constantly growing

The lotus flower is an ancient and widely used symbol for growth and beauty blossoming from the mud. It’s an example of drawing new life and beautiful growth from decay.

My last post asked are you green and growing or ripe and rotting? Sometimes it’s not easy to recognize the symptoms of slow decay. We can easily get old rather than grow old.

Here’s a quick check-up from the neck up, along with suggestions to help you grow for it.

Time to Change Your Time?

Symptom: Working crazy hours 
Paradoxically, people who work harder often get less done. Less-effective people are swept away on a tidal wave of trivial urgencies and busyness. They race around putting out multiple fires with little thought to fire prevention. Like painting a building with a toothbrush, they’re crazy-busy using the wrong approach.

Prescription: Time for R & R (Reflection and Renewal)
Take a timeout to assess how you’re using your time. Step back periodically to reflect on whether your frenzied pace is really getting you where you want to go. Keep a time log or take a hard look back at your calendar. How are you using your time? Do you get dragged into minor activities that others could handle? Is multitasking and constant interruptions fragmenting your attention and limiting your ability to concentrate on important tasks or projects? Are you leveraging your time?

Do You See What I See?

Symptom: Ignorance is (short-term) bliss
People with stunted growth often believe they are much more effective than others think they are. Their insecurity means they won’t seek critical feedback on their own performance or personal behavior. Their “circle of delusion” is completed by being unapproachable with criticism or suggestions. This leads to a belief that they’re doing well because no one is telling them otherwise.

Prescription: Unfiltered Feedback
Get formal or more structured feedback to pinpoint your blinking blue dot. An HR professional, professionally trained coach, or trusted mentor can help you interpret the results and build a strengths-based personal development plan. It’s also a great idea to take the summarized results back to the people who completed the survey for further clarification and improvement or action ideas.

You can get Informal feedback through external coaches, reverse performance appraisals, facilitated focus groups, meeting reflections, project reviews, anonymous online surveys, external assessments, informal networking, moose hunting, and so on.

Technical Tunnel Vision

Symptom: I, robot
Many professionals are hired for their technical abilities, promoted for their management abilities, and then derailed, passed over, or even fired for their lack of people skills. Leaders stuck in the muck of the technical growth trap fail to realize just how critical emotional intelligence skills are to influence, co-ordinate, lead teams, and the like.

Prescription: Strengthen your Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence research shows that up to two-thirds of a manager or professional’s success depends on their ability to understand and manage themselves and their own emotions, read the emotional tone of others, and build strong relationships. These “soft skills” produce hard results.

A legend in your own mind?

Symptom: The failure of success
When an organization is growing, many people’s roles and careers grow because they are in the right place at the right time. It’s easy to believe that their success reflects their skills and effectiveness. The longer this goes on, the greater the danger that skills will ossify: Why change and grow when what I’ve been doing has been working so well? But when the circumstances change or new challenges arise, that lack of personal growth and skill development can lead to a rude wakeup call and plummeting career satisfaction.

Prescription: Self-assessment
Periodically zoom out to look at your successes and failures. Which ones were due to lucky or unlucky circumstances? Did your successes come from alignment of the circumstances with your strengths? Do you know what your top five strengths are? Do you have any fatal flaws impeding your effectiveness? Through feedback mechanisms, personal reflections, and expanding emotional intelligence, match your strengths and weaknesses to career opportunities that come along. Or with that self-knowledge, pursue or create the opportunities that play to your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.

Take This Job and Love It

Symptom: Take this job…
There are few truly dead-end jobs. But there’s lots of dead-end thinking. Many high-growth people bent on building a career started with a low-level job considered to have bleak prospects for growth. A common excuse for someone with stunted personal growth is that there aren’t any opportunities for them to grow. It’s very easy to play the victim and wait for someone else to open those career doors. But the lock is on the inside.

Prescription: …and reshape it.
Describe your ideal job. What would you be responsible for? What kinds of achievements would give a deep sense of satisfaction and achievement? Outline a typical day when you’re “in the flow” and time flies by — your leadership sweet spot.

Now, look around your organization. Does this job currently exist? If so, what skills, experiences, and accomplishments do you need to get there. If not, do you have a reasonable chance of creating the job? Can you align your perfect job with a recognized need in your organization? Or…do you need to look elsewhere to find or create your ideal job?

At various ages and stages of our careers — and life — we’ll all experienced periods of frustration, confusion, and stagnation. Whether those times of feeling stuck in the muck become ones of self-discovery, new directions, and fresh beginnings or staging points for a downward spiral depends heavily upon our personal growth.