Lead your own development

In the first of a series of live blog posts from the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network Conference in Grand Rapids, Tera Wozniak Qualls shared how important it was to “lead our own development” in her session “Creating Your Own Knowledge Network”.

It’s important to advance your field and advance yourself. You can (and should) do both simultaneously.  She shared a great video of professional grocery baggers – who enlightened us with some fantastic insight

Pros practice until they can’t get it wrong – find your expertise and be a pro at it!

Why is knowledge important?

  • Push Solutions forward
  • Keep yourself interested
  • Stay sharp

Coaches vs. Mentors

  • Coaches are less formal and give feedback on one specific area (can be peers and have several)
  • Mentors are more formal and give feedback on all professional aspects
  • Socratic method – teaching by question and answer (the best coach doesn’t give advice all the time, they ASK QUESTIONS). Asking questions and listening are the best tools to be a good coach, mentor or student.

Creating Feedback Loops

  • Includes an action step
  • Could be with coworkers or self reflection and
  • Should be done more regularly – come to more solutions and fix more problems!
  • They create growth opportunities and
  • Continuous learning and improvement

Double Learning is always better

  • Single loop is observing, then assessing, then repeat
  • Double loop is observing, assessing, design a solution, implement the solution, then repeat

Daily Research

  • Keep up to date with sector trends
  • Learn something new
  • Keep it regular and varied (don’t just blog and read about things in your area – branch out!)
  • Tools for tracking blogs (Google Reader, topic based Twitter lists, Google Alerts to find new bloggers)
  • Saving content (Instapaper, Evernote, etc.)

Professional Journals and Articles

  • Expand knowledge, trends
  • Thought leaders
  • Track with Bookmarks, Google Alerts, Twitter Lists, Instapaper
  • Sources – Harvard Business Review, Chronicle for Philanthropy, Nonprofit Times, New York Times, Foundation Review, Stanford Social Innovation Review


  • Obvious but under-utilized
  • More in-depth
  • Explore authors with different points of view
  • Don’t forget fiction – keep creativity sharp!

Ongoing Learning

  • Professional organizations
  • Trade groups
  • Small groups
  • Grad School

Learn more right now!!  For more from Tera visit her great blog. For more on the Young Nonprofit Professional Conference, follow #ynpn11 and @nathan_hand on Twitter!

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