There is an entire section in the bookshop called “self-help.” What we really need is a section called “help others.”
Personal development is a hot topic. Google it. (I got “About 135,000,000 results (0.71 seconds)”.) Personal development focuses your energy and effort on improving yourself, either through building up your strengths or addressing weaknesses. The rewards are obvious. You learn. Your capacity increases. You get better. Personal development works.
But what if there’s a better way? I think there is, but it’s not for everyone.
The challenge with all the personal development opportunities I found during my Google search was how selfish the process was. Yes, YOU get better. Yes, YOU learn. But your development grows capacity by addition. When you improve, one person changes. Incremental changes require time to add up to something meaningful.
When you factor in that personal development ignores the context, the limits to this approach quickly become significant. Even if you learn something life-changing, your actions reach only so far. And there are substantial limits to the impact that one person can have.
One of my coaching clients focuses our time on his interpersonal skills. When we invest in helping him handle his relationships efficiently, he improves, and he produces higher quality work.
But this focus misses the real benefit: his colleagues ALSO work at a higher level. Better relational connections invite more feedback, more authentic vulnerability, and more transparent accountability. Conversations touch topics that would off limits. Not only does he benefit, but his co-workers do too.
Viewing his development through a collective lens changes the conversational focus. How will his words and actions affect his team? What can he do to both learn a new skill AND pass it on to someone else? The both/and mindset multiplies his impact. Measurable change accrues more quickly and positively impacts culture.
(In my coaching practice, I define culture as “a group of living relationships working toward a goal, measured by values observed in words and behaviors.” A special nod of thanks to Dan Coyle (@DanielCoyle) and Bill Woolsey (@BillWoolsey). )
Don’t exclusively focus on your personal development. Make the shift to PEOPLE development. When you commit to people development, you use your gifts, energy and opportunity to impact both yourself AND the people around you. You must work on yourself to make a difference for others. Stopping there unintentionally limits your impact.
Your development sets the ceiling for how others develop. Impact multiplies when simultaneous growth happens for more than just yourself. Shifting your mindset to include the people around you moves you from addition to multiplication. Growth can occur on several fronts. You change your results and set a new standard for those around you.
In a recent team meeting, my colleague observed that my stress response is often to snap at the people around me. It’s true, and I’m not proud of it. With my coach, I will work on my responses, partly because snapping is not how I want to treat people.
But if I stop there, the impact quickly hits the ceiling. Evaluating my interactions will be helpful, but shifting also to watch how different reactions open possibilities for the rest of my team will teach me more. Every conversation can go differently, and my change can also change the experience other people have. Committing to people development brings greater change into reach.
The people development lens takes a bit of work. Becoming aware of behaviors that impact others starts the process. Checking in with trusted voices tells you what you might do differently. Making new choices at the moment sounds easy, but behavior patterns run deep. You won’t always get it right the first time. But stay with it. Your leadership presence changes over time.
With repetitions, you unlock potential in the people around you. With consistent effort, you grow and so do teammates who see the change in you.
Discuss the changes you’re pursuing. With feedback, you can change more quickly. Developing this kind of openness completes the shift. The entire team’s progress accelerates.
We believe the world rewards individuality. But what if we were actually in this together? Making the shift to people development moves us from growth by addition to growth by multiplication.
Onward. Farther faster. Together.
Also published on Medium.