Fostering Personal Growth

By Chris Chittenden

"Only in growth, reform, and change, paradoxically enough, is true security to be found.”

… Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906-2001) US writer

When I am asked about what I aim to help people achieve through my work, there is a simple answer that springs to mind. I help people grow. Now this will invariably have many different meanings for people but for me "personal growth" simply means expanding an individual's capacity to observe from greater and more varied perspectives and synthesise that greater complexity into a better way of being. Even though there is obviously much more behind that statement, it can be said that personal growth means more capacity to deal with greater complexity.

Many organisations spend a lot of money on developing their people and encouraging their personal growth. Despite that investment and their belief in its value, many organisational leaders are unaware of how they then hamstring the personal growth of the people who work for them by reducing their ability to see complexity and asking them to be very focused in their efforts.

An obvious example of this lies in the way key performance indicators are established in an organisation. Most organisations develop performance indicators by rolling them down from the strategic plan through the hierarchy. As most organisations insist on being able to measure each KPI, this often leads to the establishment of very quantitative performance indicators from general managers down to individual employees. The result is the lower in the organisation, the more focused and specific the performance indicator. The idea seems to be that the combination of all of these indicators will generate the desired outcome. The reality in many cases is each individual focuses purely on what they are to be rewarded for doing and lose sight of the context in which they are doing it. The results are often not what are expected.

No doubt many people would say this is simply a matter of poorly designed performance indicators and there may be something in that point of view. However the first casualty as people get busy always seems to be the context of why something is done. If the context is not effectively established and reinforced in the conversations to establish performance indicators, the connection of these indicators to the broader organisational context can be easily lost.

If you want to improve how you create performance indicators then we invite you to consider two key points.

Firstly, make the indicator relevant to what you want people to do. It makes little sense to use specific targets associated with low level actions to reward people in more senior positions who you would expect to focus on organisational dynamics and strategy. Rather, we suggest you establish indicators related to the creation and effectiveness of dynamics and strategy.

Secondly, seek to create performance indicators that have a clear context and relationship to others and ensure each individual understands their connection to the broader organisational context, not just when the indicators are established but throughout the year. You may well help not only your business outcomes but also your people’s growth.

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© 2011 Chris Chittenden