How To: Nurture the Personal Growth of Your People

Only 13 percent of employees are engaged in their work, according to a Gallup poll, and that problem compromises productivity, innovation and profits.

Edgar Papke, a leadership psychologist and author of The Elephant in the Boardroom, says a powerful antidote is personal development for every person in the organization.

“Everything we do is personal and emotionally driven. If you can help people feel competent, significant and appreciated, you are fulfilling their basic human desires, and they become happier and more productive.” Chris Edmonds, consultant with The Purposeful Culture Group and author of The Culture Engine, agrees. “ Too often, leaders see employees as “plug and play” -hire, train and assume they will produce without making any or many demands” Edmonds says.

“Great bosses treat us as valued partners” Personal-development efforts for employees are inexpensive but can lead to huge payoffs. In one case study, Edmonds’ client created and communicated its core values and then held senior leaders accountable for implementing the new cultural standard. Within six months, conflicts, absenteeism, rework and grievances declined 60 percent.

Within a year, efficiency had improved by more than 40 percent.

Ways to make changes in your company culture include:

Purposefully assessing how team members are treated in their daily interactions. “Tweak expectations and behaviors so that everyone is treated with dignity and respect.Ensure people ideas are valued, people’s skills are valued, and people’s joy is valued” Edmonds says.

Becoming a better communicator. “Great leaders are great listeners, and that’s more than just making eye contact”, Papke says.

Ask questions that provoke information and make the other person feel heard and understood.

Allowing job definitions and management chains to change organically. The fewer the layers of management at your company, the more fluid the roles -and the more people are honored for their contributions and less for their formal job titles.

Creating time and space for learning. This may mean allotting a certain number of hours weekly to consume personal-development books and podcasts, or setting an annual time and financial budget for seminars and coursework.

Focusing on the cultivation of personal development among your leaders.“It takes a mind shift or heart shift in senior leaders to redefine their jobs as managing a safe, inspiring, productive work environment” Edmonds says. “Once those leaders do that, amazing things happen. People solve problems they’ve observed for years. People apply discretionary energy to tasks, projects and relationships with peers and customers.

Supporting them no matter what. Do so even if it means their growth will lead them to other organizations.

Sharing the story of your personal growth. Encourage your team to join you in reading a leadership book. Invite the staff to support your favorite charity. Give a presentation about a life experience that informed your own values.