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More or less? The ever-present dilemma about Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Are you someone who cannot get enough of it? Do you feel compelled to do it because it’s crucial for career progression? Do you do it because you feel you’re not good enough? Do you do it because you feel energised by learning something different, or by deepening your existing knowledge and understanding? Do you simply not have access to it?

Whatever your answers you might find something of interest in my reflections on my own CPD journey over the last year. While these reflections are generally applicable my own relationship with CPD is as a solopreneur with a business in leadership and development coaching (called Alpamayo Coaching Ltd…..thanks for asking). Given that I am a coach it is perhaps no surprise that I offer you some questions about CPD opportunities for you to be curious about at the end of this post.

We all have our own development journey based on our lived experience. For some this is punctuated by access to learning experiences giving us the time and space to focus on a particular skill. For many the fact that these opportunities come at a cost mean that taught CPD is not available to them. Not exactly egalitarian is it? To those who have access to it there is also the issue of whether the benefit justifies the cost? I’m going to resist going off on a tangent about these two issues yet I confess they both draw me in. Particularly the question of how training programmes might do rather less of a good job at supporting inclusivity than we might hope. Something to reflect on another time.

In my area (leadership, development, whole of life coaching) there is a huge industry offering me this training course, or that accreditation opportunity. As I am self employed there is no-one telling me to go on CPD so I have the benefit of not being compelled to attend. I do so because I want to, and recognise that I am privileged to be able to do so. This year I have invested in a number of experiences because they interest me, simple as that. In fact, I’ll list them here as a way of expressing my gratitude!

Mindfulness In Coaching with Tim Segallar; Team Coaching with Gillian McMichael; Intro to Coaching with the Dialogic Orientation Quadrant (DOQ) with Haesun Moon; Ontological Coaching and Leadership in Action with Jeremy Stunt and Karen White.

From Soak to Spill by Subodh Gupta, outside Salisbury Cathedral in 2020 (Photo Jeremy Hinks). While the work references unhealthy consumerism it seemed to say something about managing the accumulation of knowledge as well, at least it does to me!

Why do I do it? I have already said that they interested me. Surely that is enough? Having said that digging into the ‘why?’ might be helpful. I knew the content would challenge me where I do not have a ‘natural fit’ (Mindfulness), help me test my assumptions (Team), scratch an intellectual itch (DOQ), and allow me to dip into a more philosophically oriented coaching approach (Ontology). Another reason is that I knew that I would leave each experience enriched, and with an awareness of an evolution in my coaching approach supportive to work with my own clients. I most definitely did not attend any of this CPD because I thought I was not good enough without it, an observation relevant to what comes below.

Although it might sound curious to say I don’t hold the belief that I become a better coach as a result of each CPD experience. What does happen is that I become a different coach. I make this distinction because of reading, with increasing regularity, commentaries questioning a coach’s reasons for engaging with CPD. They start by challenging coaches to reflect on whether they are ‘good enough already’. It’s a reasonable enquiry yet based on an assumption that people take on CPD because they ‘don’t feel they are good enough’.

A call to action in some of these posts is for people to eschew development opportunities because, surely they are good enough?! Amusingly, an invitation often follows, to join a retreat, at some cost, during which they will uncover the truth that they are good enough!

What the hell is that if not a form of CPD?! The difference is that the focus is on a more existential question whose resolution is often somewhat more ephemeral than gaining expertise in this coaching model or that leadership approach! What they represent are offerings into the same marketplace, that come into being to meet a particular need, which both might be traced back to your response to the question ‘am I good enough?’. I have no problem with that per se, yet am troubled by my own perception of a lack of candour on the part of some suppliers in this space. As I write I am prompted to think more generally about the impact of CPD on wellbeing, both direct and indirect so perhaps trundling off on this tangent is of value!

Enough of my own biases and beliefs (for now)! Here are those questions that you may well (oops, back to bias and belief straight away!) find useful in thinking about development opportunities. I am channelling some writing by Haesun Moon in using the language of ‘already’ and ‘becoming’ in some of these enquiries. I also hear an echo of Cathy Salit’s ‘Becoming Principle’ in question 3. The first three questions encourage reflection while the last two are rather more about encouraging a realistic assessment of your commitment to the development opportunity that is piquing your interest.

  1. What is the knowledge, understanding and lived experience that you have already?

  2. How will your chosen learning experience build on the knowledge, understanding, and lived experience you have already?

  3. How will your chosen learning experience help you to become what you are wanting to become?

  • How are you prepared to make an appropriate investment, in advance of and after your proposed learning experience, that will best ensure your ability to embed the learning from it?

  • Do the potential benefits justify the cost?

Good luck to you. Learning will never end, and I find that a comforting thought. I hope you do too, and I also encourage that to avoid thinking of learning and development as something that will influence whether you are good enough. You already are! What learning will do is make a difference to you. All the above distils down to is the importance of you making the right judgement about whether that difference is something that you are interested in.

Postscript: The thoughts above were prompted my own recent foray into personal and professional development. I should acknowledge an unconscious influence in the form of research conducted by Elizabeth Crosse MCC. She has been asking the question about what drives coach’s development decision. Keep an eye out for her results.


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