By: Darren Kanthal
Have you heard this story? A CFO asks the CEO, “What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?" The CEO replies, “What happens if we don't, and they stay?"
As a retired HR guy, I’ve watched this conversation play out in a variety of ways. Most often, the monetary price of developing employees was the singular reason for not investing in their growth. Yet, the other prices the company and employee pay, were rarely a strong enough reason to overcome the cost. The monetary cost was a bigger driver than employee disengagement and losing great people due to poor leadership.
If you’re a leader or individual contributor faced with this paradigm, I’ve listed out some of the ways you can develop yourself, and others – all for the whopping price of FREE!
- Expand your network
All too often, our vantage point, perspective, and network only go as far as our immediate coworkers and colleagues. Because of this, we narrow our vision and stunt our growth. It’s very similar to confirmation bias – the more we engage with the same people and receive the same type of information and feedback, the more we stay the same. We accept the status quo and don’t challenge ourselves.
Even though our companies, in addition to our personal networks, are chock-full of great people – we rarely ask for their input. The riches they possess, and will usually be happy to share with you, are unrecovered like a hidden treasure. If only there was a way!
If you want to develop yourself or others, start by expanding your network. Get introduced to counterparts in other departments. Think about the work you do and who it impacts and shadow them. Learn firsthand how your actions affect their day-to-day work. Reach out to people in completely different departments, functions that you rarely engage with, and show genuine curiosity in what they do.
We immediately expand our points of view, thought processes, and learn new ways of accomplishing things by expanding our network. It’s astounding the growth that comes simply by listening to what others do in their day-to-day lives.
- Become values-driven
I hear so many people say something like 'that goes against my values' with conviction. When pressed to explain what their values are, they hem and haw. They say ‘uuummm, uuuhhh’. Bottom line: they can't concisely articulate which of their values are misaligned or not being honored.
When discussing values with people, I hear it’s too woo-woo, “we worked on our values last year” (as if the values are not theirs), or a flat-out refusal. These people fail to realize that their values are the platform and foundation for how they show up in all walks of life. If punctuality is a value of yours, chances are you show up on time for meetings. It’s also possible those that don’t, irritate you.
To further develop yourself or others, it's crucial to be crystal clear on your core values. What do you care about as man or woman? These values are not professional or personal. They are both! Once you’re able to articulate your core values, your actions will become clearer because they’ll be tied to what you care about most. You’ll start to notice that when your values are disrespected out of alignment or being compromised – and it’ll affect you to the very core.
As you’re reading this, has it dawned on you that the things that bother you most, your pet peeves, are in direct conflict with your values? If not, you’ve got some work to do!
- Find a mentor
Having the opportunity to engage with someone you respect, who has achieved things you aspire to, and can share perspectives and lessons learned, can be the exact runway you need to take off. Sometimes we simply don’t know what we don’t know. In a learning model, we call this the unconscious incompetent. We don’t even know when we suck at something. A mentor can start to shine a light on the aspects of your behavior, your perspective, or your performance that could be holding you back. And worst of all, you might have NO idea they’re even an issue.
Mentors are some of the most valuable confidants one can have in work, and life in general. They can usher you forward and expedite your growth in ways nobody else can. They act as a trusted ear. They allow you to vent and air your frustrations. They encourage your vulnerability and share with them the things you aren't willing to share with most others. They hold your trust and confidentiality as core tenets of your relationship. They are your advocate. They are your champion. They want you to succeed!
If the cost of development is the reason you, or the people you care about most have been stymied, don’t let that stop you. There are so many ways we can find our own way to grow, develop, and then kick ass! The question is – are you willing to take action?