Personal Growth and Development in the Workplace

Although team development and encouragement are essential to success in workplace delivery, the personal growth, learning and development of the team’s individuals is critical. A delicate balance between both priorities is what a team leader must achieve. This article focuses on how individuals and teams can be more effective in the workplace, and it provides a complimentary text to our article on effective coaching. So if you are looking for help in fostering personal growth and development in the workplace, we have some helpful advice to get you started.

What is Personal Growth and Development?

Individuals and teams learn and develop to the extent that they gain real personal and team growth and become effective performing teams.

Why is it Important? 

Individuals within teams have personal growth needs, which are an essential part of self-fulfilment. Similarly, teams need to develop by sharing and learning from each other otherwise, the performance of the team risks standing still. Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith, in their book Wisdom of Teams – Creating the High-Performance Organisation distinguish high performing teams from other teams by their capability to learn and develop so that both team and personal growth occurs. 

However, please beware of the syndrome where focus on team needs becomes a purpose in itself rather than helping the team achieve its goals.

What are the Symptoms? 

You should be aware of many symptoms that may evidence the team becoming a greater focus than its goals and objectives. These symptoms include:

  • team keeps making the same mistakes. This could be from displaying the same behaviours but expecting different results or the whole process in itself is no longer suitable;
  • team members express boredom or seem bored and so are no longer driven in achieving the team’s goal and vision;
  • there seems to be a lack of passion or excitement in the team;
  • the team easily hits its goals all the time (without seeming to stretch) and members seeing this as a way it should be rather than an opportunity for the team to be even more effective; and 
  • team members are seeking to leave the team due to being unfulfilled rather than wanting to or being to change from within to strive in improving the team.

Tips and Tools for Active Growth and Development

However, team managers can take several constructive and proactive steps to change or prevent these symptoms from growing. Four steps often sited that can help personal growth and development in the workplace we discuss further below.

Tasks and Responsibilities

Leaders can vary the tasks and responsibilities they give to team members to develop other skills and knowledge. Try to balance projects and tasks between those who already have the capabilities and those who could develop them by being given further responsibility.

Setting Goals

Set goals for team members through a structured approach such as the GROW method developed by Sir John Whitmore in Coaching For Performance: GROWing Human Potential and Purpose. The GROW approach (which we also covered in my article Effective Coaching in the Workplace) covers the four points:

  • G – Goal: ahat are the goals and objectives that are important to the team member? What do they want to achieve going forward?
  • R – Reality: what does the team member think the their current situation is? What is preventing them from what they want to achieve?
  • O – Options: what options do they have to achievieng the goals and objectives they want to achieve?
  • W – Will: what can now be done to achieve these goals an objectives? The motivations of why these things want ot be acheived are critical to success.

Sir John’s GROW model is an excellent business tool in our development of people and teams. It provides a proven structure and process that builds more effective team performance in the workplace. So in the following section, we will work through each section and the types of questions performance-related discussions with team members could include.

What are Goal type questions?

The Goal stage addresses the objectives or goals you and the team member are trying to achieve are? This will involve more than one discussion on what is important to them, how this fits into team goals, and what success will look like. So the types of questions that may need some direction from you, for the team member, could include the following points.

The whatWhat do they want to achieve in the team over the review period? This can be thought of in the short term and could cover the next few years and how each review period feeds into the longer-term goals.
Outputs and OutcomesWhat is the difference between these two? An output is a specific deliverable or process to achieve. While an outcome is more the difference, this output achievement will bring. Splitting the discussion into outputs and outcomes will help achieve a better understanding and buy-in to the individual and team goals.
MotivationWe then need to get into the motivations behind these outputs and outcomes. So what are the main reasons these outputs and outcomes are essential to the team member? These are often a mix of personal satisfaction, skill set development, experience for the cv, or even an area they are particularly excited about.
SuccessWhat would success look like for the team member? The more detail that they can add to the “picture” of success, the plans to achieve can be much more specific.
FailureFailure is not a word we would typically associate with this goal-setting process. However, what we are more interested in at this point are the personal consequences of not achieving the goals set. These could be personal satisfaction at work, possible financial impacts, promotion in the team, or other parts of the business.

A great quote from Tony Robbins is, “setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible”. It highlights how important setting a good foundation or framework is in an effective coaching process.

personal growth and development in the workplace

What are Reality Type Questions?

So once the goals are set, an assessment needs to be made of the current reality. You and the team member need to build an accurate picture of where they are in relation to what they want to achieve. The more precise this picture, the better the decisions are going forward in what needs to happen next. So don’t skimp on this step and get into the options. If the picture of reality described is accurate, the options will be a better fit to help them get to the new goals. But if we don’t have an accurate and fair picture of where they are, the options could be well off, leading to frustration and disappointment down the line.

