Many people are open to learning, but not all are interested in developing.
You might ask, “Isn’t learning the same thing as development?” Not quite.
There are really two levels to learning.
Two Levels of Learning
- The first level occurs when you hear, see, and/or experience something interesting or novel. It is often followed by the comment, “Wow, I didn’t know that.” or “That’s cool.”
- The second level of learning takes the new knowledge and applies it. Personal development is all about translating insight into action. It is the process of doing something with the information, transforming and integrating it into new or different behaviors, habits, and mindsets.
Not everyone readily jumps into the second level of learning and undertakes true personal development. It takes time, practice, and a lot of potential discomfort.
Learning from Lobsters
The metaphor of a lobster shedding its shell is a powerful way of depicting this choice for real development.
As the young lobster grows, it becomes too large for the shell that protects it. The lobster must search for an area within the rocks on the floor of the ocean where it can feel relatively secure from any predators. Slowly, it begins to shed the shell, that which is stunting its growth.
When the shell is gone, just consider its plight. Its new shell, which began growing before the old one was shed, is still soft and provides little protection. During this time, the lobster is extremely vulnerable and at great risk from predators. It is completely exposed to its dangerous world. Yet, the alternative would be worse. Without the periodic shedding of its shell, the lobster would not be able to grow and ultimately perish.
As leaders, we are faced with a daily choice to grow. We are continually learning new information, and deciding if and how we do something with it. How can development be structured to create a safe environment for a leader to grow and shed their shell?
To help leaders make this important choice and feel that being vulnerable is worth it, here are 6 secrets for achieving lasting personal development. These principles can foster the right environment, attitude, and actions to achieve level 2 learning. These also become the foundation for lasting individual and company-wide training and development solutions..
6 Secrets to Personal Growth:
1. Every Day:
Development is far more than a single event or training class, it is an everyday effort to practice, practice, practice. Spending time on a consistent basis is key to growing a skill or a new way of thinking. For example, learning to ask open-ended questions to foster more open dialogue on one’s team is not merely a single event. It is a new habit that can take weeks to achieve proficiency.
Get in sync with your team, your boss, and your organization so your development can be supported and sustained. How many of us come back from a conference with a long list of great ideas and the next day they all go out the window? It is critical to gain the feedback and insight from others in the organization and what they value. They can advocate for you instead of against you. And aligning with the current power structure will best position you to appropriately push back, developing yourself and others simultaneously.
Development should happen because you want it, not because someone told you to do it. If there is not an internal desire for personal develop, you may go through the motions but not receive much benefit. The notion for mandatory development rarely works. People need to want it for development to be effective. Reach deep inside, and find or create the motivation to learn and apply good ideas to help you be a better leader.
Spending time on development is in investment in the future. Engaging in development can and should be seen as a positive experience that will lead to a better way of working. Having the right attitude about development helps one reap the greatest value from it.
Each person brings a myriad of unique experiences, successes, and concerns. Crafting development experiences to fit the needs of each person, effectively builds on their strengths and addresses their specifics areas for opportunities. The more tailored the development, the greater level of respect and value the leader will feel.
When speaking with groups, I sometimes tell them that I hope they feel uncomfortable today because that is a strong sign that development is occurring! Lasting personal development pushes one beyond their comfort zone. It stretches and expands one’s capabilities and is strong evidence that learning has transitioned into behavior-changing development.