Parachuting in at Camp III – Preparing for Professional Development

Written by: Jordan Tinney

Published On: November 10th 2011

I went to a workshop lately. It was fantastic. Time spent with John Abbott and Andy Hargreaves. It was engaging, thoughtful, and inspiring. As I left, I once again thought about our commitments that we take away from workshops and professional development. When we are inspired, when we are motivated – what do we do with our motivation? What actions do we commit to so that the time of inspiration turns into action? All of us have seen inspiring workshops, and hopefully, these moments have not only transformed and shaped our thinking, but have also resulted in actions that change our work.

I reflected as well on Buckingham and Coffman’s work on strong workplaces. They talked of the basics that need to be in place for successful workplaces. Their book, First Break All the Rules discussed a massive research project’s findings about successful organizations. They compared the results to climbing a mountain at camps I, II, III and the summit. In general they found that in the workplace people:

  1. Need to have the resources necessary to do their job;
  2. Need to feel that they have the opportunity to do their best work and that they are valued and encouraged;
  3. Want to feel connected to their co-workers and to a larger vision for success; and
  4. Have opportunities to grow at their workplace.

With professional development events and workshops, we often bring in (and sometimes lead) a visionary session about what we can be. We set out a compelling moral purpose and direction. In Buckingham and Coffman’s language, I call this “Parachuting in at Camp III” because many of our co-workers are still at base camp and it is difficult for them to see the summit that is so far away. We inspire, motivate, and lead and then may not have adequately prepared or supported them for the climb ahead.

Good professional development is not only rewarding, it is refreshing and rejuvenating. Time spent on such activities needs not only to be inspiring but to truly motivate us to make change. We have to pay attention to where everyone is on this journey together and to help guide them on the journey which we take together. The obligation that goes with attendance, should extend to how we can move to action beyond. That action begins with an acknowledgement of where people are currently situtated in their day to day lives.

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