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People matters - Complacency – the enemy of growth

Dr Richard Plenty and Terri Morrissey provide their thoughts on: Taking responsibility for your own development.

Past performance is no guarantee of future success in a fast changing world. Yet many of us are reluctant to invest time and effort in our own development unless we are compelled to do so. 

Why risk change if what you have done already has been successful and taken you to your current level? How much time and effort would it take to learn any new skills required? Would a new way of doing things work as well in practice? 

These are all legitimate questions. Yet we know that top performers in any field constantly learn, adjust and refine their approach to make sure they stay on top of their game. The world of competitive sport, for example, provides many excellent examples of the benefits of adopting a ‘continuous improvement’ mindset.

The same principles are relevant in the workplace. ‘Learning as you go’ provides competitive advantages. 

If you stand still and take little interest in your self-development, you run the risk of being left behind as technology and the world move on. By the time you are forced to make changes, you may be left playing ‘catch up’ with too much to learn in too short a time. Skills, which were once relevant, become obsolete, and performance deteriorates. 

Age should not be a barrier to learning. Research shows that whilst some people are naturally more open to learning and new experiences than others, we all have the capacity to learn new things throughout our lives. 

The human brain retains its ability to form new neural connections and learn at any age, so-called neuro plasticity. A lifetime of experience provides a rich database for reference. The key is to treat personal development as an ongoing priority on a par with operational delivery.

This is easier said than done. To carve out the time for personal development in a busy working environment requires considerable determination and mental toughness. Psychologist professor, Peter Clough, calls this the ‘penicillin of personal development’.

We see the following as critical: 

  • Take control of your time to make space for learning and don’t get bogged down in trivia. Opportunities for learning are not confined to training courses. Spend a few minutes at the end of each day systematically reflecting on lessons learned from work experiences 
  • Develop the confidence to seek out feedback, listen to what others have to say and try out new ways of working. People who are embarrassed by being wrong or making mistakes don’t learn 
  • Be persistent – stick at something and keep practising it until you get it right!

Don’t rest on your laurels or you run the risk of getting left behind!



The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) has named Diane Papaianni as its new general manager of New Jersey Airports, which includes Newark Liberty International Airport. Papaianni, Newark Liberty’s deputy general manager since 2014, replaces Richard Heslin, who is retiring from the agency after a 45-year career. In her new role, Papaianni will be responsible for both Newark Liberty and Teterboro airports and will oversee plans for a new $2.3 billion Terminal A at Newark Liberty. She joined the agency in 1979 and has held a number of senior management positions at Newark Liberty since then.

Two other PANYNJ veterans also are moving into new roles. Doug Stearns, deputy general manager of LaGuardia Airport for the last two years, is succeeding Papaianni as deputy general manager of New Jersey Airports. Anthony Vero, LaGuardia’s manager of physical plant and redevelopment, has been appointed the new deputy general manager at LaGuardia.

New Heathrow hire, Ali Jafarey, is believed to be the world’s first airport cycle officer and is tasked with persuading more of the 16,500 staff that live within a five-kilometre distance of the gateway to
ride bikes to work.

Sydney Airport CEO, Kerrie Mather, is the new president of ACI Asia-Pacific, succeeding the retiring Dennis Chant. “As president of ACI Asia-Pacific, I will continue to work closely with the Regional Board and the Regional Office in promoting professional excellence in airport management and operations,” she promised.


About the authors


Dr Richard Plenty is managing director of This Is… and delivers ACI’s ‘Airport Human Resources’ training. Terri Morrissey is chairperson of This Is… and CEO of the Psychological Society of Ireland. Contact them through 

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