Growth, an integral part of life that we all are inducted into upon being welcomed into this world. Everything grows so growth is an objective constant in our lives whether we like it or not. Growth is a form of change and even if one does not like change and staunchly resists it, the natural course of growth will drive change in one form or another. Growth is a powerful tool that once harnessed can unleash and deliver considerable potential, open doors and carve a path forward.
Consider for example people’s desire to grow from life’s earliest stages. When we are kids we dream of growing up and becoming something we admire; we few those around us that are bigger as lords of the domain, and we want to be masters as well.
Take for instance martial arts. We sign our kids up to learn discipline, control, focus and so on to develop their skills. The practice even lays out a clear ranking system to measure the practitioner’s growth, belt colors. The children excitedly and ambitiously strive to reach each level with the ultimate achievement of the black belt clearly in their gaze. However, do they stop at black? Case by case of course as not all people maintain their interest in the practice. For those who do, they absolutely do not stop; their innate desire to grow and reach a higher level drives them forward and the martial arts rewards their efforts with special higher ranked black belts.
With this example you can easily understand how driven people are to grow, often even when they seemingly don’t want to, the natural course of growth in life wins and the individual grows. What is the key to this growth? There are plenty of well flushed out theories and schools of thought, none perhaps more clear than simply providing the right atmosphere and situation where an individual can grow to their greatest potential. Herein I’d like to present my case for why creating and fostering an environment & culture of growth within your company can be invaluable to your organization and staff.
A Growth Mindset
It all starts with a growth mindset. To create and foster the proper environment, the company culture must possess and encourage a growth mindset. I’d like to go one step further back though to highlight the need for the leaders of the company to instill this mindset into the culture. There is nothing more powerful than people who lead by example, and company leaders are naturally well positioned to begin this domino effect.
A growth mindset within a company is like making a proactive choice for the company to be healthy and put its staff as a priority. As the mindset is intertwined with the company culture, it comes down to an attitude and behavior you want everyone in the organization to exude. Behaviors can be contagious, and positive ones need confirmation and support to continually beat back any encroaching negative ones.
The growth mindset works in conjunction with company goals; simply put, it aligns neatly with success. Remember, reaching a higher black belt rank is a form of success in one’s practice, just as seeing the growth of the employees in your organization adds value and sees the company succeed and grow as a result.
A Support Ecosystem
Support often nowadays gets a bad rap as it conjures images of overly pampered or coddled students or employees who are not hardened and capable of handling tough challenges. Let’s be frank, everyone appreciates having support now and then; at the very least, knowing it’s available in case you need it can set the mind at ease when attempting big challenges and taking risks.
We all learned to ride a bicycle with training wheels, they provided the needed support and delivered confidence when we needed it most. As a result, we mastered that two wheeled machine of death; sorry cyclists, I’m a runner at heart. In the same way it’s important to create a clear support ecosystem within the company so employees know, you’ve got their back.
Obviously, the support system will look different in each company as it is best tailored to your organizational demands and proclivities. No matter the form it takes, an organization that rewards appropriate risk-taking to drive innovation will reap the most benefit. Especially when combined with a strong environment of peer-to-peer learning, coaching and development.
A final point here I’d like to make is tying in Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. Based on his model, we know that having a support system is key for the individual in reaching self-actualization. What that realistically translates to in the workplace is essentially the employee reaching an ever higher black belt rank in their work or specific field; success in its most base form, driving increased value for the company.
We want staff within the company to be motivated, beyond the standard fulfillment of their base needs. Of course, people are motivated to work for their salary to provide for their lives. However, this is antithetical to the growth mindset; like phoning it in when you just really don’t care. Therefore, tapping into or activating deeper intrinsic motivations is necessary to activate the growth mindset.
How do we do this? Well a good place to start is by providing them with the resources they need to succeed. By focusing first on growth and continual learning, employees will tap into their intrinsic motivations, finding more meaning and purpose in their work. Ideally this will lead to them being more engaged and committed to the organization, and more likely to sustainably thrive and produce exceptional results.
The goal is to create a positive atmosphere so everyone can address their vulnerabilities and weak points transparently without fear of reproach or judgment. After all, we all have gaps in our understanding, skills and capabilities; tackling these head on is vital to growing past them. Many people struggle to openly address those gaps at work if they feel afraid of being judged or exposed as having lesser abilities. So the positive environment and atmosphere will have a cascading effect leading to the activation of that which motivates each staff member internally. Nice, right?
A Growth Approach
At Slash we focus on growth and drive; it is what defines our staff. With a growth approach, consistently modeled by our organizational leadership, we begin to see our gaps and limitations as developmental opportunities; rather than obstacles to be avoided. As we address those areas, work collaboratively across functional silos and see our work as iterative experimentations to further learn and grow, we will collectively drive greater, more sustainable personal and organizational success.
Remember, this is the software industry so the fact that you’re dealing with intelligent employees, self-starters and so on only further confirms the need for a companywide growth strategy. Developers more often than not tend to have a strong desire to grow their ability and skills to expand their core expertise. Slash not only acknowledges this, but harnesses to the benefit of all involved. We are excited and invigorated by the hunger our staff have to grow; we share that hunger and respond in kind with the support, strategy and ecosystem to let them thrive to reach new heights.
In summary, I feel it’s good to point out for all those People Operations folks out there just how much the younger generations, especially millennials, hunger for jobs that provide growth through learning and development. From personal experience of years of recruiting, I can confidently report on average 90% of our candidates ask direct questions as to the company’s flexibility and learning opportunities. Listen to what your staff is saying in this regard as the return on investment for the company pays off in spades!
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