I recently read an article in the Huffington Post called “The Link Between Personal Development and Professional Success.”
The title piqued my interest. Although I KNOW that the former influences the latter, I have yet to see an article that makes a convincing case for that cause-and-effect dynamic.
The Huff Post article had suggestions for how to move forward on the personal growth side and it also suggested some core work habits that support professional success. The suggestions are certainly good ones.
But I can’t really say that the article actually makes the case that personal development actually leads directly to professional success. Or that certain kinds of personal growth positively impact people’s professional success.
So I thought I’d give you my perspective in this.
Certainly in my field, coaching, the connection is very direct. MOST of the dynamics I coach other people about are dynamics I have worked on in my own life and often continue to work on. This not only supports my credibility with clients, it also ensures my own level of compassion for them.
When I recommend that a client get professional help with a difficult teenage daughter, well I’ve been there, have gotten professional help, and my daughters and our family made it through adolescence intact. When I help a client find effective language for a difficult conversation with someone at work or a family member, well I’ve had my share of difficult conversations and learned a few things in the process, so I have great compassion for them in their discomfort and I know the courage it takes to be truthful. I also know the enormous value in finding neutral language to express it. There is always a neutral way to express something – there is never a need to throw stones or to give someone stones to throw at you.
I believe what’s true for coaches also applies to therapists, counselors, social workers and other people providing direct service to people. It’s useful to have had experience growing through the kinds of challenges that your clients are facing.
And to a great extent, I would say this also applies to anyone in leadership or management. If you’ve done some work on yourself, then you’re likely to have a much more nuanced understanding of the enormous range of life experiences any of your team members might be in the midst of. You are more likely to see your people as the complex individuals they are and your effectiveness in working with them is that much more enhanced.
But I think the greater impact of personal growth work on professional success pertains to how people manage themselves.
Have you ever worked with someone who had anger management issues? Or a boss who was a blamer? How about someone on your team who’s generally pleasant enough but occasionally explodes with anger or resentment? Or a manager who never, ever acknowledges the commitment and contribution of the team, but instead always demands more? How effective are these folks in their work? Probably nowhere nearly as effective as they could be.
Now think about some of the best people you’ve ever worked with. Here are a few of mine.
- A manager who held regular meetings with project staff, during which we were all updated on how things were going. He always encouraged us to let him know as soon as we saw any kind of glitch on the horizon – so with his help we could solve it before it erupted. There was never any blame or shame – just timely help and real partnership.
- A boss who was absolutely brilliant at “Central Casting.” She assembled a team of 6 people to head up the 6 main functions of a new company-wide project. She found 6 amazing people and gave each the perfect role. As each person’s aspect of the project become primary, she became everyone’s boss for that period of time. The roles she assigned were appropriate stretches for each person and gave each person the chance to shine and lead.
- An administrative assistant who loves assisting. She has great ideas for tasks she can take off her boss’s plate. She works cheerfully and hard to be a great behind-the-scenes engine, and she is very successful at it.
I’m sure that every one of these successful people did some “work on themselves” in order to have developed such an effective way of working with people. Any one of these successful people could have started out in the category of really difficult people to work with, but through the personal growth work they did, they resolved their most abrasive and difficult qualities, learned more effective ways of managing themselves, and discovered and brought forward their most natural gifts, talents, and inclinations.
Ask anyone you know who has done personal growth work either through seminars, therapy, coaching, self-study, or some other way – what they learned from it and how it affected their professional life. I bet you’ll be impressed.