Continual growth is at the heart of what creates and sustains great leaders and valued employees. And the lack of personal growth, more than anything else, sabotages careers.
What’s the opposite of growth? Stagnation. Contentment with the status quo. Showing up at work every day but putting in minimum effort. Some call it “quitting and staying.” If this sounds familiar, it’s probably because you have known someone — or perhaps you have been someone — who fits this description.
Case in point: A leader was terminated after fourteen years with the same company. Although he thought of his tenure as fourteen years of experience, upper management’s perception was that he had basically repeated his first year of service fourteen times. He had done nothing to try to make himself more valuable to the organization. He wasn’t interested in his own growth. As a result, he ultimately was seen as dispensable.
If you’re interested in a future in leadership, letting yourself fall into a state of apathy about your job can be the kiss of death. Imagine this scenario: A team of upper managers and HR leaders are walking through your department, trying to choose someone to promote to a lead position. One of them points at a person slumped at her desk playing Angry Birds on her cell phone and says, “There’s our star! Let’s move that slacker up the ladder!”
That’s probably not going to happen.
The world is moving too fast to rely on past success and past knowledge alone. People who care about advancing their career and want to be seen as valuable in today’s workplace must continue to grow.
As an aspiring leader, you need to make a conscious choice to GROW in four areas:
One: Gain Knowledge
To continue growing in your organization, work on gaining knowledge in these ways:
- Self-knowledge — Learn about your own strengths and weaknesses so you can better relate to those around you.
- Knowledge of others — Find out what matters to your colleagues, direct reports, and managers so you can work together toward mutual goals.
- Knowledge of your industry — Read up on your industry’s history as well as what’s happening in the field today. What does the future look like?
- Knowledge of the field of leadership — Read business books, blogs, and newsletters for information and advice on leadership trends and best practices.
Two: Reach Out to Others
Reaching out to others to share what you’ve learned is one of the best ways to accelerate your own growth. Look for teachable moments — by teaching others, you reinforce the lessons for yourself. Do this formally by leading a seminar or more casually by sharing your insights with colleagues. Story telling is another great way to share knowledge. For example, if you want to teach people about the importance of good customer service, make your point come alive by telling a personal story about an experience with a company that turned you into a raving fan.
Three: Open Your World
One of the greatest ways to ensure your own continual growth is to expand your mind and your life through new experiences that light a spark within you.
- Ways to open your world at work:
- Shadow someone from another department or team.
- Interview recent retirees and seek their counsel on current issues.
- Have lunch with someone different every day.
- Lead any kind of a team or group.
- Ways to open your world outside of work:
- Do regular volunteer work.
- Learn a foreign language.
- Visit museums or attend plays or concerts.
Whether you are heading up a team or contributing at an individual level, opening your world will expand your knowledge base, setting you up for success as you move toward your goals.
Four: Walk toward Wisdom
Wisdom can be defined as the application of accumulated knowledge and experience. The pursuit of wisdom never ends for those who aspire to leadership. Your journey toward wisdom should include the following elements:
- Self Evaluation — Look in the mirror and be truthful with yourself.
- Honest Feedback — Ask those around you for feedback on how you are doing.
- Counsel from Others — Learn from others’ experiences as you move forward.
- Time — Understand that acquiring wisdom is a lifelong process and can’t be rushed.
Our capacity to grow determines our capacity to lead. In today’s workplace, this is more important than ever before. The process of continuous growth leads not only to professional success, but also to personal fulfillment.
© 2012 Ken Blanchard, co-author of Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life
Ken Blanchard, co-author of Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life, is chief spiritual officer of the Ken Blanchard Companies. He is the author or coauthor of 50 books that have sold more than 20 million copies, including the iconic One Minute Manager®.