5 tips for ambitious professionals in 2021

Just before the end of this crazy year 2020, CEO Camiel Gielkens and Director Marieke Schouten give their top 5 tips for personal development. What have they learned from the past year and what is their New Year's resolution?

Camiel, what changes have you seen in the field of learning & development and what will 2021 bring us?

“So much is coming our way! To be relevant, it is crucial for all of us to continuously develop ourselves. To really have a "growth" mindset. Starting with yourself. What 2020 has brought is a much smarter use of everything online and offline learning has to offer. By measuring more, learning is more in line with your needs: learning has become more adaptable. You can learn online where ever and whenever you want. Meeting up with peers or your coach to practice. You can play serious games with your team to improve your skills. Of course all this isn’t new, but Covid-19 has greatly accelerated development and especially acceptance. What will we see in 2021? I think we will be even smarter in our use of online learning, with increasingly fun and inventive applications for the workplace (in the flow of work). I also think that we will appreciate our time together even more, preferably face to face if possible, wanting to make these moments extra special.”

Marieke, looking at leadership, have you seen changes in style, and what will we take into 2021?

“When I look at this past year, I notice that everyone, including managers, had to make a huge switch. Managers have started to lead or manage their team(s) remotely and virtually. The assumption that managers naturally know how to make such a switch was incorrect. This was expressed in task-oriented leadership, so our research showed. It is a challenge: leading remotely, keeping your team focused, mastering new tools, and trying to give real personal attention. All of this is not always beneficial for the team’s connection. Fortunately, there was more room for this after the first wave: the softer side of leadership, paying attention, listening. Virtual leadership will certainly continue to exist. Even after Covid-19, as it also has many benefits. In addition, you will see and hear more about inclusive and authentic leadership. Proactively asking for feedback is also linked to this. Daring to ask how you are doing as a manager. After all, this can only contribute to your growth and authenticity."

Camiel, what changes in organizational culture have you seen and will they continue into the new year?

“A lot has changed in a very short time. We have all shown so much resilience! Looking at organizations that are doing well, I see that they continue to learn, and can do this very quickly on a large scale. So not just the top, really everyone in and outside the organization. This is what makes you agile. In order to be agile as an organization, it is good to work on these four crucial skills: keeping a sharp, critical mindset, solving problems together, being creative and great communication. It’s truly worth investing in: "Culture eats strategy for breakfast!"

Marieke, which personal skill or soft skill have you used and developed this year and which skill do you think is important for next year?

“Presenting on video, being comfortable in front of a camera. For webinars, videos, online campaigns, all kinds of applications. It's a different ball game than standing in front of a group and it’s new to me. Incredibly fun and challenging. In addition, I have discovered that I could find peace even when everything was constantly changing, at work and in my private life. I am grateful for the beautiful conversations I’ve had, taking the time to really listen in the midst of all the tumult.

In my opinion, communication and listening skills will remain important in the new year. Having a good conversation with each other will benefit your collaboration, help everyone to stay motivated and to stay connected. Together we will face a lot of challenges and you can only meet them if you continue to communicate and listen to each other and stay aligned. And, please, do not have all those conversations over a video call. Instead, go for a walk. Have that call during your walk: the combination of fresh air and light exercise boosts your creativity while you’re having a good conversation. That’s a win-win, right?”

What is your New Year's resolution?

Camiel: “I want to make learning accessible to everyone. To make more impact. At a lower cost. We really need everyone in order to face these major challenges.”

Marieke: “I’d like to add: mentally fit. Only in this way can we stand strong together. If you are mentally (and physically) fit, you can handle anything and give yourself room for development.”

What tips for 2021 do you have for all ambitious professionals reading this blog?

1. Keep developing. Really keep an open mind and do away with any prejudices. Make mistakes, celebrate them. It may be a cliché, but you learn most from your mistakes. Trial and error. It’s not always easy, so be kind to yourself if things aren't going well. It’s all part of your growth process!

2. Take the time to chat and really listen!

3. Learn more about diversity & inclusion. We have so much talent around us, be aware of this and know how to bring all that value together.

4. Read a blog or listen to a podcast on a topic outside your area of expertise. This allows you to view things from a completely different perspective and boosts your problem solving skills.

5. Hire a personal coach to broaden your horizon or to clear up any (inner) saboteurs. You invest in your car’s annual check-up, why not in yourself?

Tips and insights all year long?

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