Own Your Development


In your organization, who is in charge of professional development? Who organizes the programs and strategies to develop talent? I’m sure that many of you work for organizations that have no personnel dedicated to this responsibility. This is a huge problem and there are a couple choices you have, whether you are a leader or not, to address it.

Earlier this year, the Harvard Business Review Blog Network posted an article, by Robert Kegan, “Does Your Company Make You a Better Person?” The point of the article is that when an organization is intentional about developing the talent within, the people will be more effective and the organization will be more unified. Here is a closing comment from the article:

The environment created by a focus on development in the workplace that is universal (across all ranks and functions in the organization) and continuous (and therefore habitual) unleashes some surprising qualities: compassion alongside tough-minded introspection and organizational solidarity that comes from collective work at self-improvement.

That would be a fantastic and energizing culture to work in! How does an organization achieve this? According to Kegan, the organizational culture must be designed to develop all people at all levels of the organization — a culture in which people are constantly “growing through doing their work.”

Kegan says that a result of such a culture is “a work and life integrated rather than balanced against each other.”

I applaud and support Kegan’s point. Although, just how an organization goes about transforming its culture to achieve this is quite another matter.

On the other hand, I want to take a different approach to this issue: The vast majority of us do not work for organizations that invest heavily into the personal and professional development of every single one of its members. Very, very few organizations do what Kegan proposes. Nevertheless, I encourage you to read Kegan’s article; it is very good and very inspiring to leaders. However, I am confident that fewer than 1 in 100 organizations has the cultural capacity to achieve these goals.

So what are we to do? If your organization doesn’t develop people in this way, and there are so few organizations out there that do, your only response is to take charge of your own development. While I agree with Kegan’s argument, I do not like the implied point that it is solely the organization’s responsibility to develop its people.

In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that even if your organization is one of the rare cultures that develops its people, you are still in charge of your own development. Do not surrender that responsibility to other people. It’s your life and your career. (Well, actually God holds the title to both). So you are the chief steward of growing as a person regardless of your work culture.

And just how do you do that? Next week, I’m going to offer strategic steps you can take to direct your personal and career development.

Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.

Photo “learning” by Anne Davis 773. Available at Flickr.com.

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