The most influential mentor I’ve ever had changed my outlook on success in just three words: Grow. Past. Me. I had never encountered a leader that was so focused on developing successors who would potentially “outgrow” him or her. All too often, I think we approach collaboration and mentorship with a “survival of the fittest” mentality instead, seeing the pie as a limited size. If the pie can’t grow, then adding more diners will only shrink my piece. This mindset leads to an unhealthy view of personal and professional growth & development.
In an October 2014 blog post, Wall Street Journal Bestselling author, Joshua Becker, summarized this shift in paradigm by saying, “Our most lasting and fulfilling achievements are earned by helping others fulfill theirs.” I agree with Becker. There is no opportunity cost to helping another person succeed. Investing in someone else’s growth and development in no way impedes my own. In fact, in my experience, it has the opposite effect. As someone who leads with Learner and Input, I am always challenging myself to find a takeaway or lesson from every person I meet. My mentoring experiences, whether I’ve been the mentor or the mentored, have been mutually beneficial.
This same phenomenon applies in the workplace. As managers and organizational leaders, we must be willing to let our people outgrow us. If not, we have shot ourselves in the foot from the day they walk through the door. In Gallup’s most recent research on millennials in the workplace, the statistics show that 87% of millennials say development is important in a job. “Millennials fundamentally think about jobs as opportunities to learn and grow. Their strong desire for development is, perhaps, the greatest differentiator between them and all other generations in the workplace.” As a millennial, the first question I would ask at the end of a job interview early in my career would always be, what opportunities for growth and development do this job and this workplace offer?
So with evidence and experience pointing to the benefits of developing other people, why are there still stagnant workplaces that seem to discourage personal and professional growth? Fear. The survival mentality mentioned in the beginning of this post limits our ability to see past the here and now, putting us in a position of CYA (cover your human assets!).
I challenge you to think about your own mindset. Is it one of defense or one that believes adding more diners only grows the pie?
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