Grow from the inside out

Winter’s over, so we felt it necessary to kick off a blog post about personal growth in the workplace with a skiing analogy. If you’ve never been skiing, feel free to swap out “skis” with an outdoor activity of your choice. Other than sitting on the patio drinking beers, that won’t really work. Let’s get back on track though.

Take two relative newcomers to the sport. They’ve got the basic fundamentals down, know how to turn, stop, and generally do a good job of not killing themselves. But then they take two diverging choices going forward: skier A, we’ll call her Sally, decides to try things outside of her comfort zone, runs that are scary and a little beyond her ability but give her something to work on. Skier B, who we’ll just call Anna for fun, decides to play it safe on the runs he knows he can handle.


They’ll both improve because the practice can make perfect.

Anna will get better at she turns, and be more comfortable about getting down the intermediate runs hse’s been on faster. But after awhile, it might start to get boring, it’ll be too easy. Maybe she starts challenging herself more, maybe she just decides she’s over it and moves on to another pastime.

Sally, on the other hand, has some pretty spectacular wipeouts and definitely struggles from time to time. But one day she realizes she just bombed down three straight double blacks without thinking twice, she falls head over heels in love with the sport and keeps seeking out new challenges. She’ll go down the easier runs with Anna sometimes, and she notices his improvement, but she’s amazed by how good she is now.


Think of work as the runs on the mountain.

Just as in everything we do in life, the most important thing most people are looking for in a job is opportunities for personal growth. To take on new challenges, to get better at various skill sets, to feel genuinely accomplished when completing tasks, not just happy they’re done with.The main point in life is to keep growing, to experience the new, to better oneself and continuously find meaning – people need to also get that from their jobs to stay satisfied.CLICK TO TWEET

When people feel this in a genuine way, they’re more motivated, more engaged with the various tasks and projects at hand. We’ve gone over how important employee engagement is in a previous post if you want to check it out. In turn, the motivation and growth of each individual in a company will naturally create the same phenomena for the company as a whole, completely organically.


An easy part is the challenge.

That is, encouraging people to be challenging. Not in an abrasive or confrontational manner, but in the way those famous old dudes from Greece’s heyday did it. You know, the good ol’ socratic method. Looking at projects from all angles, with different people from different corners all providing their unique perspectives until the best course of action is landed on.

This helps stop you from falling into the trap of routine, as that’s when things can stagnate, sputter out or simply go splat when they’re done. It’s when employees eyes start wandering elsewhere. It’s a little counterintuitive, but challenging people (to a reasonable extent) is a great way to keep them happy, as they feel more rewarded when they’re able to accomplish their tasks in new ways.


Remember work is part of life. Not all of it.

We know, we know. It’s so common it’s a cliche by now, and we’ve touched on it before. So we won’t dwell. But make sure people can enjoy their outside passions. Because you never know when those may come full circle to help a project in an unexpected way. Everything we do informs, well, everything we do. So it’s in everybody’s best interests to stay well rounded, so they have a broader array of influences to draw from in every project they work on.

It can actually be harmful for people to 100% to what their company’s doing. When you’re too wrapped up in what you’re doing, it can be easy to lose sight of what the outside world, most importantly a potential customer, thinks. Ensuring employees have the opportunity to lead well-rounded lives ensures they’re able to keep things in perspective.


Try the Anti-Assignment Method

Many companies have begun encouraging employees to take some time during their work weeks to pursue passion projects. Google’s probably the most famous example and sometimes credited with starting the trend. Many of their most essential projects came out of their lauded “Google 20” program, which encourages employees to work on things outside of their assignments 20% of the time they’re in the office. The results speak for themselves: Gmail, Adsense, and Google Maps are just a few of the services that came out as a result.


Invest in the future

Contrary to popular belief, we’ve seen 12-year-old dogs learn how to roll over. So not that we’re calling anybody elderly, but there’s always room to learn more. In doing so hidden talents and passions can be discovered, and worst case scenario you get another person trained in multiple fields.

Consider investing in education programs – these days there are millions of options to choose from. From helping people pursue advanced degrees in night classes, to providing online access to tools like Lynda or Code School. Better yet? Start one of your own, allowing people across disciplines to teach one another their skills. After all, teaching is the best way to strengthen your knowledge of anything.


Practice what ya preach

Your role may be the office manager, but that should never limit you in any capacity. You should feel just as inspired and engaged as the people you’re in charge of. Find ways to keep growing yourself, be it any, all, or none of the ways covered above. Because if you’re not experiencing personal growth, how are you going to help your team accomplish that?


Growing up can be fun.

Enjoy Growing Up.

For some reason, the notion of “growing up” can have negative connotations to some. That in doing so you have to be serious, to give up fun. But as we all learn, sure, there may be more responsibilities in adulthood, but there’s also more freedom. More possibility to find and pursue different passions.

So embrace that in the office. Celebrate the ways the people you’re working with are growing, and if they don’t feel like they have that opportunity talk to them to figure out how you can help start making it happen. When people are getting the opportunities to grow, to be challenged and heard, it comes surprisingly naturally. Creating an environment where everybody’s on the same team rather than jostling amongst the office to be heard.

And when you’re always growing, there’s no telling where you’ll end up going.