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Your Growth Trajectory

How to develop personally and professionally in all workplaces — including schools
Your Growth Trajectory

What if your school or workplace is not the kind of “deliberately developmental organization” that puts employee growth at the center of the agenda? What if you want to grow — professionally and personally — on the job, but your organization doesn’t seem to value it, or acts in ways that derail it?

A new book makes the argument that you can still (and should still) prioritize growth. An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization describes three companies that have explicitly connected their mission to employee development, but it also offers a roadmap for the rest of us, who may well never work at that kind of organization. With strategies they developed after watching those companies in action, the authors say any worker can concentrate on her own personal growth, and spread a similar mindset to those around her.

Here are six ways to be deliberately developmental in any organization:

  1. Become “developmental buddies” with a co-worker. Instead of offering each other advice, set aside time to ask each other how you’re both progressing in achieving your goals.
  2. Seek input about your performance. If you’re unsure of how you should be improving, ask colleagues you trust, “What do you observe that I could be doing more effectively?”
  3. Create an “immunity-to-change map” of your goals. Set a goal, list the behaviors that have been stopping you from achieving that goal — and then ask yourself what scares you when you imagine not exhibiting those behaviors.  
  4. Seek small-scale, regular feedback. Ask co-workers to provide feedback on a specific assignment or on your performance during a meeting. For example: “I’m working on being more welcoming of perspectives that are different than my own. Can you let me know how I do listening and responding during our next team meeting?”
  5. Share your goals with your manager. If you feel comfortable, ask your manager for frequent feedback on the goals you’ve set for yourself.
  6. Look for role models. Notice how colleagues and leaders you admire seek feedback, model behaviors that you value, and invest in the growth of those around them. Then ask to talk to them about their approach to learning and growing in the workplace.

Formal education may end for many at the age of 18 or 22 — but in the post-school decades, adult brains can continue to develop. While workplaces will ideally capitalize on and enhance that growth, every individual can work to ensure that she keeps developing and learning.

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