A case for a personal development approach
As a coach, leader or mentor we’re often working with people’s goals and objectives. It may be our job to help them figure out where they are going and how they can get there.
An easy, automatic or obvious approach is to ask questions like:
- What will help you get there?
- What obstacles do you need to overcome?
- What will you do?
These are all fine questions. But if the person has been avoiding taking action or they just haven’t made progress on a goal, these questions might not lead to any next steps at all.
If the person doesn’t know the answers to those questions, they may need some kind of input – which can come from you or perhaps a subject matter expert.
But often they know exactly what they need to do; they just don’t know how or they’re procrastinating. Or they might lack motivation or don’t feel confident enough to go for it. This is where personal development comes in.
What is personal development?
It isn’t usually about walking across hot coals or doing a trust fall or taking some other dramatic action. And just because we call it “personal” development, it doesn’t mean asking people about their private lives.
Personal development is an approach that helps people shift their thinking, beliefs, habits and ways of interacting with the world. We set the task or goal aside for the moment and consider HOW they are approaching their task or goal.
To borrow an old phrase, investing in personal development is like the difference between giving a hungry person a fish and teaching them to fish. It takes longer to teach them how than to hand them a fish; but their new knowledge of how to fish could feed them for a lifetime.
The investment of time may feel like a distraction; indeed it is a side step on the way to the goal. But it’s an important side-step because it helps the person make some fundamental shifts in their internal world. This approach will create more sustainable solutions and next steps and it will equip them to manage future challenges as well as the one in front of them.
Here are some tips you can use to pursue a personal development approach
Often the hardest part of this work is getting started. Here are a few ideas for how to open that door:
As you discuss a goal or challenge with someone, instead of asking action-oriented questions, try one of these approaches:
- Where does your mind go when you think about this goal/challenge?
- What are you telling yourself about your ability to manage this?
- How confident are you?
- What do you not give yourself permission for?
Each of those opens a door to an internal conversation. These questions reveal internal thinking which you can help them change. Then you can help them shift to a new attitude or way of thinking which can change everything else. New thinking can lead to the motivation and confidence they need to move forward.
For me, this is what coaching is all about. It’s also a key skill for leaders and mentors.Dream big! But don’t get attached?Embrace uncertainty!