“For this session we are going to tell you about what kind of action research we have been doing.”

That was how it started. How it ended?

“Be the agents of change in the world.”


These were the words of our presenters in a recent workshop put on by our school. The professional development was run by teachers. It was a good attempt. And we should always keep in mind that it is scary to present. People who risk getting up in front of their peers also risk humiliation. It is no easy task. It’s the reason there are organizations dedicated to helping people improve their oratory, such as ToastMasters.

But all risk aside, whenever we are taking someone’s time, whether in a PD, a conference, or a basic staff meeting, we must seriously consider the question “Is it worth their time?” We never get time back. Its one of those few treasured things we cannot re-earn or re-up. Once it’s gone… it’s gone. Because of this we must see it as valuable… more precious than gold. Unfortunately, that is not how many people think, and it is not how many people plan. We waste a lot of time.

Back to the professional development I attended.

Be the agents of change in the world.

The group finished with those inspiring words. Unfortunately, after 45 minutes of them telling me what they were doing to change the world I was never afforded a moment to reflect and plan on how I could change “the world”. Now I love a good story as much as anyone, but this was not a good story. It was not applicable. It was not relevant. And I was doing the few things they suggested we do already. It wasn’t even entertaining.

I left feeling deflated, confused, and entirely frustrated at the hour I had just wasted. And here is where they went wrong. There are two things I have noticed which presenters fail to account for when planning and attempting to develop others. If you want to avoid their same mistakes, then make sure you remember that…


We all know it. We all agree. But somehow, when it comes to things like professional development we throw it all out because it is “good for people” to develop professionally. Never mind what or how they are developed, as long as there is something than we’re good right? Wrong!

Is this professional development session the SINGULAR MOST IMPORTANT, MOST USEFUL, AND MOST NECESSARY THING they could and should be doing at that moment? Nothing else?! Nothing!!!!? If we really understood what we are sacrificing in the name of “development” we might not be too proud.

Instead, let’s look at time as valuable as it is. Imagine if we took that approach in planning our professional development, and our meetings, and our lessons. Imagine if we took that approach with EVERYTHING. We would find the “developees” leaving energized, enthused, and ready to tackle what comes. We would transform our workplaces from the monotony of obligation to the joy of encouragement. It would send a shockwave throughout our community that shouted, “Your time is valuable!”

The second thing we should remember is…

2. You Are Developing PEOPLE

For fun, I occasionally perform standup comedy on the side. It helps in a lot of ways. Its great for practicing your communication effectiveness but you also meet a ton of interesting people. The number one advice I receive from veteran comedians, who have performed at stages and venues all around the world, is to know your audience. Next time you watch a comedy special or see a stand up comedian, pay attention to how he engages with the audience. The best comedians are the ones who are able to make the audience feel like they are sharing an intimate conversation between friends.

Good comedians make people feel as though they are being seen in their truest form… as people.Beautifully made, and perfectly flawed individuals who are struggling. More often than not presenters are so focused on their own content and making sure THEY do well as speakers they forget who its all about. We forget to recognize the simple fact that it is real people who we are trying to help develop professionally.

If we plan anything, we need to take time to really consider each and every person who will be in attendance. What’s their name? What’s their passion? What’re their strengths? Weaknesses? What do THEY need? Where and how do they want to grow? And finally, how is this meeting, message, seminar, or whatever, helping them to get further along that path as professionals and as people?

If we keep in mind that people and their time are extremely precious than it will revolutionize the way we organize OUR time in preparing to help anyone and everyone develop professionally.

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