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The construction industry is not spared from the need for continued professional development. Just as culture expects more from technology and entertainment, society expects more from built environments. One way for a construction executive to stay engaged and grow is through professional development.  

The real value in professional development
The importance of professional development is not limited to the leader in the construction organization, though the leader ultimately sets the tone for the role of development among the team. 

In Susan Scott’s book, Fierce Leadership, she discusses key best practices for leaders today. Scott offers a practical guidebook discussing topics, including feedback, transparency and engagement. When it comes to accountability she notes: “In a very real sense, the progress of my organization depends on my progress as an individual now.” 

This principle speaks to the importance construction leaders must place on their individual continued professional development. This idea of progress and development must not simply be handed down to team members in the organization but too must be mirrored at the executive level. 

This perspective of active leadership and executives personifying professional development in their own lives helps build the organization’s culture. For the long-term sustainability of a professional development focus in the organization, the construction executive must place value on the initiative and cultivate a culture that supports, encourages, and respects this type of development. Fierce Leadership holds that: “The point is, the culture is not some nebulous and mysterious force out there somewhere. You are the culture. I am the culture. And each of us shapes that culture each time we walk into a room, pick up the phone, send an e-mail.” A construction executive has a unique opportunity to influence the team and organization by placing a heightened importance on development. 

There are intrinsic motivations for professional development, but professional development also offers a competitive advantage to the organization. In Gallup’s book Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath, the four domains of leadership strength are outlined as the ability to execute, influence, build relationships and think strategically. Professional development touches on each of these components. By being a leader with a perspective of professional development and learning to help the organization succeed, one can drastically change the direction and market share of an organization in a geographic area, industry segment or niche appeal. 

In her book Multipliers, Liz Wiseman makes a clear distinction between a leader who is a know-it-all versus a challenger. Wiseman holds that know-it-alls are limited based on their current knowledge and historical experiences and can only achieve what they currently know. 

On the other hand, a challenger looks for opportunities to stretch the team to grow the organization and build energy. These leaders who are challengers encourage discovery, reframe problems into opportunities and ask questions for team members to rethink the situation. Executives who embrace this challenger perspective see value in continued professional development, as one never arrives at knowing everything in the construction industry. Because construction is a dynamic, changing and technologically integrated industry, construction executives are not afforded the luxury of being know-it-alls or having the perspective that they have already reached maximum success. 

Implementing Professional Development is Simple
There are the traditional construction accreditations, certifications and conference experiences that many professionals in the industry already actively receive on a regular basis. However, to really embrace this concept of continued professional development, consider ways the construction executive and team members may benefit from non-traditional approaches to development. 

These approaches should be a mix of formal and informal methods of development and seek to encourage continuous learning. This learning benefits the employee, which, in turn, benefits the company. There is not a one-size-fits all map for each employee to follow; rather, everyone must chart a course based on personal interests, professional background, career goals and organizational needs. Consider the following ideas:

Professional Development for the Construction Executive 
Work with an executive coach on a regular basis. 
Network with industry peers through national organizations and build relationships in local chapters.
Attend a leadership summit to practice and hone necessary skills for executives. 

Professional Development for Teams
Partner with suppliers to gain industry and technical insights. 
Develop a succession plan for the organization.
Host internal summits where individuals with expertise educate the team.
Encourage departments to host quarterly workshops for other team members to learn the cross-functional skills.

Professional Development for Team Members
Focus on individual talent development.
Cross train with other departments. (This can be as simple or complex as infrastructure allows.)
Develop soft skills related to critical thinking, leadership principles, motivation and collaboration.
Follow the mentee, peer and mentor model. Always be a mentee to someone, always offer peer insights to someone and always be a mentor to someone.

Some of these ideas related to professional development require resources, time, travel and third-party costs. However, many of them do not require anything more than a positive organizational culture. If the structure of the current organization does not include a financial investment in talent development, consider adding that as a line item for next year’s budget. But do not wait until next year to bring about a culture of development. Work in the current available resources, realizing that a short-term investment in talent development can go a long way in the sustainability and growth of the organization in the times to come. 

The construction industry is not spared from the need for continued professional development. However, professional development should not be limited to just executives. It's equally important for whole teams and team members to continue professional growth.

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