We’ve been working on a proposal this week for a new client, and as part of this process, I have been doing a lot of background reading and research into personal growth. I find this an incredibly interesting subject, and while designing a tailored programme for the client, I thought I would share my reflections of my own personal growth journey on our blog.
You Don't Know What You Don't Know
In The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, John C Maxwell discusses areas such as intentionality, awareness, reflection, consistency and curiosity. Looking back over my own growth and development, in the early years I realise now that it was largely unintentional.
After graduating, I worked in a family business and then a large food processing company. I was of the generation where mothers tended to take a long career break, so when my first baby was due, I left work and stayed at home full-time. I only began doing some part-time work from home when my younger daughter was three and returned to work outside the home when she was nine.
Lessons from the Homefront
When I reflect on that time now, I realise that those years at home taught me many practical skills (time management, organisation, budgeting, scheduling). However, more importantly, while I did not realise it at the time, my leadership capacity was being developed, shaped and honed, as I discovered the importance of empathy, diplomacy, resilience, consistency and role modelling.
A recent article in the Washington Post “Makes Going to Work Look Easy Doesn’t It?” discusses the galvanising and formative impact motherhood had on Nancy Pelosi’s life, and how it shaped her career choices. Still working at 78, Nancy Pelosi is the Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives. She describes parenting as “the most exciting, exhausting, important work of her life”. She credits that chapter in her life with making her the leader she is today.
Like personal growth, parenting is not just for Christmas! As your children grow up and become adults, you are still their parent, but your focus shifts, and if you are lucky enough to have grandchildren, that takes your parenting journey in yet another direction.
My own parenting experience is still making a significant impact on my personal growth, albeit in a more intentional and reflective way.
My personal growth also changed to a more intentional form when I began to invest in my career in my early forties. I had found my niche in the voluntary sector, and was at an age and stage where I was able to undertake more formal study, including an MBA, and my role at work also gave me the opportunity to begin leading and mentoring others.
I was very fortunate that my organisation gave me the opportunity to travel internationally, to undertake study tours, attend a huge variety of conferences and events, and meet and interact with literally hundreds of interesting and passionate people. This exposure opened up my thinking and reinforced my creativity. The actual process of travelling was a physical challenge - but doing it frequently, improved my resilience and confidence.
I have always loved poetry and quotations, and on my first transatlantic trip in 2003 I read this unattributed quotation by Samuel Johnson on the pillars of Union Station in Washington DC.
“He that would bring home the wealth of the Indies must carry the wealth of the Indies with him. So it is in travelling. A man must carry knowledge with him if he would bring home knowledge.”
Finding your Potential
John C Maxwell reminds us that “potential” is one of the most important words in any language. One of the things I found most rewarding was helping younger members of my team to see their potential, and it gave me great satisfaction to see them growing and developing. This in turn progressed my own growth, but also made me realise that I had to keep on learning if I was to maintain this momentum.
My current role at The Leader offers plenty of opportunity for me to develop and learn new technical skills, but both Graham and I are consciously and intentionally working each day to improve our knowledge and learning and to reflect on our lived experience. This ensures that when we work with leaders at any age or stage, we can help them become stronger, more resourceful, more accountable, self-empowered and capable of self-directed change.
Below is one of my favourite quotes which I think is fitting for any leader going through a challenging phase in their personal growth journey.
“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”
Theodore Roosevelt (Paris, Sorbonne 1910)
Take Care. Lead Well.