to the best outcomes are people who have deep EQ knowledge of themselves and how it applies to interacting with others. To make your leadership more impactful in the year ahead, tap into your communication content expertise to hone and grow your EQ skills.

Develop a Growth Mindset: Because Learning Is Leading

When reading the phrase “growth mindset,” you may have just thought to yourself, “Well, I’m a learning professional, so by default, I’ve got this one down!” I’d push back to ask you to take stock of your growth mindset beyond the work environment. Your work schedule and industry should not restrict your growth mindset. A deep reservoir of life experiences, knowledge and skills serves you well in all settings.

Here are a few ways to spark ideas for how to keep that mindset growing:

  • Read books and articles of any genre or length outside of your professional area.
  • Try new foods and tastes, whether by cooking them yourself or exploring a restaurant you’ve not been to previously.
  • Ask others about their jobs and use follow-up questions to understand those situations better.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, social media abounded with people trying breadmaking, knitting, cooking or other hobbies for the first time. In addition, being in a different setting (home instead of the office) had the side effect of people trying things they had never done before with the result of new passions discovered, new peer groups blooming and new skills growing.

A growth mindset is about more than learning things that directly apply to your role or profession.

When you learn or try new things in general, you expand your thinking overall. Flex your brain muscles in different ways to be a leader who can deal with change and inspire creativity among those around you.

Goal Setting: Are We There Yet?

I heard that groan you just made when you read “goal setting” for a New Year’s article! Believe me, goal setting can feel like a nasty term. The word “goal” is tossed around so many business meetings that it almost feels like a myth or a joke. On top of that, January overflows with businesses and people flouting goals that, let’s be honest, have no hope of being realized.

Join me, my fellow learning professionals, and use your critical thinking and prioritization skills to hone realistic and motivating professional goals!

  • Use short-term (i.e., one day a week) goals to stay motivated, such as reading one blog post or article each week (and you are doing that now, so great start!).
  • Have mid-term goals (i.e., monthly or quarterly) to make progress toward more in-depth or complex goals, like earning a new certificate or taking classes for a sport or craft.
  • Celebrate reaching both short- and mid-term goals — because small wins are still wins.

Incorporate activities that support emotional intelligence refinement and a growth mindset into your goals.

  • Participate in professional networking opportunities. Remember: Attendance does not equal participation, so see if you can talk with or connect with others to get the most out of the event.
  • Seek classes, activities and reading on a range of topics (including but not limited to learning topics).
  • Pursue coaching and mentoring for yourself to gain objective input on needed skill growth areas.

To avoid that feeling of “Are we there yet?”, give yourself a blend of goals that vary in duration and scope so that you can celebrate all year long. Creating attainable and impactful goals is a skill that all leaders need for their leadership work and to support their teams.

A New Year With Resolutions That Ring True

Do you have a New Year’s resolution to create New Year’s resolutions but haven’t gotten to it yet? Or does looking at that super long list of resolutions you made fill you with dread instead of excitement? Instead, approach this year’s professional development for yourself with a set of resolutions that will advance your leadership in the learning space: building your EQ, developing a growth mindset and goal setting.

Working with others, being an active learner and knowing where you are progressing, applies to your work as a learning professional in the work environment and beyond.