Taking Personal Development Seriously

It’s almost the new year, and this is typically a time that people spend reflecting on this past year and making some kind of resolution, commitment, or intention about the coming year. Frequently, these intentions are related to personal development. We all know the classic, “I”m going to get in shape this year” resolution, but whether we share them or not many of us also have development objectives that are more work related–things we want to work on or improve, or areas of responsibility we want to add, or new endeavors we want to pursue.

But we all know the rather dismal record of new year’s resolutions, particularly by the time the weather gets warm again. Other things get in the way, new developments get our attention, and, frankly, our will power to do the hard work needed to carry through with the resolution wasn’t as strong as we thought it would be.

And when it comes to developing as an employee in an organization, I think we already have a pretty poor track record. We all want everyone to be productive and effective at work, yet we rarely give adequate time and resources to allowing people to develop professionally the way they need to. We send people to training courses or conferences now and then, but like our new year’s resolutions, our committments to helping people develop professionally often get overrun by the  pressing demands of day to day work.

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In human organizations, everyone takes personal development very seriously. This is hard work, and it’s not the norm in many of today’s organizations. In Humanize, we talk about personal development in the chapter on being Courageous, which we talk about last very specifically because it is the hardest. It’s hard work to run an organization in a way that truly takes the personal development of everyone there seriously. In the book we talk about three reasons:

1. It takes time. People don’t truly develop in complex ways (which is desperately needed in our organizations) unless we give them time and space to do it. We’ll need to stop doing some of the things we’re currently doing to make room for this.

2. It’s personal. Professional development is still about individual people, so part of this is personal. It’s about my life, my personal goals, my developmental roadblocks. This makes a lot of us uncomfortable, but if you want real development we need to go there.

3. It can lead to separation. The more people develop and get clear about their personal and professional lives, the more people are going to realize that the organization and the individual are not a good fit. More quitting and more firing. Again, this makes us uncomfortable, and I know it’s not easy, but I think it is more consistent with a human organization, ironically.

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