These types of questions that will help in this discussion should include the points from the table below.

BarriersWhat is currently preventing the team member from achieving their goals? These should include both internal and external factors. For example, training may have been available, but they didn’t take it due to workload. Or they didn’t take it because of a lack of confidence.
What is workingWhat have they tried so far, and how successful have these approaches been? This could be what have they tried to manage their workload better so they could attend the training? Or is there a specific knowledge gap that, once filled, they felt more confident to participate in the training?
What didn’t workWhat else have they tried, and how did those approaches work towards achieving their goals at that time? Perhaps the approaches weren’t appropriate to the goals? Or maybe the goals we not aligned to the opportunities available from their current position. Going from a junior analysis to the CEO is possible, but no approach will make that happen in the short term.
PrioritiesWhat are the three most important issues the team member faces right now? Are these priorities in line with the goals we have now set? Do these priories need to change, and what help might they need to achieve this?
Help and HindranceAnd the final reality question is how is their current situation helping or hindering them in the goals they want to achieve? Might the hindrance be the type of work they have been assigned? The workload expected and deadlines to achieve.

Once we have the goals set up and a good check on the team members current situation, we now move on with the options generation.

What Are Options Type Questions?

The Reality questions provide you with an assessment of needs to be addressed and what has worked and not worked in the past. Now the Options questions provide you with an opportunity to explore the direction to head into next. These questions would include:

No constraintsAsk the team member if their time, money and or other resources were unlimited; what could they try? What other options would open up to them? This is an excellent way of testing if these constraints or barriers are as strong as they think they might be.
Change in shoesFrom a different perspective, problems can look different, and options appear that were not clear before. So if person X was in their shoes, what might they do? What advice might they provide person x if they sought it?
Looking forwardNow that a different light has been brought to bear on the issues, with new options coming into focus, what ideas do they have about moving forward? Perhaps some new options will achieve even better results or are much simpler than what was in view before?
Glass half emptyHaving some options now laid out, an approach that can help explore them more fully is to ask what would make the situation worse for you if you did option A or B etc. Reverse everything they come up with and see if that helps to change their approach.
Other resourcesIn our option generation stage, the last step could be to look at how others could help with different or more information in specific options. There could be other team members, people outside the team (often beneficial) where new insights can help see problems and opportunities in a different light.

The team member knows the goals they are after, where they currently sit and a range of options to get them from A to B. We now turn to the Will questions.

What are Will type questions?

With the Options now set out, the final step is to address the Will questions. Or, in other words, the motivation that will drive the changes needed. This discussion would include questions like:

MotivationWe need to do a motivation check – where are they right now to go and do the things discussed? If the motivation is not clear, something has been missed along the process. It could be a problem with the options, or perhaps their reality is a bigger problem than thought? Or, having worked along the process, the initial goals initially setup need to be re-visited.
BarriersBecause of the stage we are now at, we need to check on barriers that could trip the team member up before they even get started. So ask what could stop them from taking the next step and how this be addressed?
Next two stepsIf the motivation is in place and initial barriers are addressed, we need to move onto some actions. So what two things are they going to do now to move forward? Be as specific as possible.
AccountabilityAs we have specific actions that can take place, we need to start building an accountability process in moving these forward. This will include the what, when and how of the actions agreed in the steps identified. Don’t overlook the “how” part of this. This might throw a few things, perhaps some barriers, that have not been thought of.
Contingency planningWe want a plan that gives the team member the best chance of success. A critical part of this planning is to have actions in place if things don’t go according to plan – and some things won’t. We can’t think of all the things that can go wrong, but some will be obvious, and a “plan B” needs to be in place to help mitigate all the wheels coming off the cart.

As they say, without WILL, there is no responsibility or action. 

Periodic Reviews

Periodically review the team’s effectiveness with the whole team, including growth, learning and development. Using a Career Development Discussion to get individuals to focus on their role and how it fits their immediate team can be very effective. In particular, it can help focus on where the next steps are for their career.

Balancing Needs

Try to balance the needs of the team, task and individual. John Adair’s model of action set out in his book John Adair’s 100 Greatest Ideas for Effective Leadership and Management suggests that too little attention on the team’s growth and learning leads to low morale and an unsupportive environment in which mistakes are needlessly made. Too much, on the other hand, leads to an easy-going atmosphere in which there are many meetings but few decisions, little challenge, and frustration from talented individuals about the lack of progress and new ideas. 

Additional Reading

We trust you have found this guide helpful for information on the importance of personal growth and development in the workplace. This article forms part of our series on how different team structures operate in the workplace. In the series, we look at the many factors that go into how teams function and, more importantly, to become more effective in delivering business goals.

If you would like to read further in this area, you may be interested in following this link, effective teams in the workplace, that will take you through to all our articles in the series.

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