Many people and organizations reflexively equate growth with advancement. As we evolve our approaches to designing and leading organizations, and as the humans in those organizations begin to take more ownership of their own careers and experiences, it’s worth revisiting what growth really means in our modern world.
Why is this so important? Because when we apply a fresh and shared definition of growth, we can create an ecosystem that supports and fuels growth for ourselves, those around us, and the teams and groups to which we belong.
Growth: a people-centric definition
My copy-editor husband would be the first to point out that, technically speaking, growth refers to an increase in physical size, whereas development is the acquisition of skills. Of course, these words take on nuanced meanings depending on whether we’re talking about a child, an economy, or your team. When it comes to us “people people,” especially those of us who have enthusiastically adopted the idea of a growth mindset, I suggest that we should collectively define growth as the process by which we increase value.
Increasing our value may result in advancement and more money in our bank account. Yet growth can, and should, mean an increase in our intrinsic value to the organization we work for, the clients or customers we serve, the people we work and live with, and even how we value ourselves. For example, if my own growth means I can commute to work without getting frustrated by the traffic, that’s of value to me – even if starting my day in a better mood goes unnoticed by anyone else.
If you agree that our people-centric definition of growth is all about increasing value, then here are some additional attributes of growth worth noting before we explore it further:
- is continuous but not linear
- has infinite possibilities
- varies from person to person, team to team, and situation to situation
- brings change
- creates opportunity
- begets more growth
- is a product of the environment and the individual
Growth = Goodness
Looking at that list, it’s easy to recognize that growth is goodness. It produces multiple benefits for all involved. Healthy teams grow together. Strong leaders focus on their growth, the growth of individuals, and their collective teams. And leading organizations adopt habits and practices that support and encourage continuous growth. These growth-oriented actions are the “super fuel” that increases the value of organizations – and the individuals who comprise it.
Make your Growth Plan for 2021
So here we are in early days of 2021: Our world remains, for the moment, in a state of unprecedented disruption. Question marks loom as to how we’ll exit this crisis, and what the long-term effects of this pandemic will be. And yet, despite all this uncertainty, there is one thing you can confidently rely on: growth! Growth in any environment will create value. So, what’s your plan?
As you map out how you will focus on growth in 2021, here are a few prompts to get you started:
Because growth... is continuous but not linear:
- Ask yourself: What progress did you make in 2020? First, take a moment to celebrate that progress! Now, how will you continue in 2021?
For those around you: What progress did you witness in others? First, share with them what you’ve witnessed. Don’t leave the conversation without asking them how you can help them grow in 2021.
Because growth... has infinite possibilities:
- Ask yourself: What’s your ultimate aspiration, dream, or hope? What actions can you take this year to grow in that direction?
- For those around you: Is there someone in your ecosystem that has potential they themselves are not seeing? Tell them, and help them make a plan to reach their full potential!
Because growth... varies person to person, team to team, and situation to situation:
- Ask yourself: What should growth look like in 2021 for the teams you support? How will you help make it happen?
- For those around you: Are you locked into a preconceived view of someone? Check in and reset if need be. What can you do to help them make real progress?
Because growth... brings change:
- Ask yourself: Is there something you are hoping to change? What type of growth is needed to bring it to life?
- For those around you: What changes in your ecosystem are needed to create better outcomes? Are there new skills or habits that will make it happen?
Because growth... is a product of the environment and the individual:
- Ask yourself: We’ve been talking about your plan. Now take a moment and consider the environment. Is it set up to nurture growth? If not, what can you change to create a better environment for growth?
- For those around you: How are you influencing the environment that others are experiencing? Is it supporting and fueling growth? What more can you do to create a healthy and safe culture that enables growth?
Every day is an opportunity for you to grow – and help others grow. Block out the noise, the disruptions, and the distractions – and a make a growth plan for 2021. Your future self – a higher-value self – will thank you.
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