Personal development


There is a need for every employee involved in Training & Competence to go through a form of development in their working lives, to learn about the requirements of regulators, the systems specified by the firms that they work for, or for the required professional qualifications.

However, these requirements are simply there to do the role that they have been hired for, rather than for their own wider personal development. Importantly, Maya Angelou said “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”, which is the basis of personal development that I want to focus on.

The problem is, if those involved in Training and Competence rely solely upon the training and development prescribed by their employers, their professional body, or the relevant regulator, they are only going to have a narrow view of what is possible. Although they may do their best, they may never understand what better might look like, and reach it.

Lateral Thinking

One way in which individuals can develop is through lateral thinking or, using a hackneyed phrase, “thinking outside the box.”. The development of this concept is attributed to the work of Edward de Bono, who espoused the need to find unique methods to solve problems, to have a willingness to look at things in a separate way, and by applying a distinctive style of thinking.

But, if you never try, you will never know how much better you could do.

However, for an individual to improve their own personal development, they need other forms of interaction with concepts and ideas that are not contained in the box that they know from work.

One example of lateral thinking relates to DNA, the genetic code inside all of us, in the 1950’s, which is attributed to the coming together of an American biologist James Watson and an English physicist Francis Crick. Their own areas of expertise and experience allowed them to see a problem differently and to think laterally about the potential shape of a DNA molecule, concluding that it was a three-dimensional double helix.

However, they would not have been able to solve this puzzle if it had not been for the work of their contemporaries, and those that preceded them in this research. In fact, DNA was first identified in the late 1860s by Swiss chemist Friedrich Miescher, with later work by Phoebus Levene and Erwin Chargaff, and Watson and Crick’s own colleague Rosalind Franklin. Without this foundation provided by others, Watson and Crick may never have reached their groundbreaking conclusion.

Shoulders of Giants

The scientist, Sir Isaac Newton, once said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”, and to fully use the benefits and the power of lateral thinking in personal development, individuals need to do the same. They need to acquire different skills and knowledge and be able to link these various thoughts gleaned from diverse sources, to gain a different insight.

Bearing in mind that we are talking about individuals spending their own time to do this, the obvious question is, what will it cost? The good news is that there are many free or relatively inexpensive sources of materials that will get you thinking.


Let me start by asking when was the last time that you watched a TED Talk online? These are free videos of talks by subject matter experts that are often designed to challenge people’s perceptions, or to provide a different viewpoint on a subject. For those working in supervision or management, the talks focused on psychological aspects of motivation or relationships might have relevance.

You might also enjoy reading, with a range of books and articles both online and on paper available, bringing you closer to different and newer concepts and ideas, with prices ranging from free, to £20-£30 for the newer books. However, neither of these options are interactive, and you don’t have the feedback you would from other activities.

For those who might prefer a more formal style of learning, various universities offer a range of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), that can be free and open to everyone. I undertook a Cognitive Psychology MOOC via York University, but missed the tutored version by a few weeks, so I was only able to take the online recorded option. If you time your course accordingly, you can join a live tutored version and get more feedback.

This sort of content is also offered by other such institutions, including the Open University via their OpenLearn courses.

Another way to develop skills that would be useful in the training part of the T&C role, and one that provides interaction, would be to join a speaking club, such as those offered by Toastmaster’s International. This is something I do, and although there is a membership cost, this is not overly expensive. Meetings are usually fortnightly, and there are a range of speaking pathways to follow.

These clubs offer an opportunity to gain experience in a variety of ways, not just by writing and delivering speeches, but they also provide an opportunity to improve impromptu speaking skills.

They give you an opportunity to meet people from all walks of life, to understand their motivation for self-development, and to hear about their experiences and their journey. This allows you to learn from them, while developing your own talents, with regular, supportive feedback.

Another interactive choice is to find someone to function as a mentor, to help navigate a way through an individual’s development at work, or wider development in their life outside work.

Mentors need to have the knowledge and experience to help, and they must be willing and have the time to function as a guide. You also need to choose a mentor that is respected in the area you want to develop, with qualities like being open-minded, supportive, motivating, and being a good listener.

In a work environment, there is usually a choice of mentors who are often in a more senior position within the organisation. You could just ask them in person, or by email, perhaps sharing things that you like about their approach to work and tell them a little about what you are hoping to achieve.

Alternatively, you could look outside the immediate work environment, especially if a development goal is to improve general knowledge and skills. You might even find that you find a potential mentor through organisations like Toastmaster’s International, who may help to broaden your horizons in ways that you hadn’t considered.

Also, what those involved the financial services arena forget, is that there are other versions of T&C not just those that focus on wealth management, or mortgage advice. Indeed, the Health and Safety Executive’s website provides details of the T&C requirements for a range of businesses.

These include people using equipment at work, who must be adequately trained to ensure full compliance with health and safety requirements in its use, its supervision, or its management.

These rules cover the obvious areas of power tools like chainsaws, and the driving of vehicles, but the rules also extend, for example, to the entertainment and leisure industries, such a fairgrounds and theatres, so it is not all about forms of heavy industry or forestry.

It may be good therefore to learn how T&C works in a different environment and to seek a mentor who can give you a view of an unfamiliar area, to broaden your knowledge and experience.


Finally, we all have busy lives and adding something else to that mix needs consideration, and commitment, so those that decide to undertake personal development outside of work do need to consider those aspects carefully. But, if you never try, you will never know how much better you could do.


About Author

Avatar photo

Derek T Davies is a freelance Consultant,Editor and Writer

Leave A Reply