BLUF – Positive or negative, growth is constant provided effort, time and opportunity. Interpreting what/ how/ why for individuals/ groups/ functions requires a gardener’s eye to flourish.
Despite my best efforts, there was a dandelion growing in my pavement. For personal reasons, I decline the use of chemical help, preferring the age-old manual method. Considering it and its brethren enemies, I took them on all spring/ summer/ fall. Though the cold has ended any visible life, I’m guessing there is a spark left in the root – it’s likely plotting its triumphant return to take over and break up my century-old pavement. It’s growing to populate my lawn with thousands of little yellow flowers and the bare foot high stalks left behind.
Scott Sonnon once spoke a resonant truth: you are always training. Regardless of what you do or do not do, your body adapts. If you train to do an activity, your body adapts to do said activity: if you sit around most of the time, your body is training to sit around. Adaptation is a requisite part of growth, but there is difference between adjusting to circumstances and actual growth, coming in the form of time and opportunity.
Growth and Time: Time as a constant allows for both consistency (as you have your adaptation on a repetitive cycle, which is how habits are formed) and duration (periods where the primary, if not sole, focus is on the adaptation and their mastery). Adaptation can occur in singular moments, but those are outliers (unless they are epiphanies, a whole different topic) and will not lead to continual growth.
Growth and Opportunity: Opportunity is a funny thing – part recognising the uncovered chance to flexibly execute, but part having the resources and (in some cases) authorisation to do so. People can do amazing things when they are given these chances. However without those offers they either take the DIY path and struggle to carve out growth whilst unsupported, or they wait for their turn to accept the offer. Those who wait will often wait a very long time, as it’s easy to see strength in their current efforts, but challenging to see their valuable facets which are not openly visible.
Growth and Individuals: From an individual standpoint, we are the gods of our little worlds. We grow those worlds, based on what we put into them. Much as we seek to shore up our faults, we question the relative value found in becoming average in most aspects, rather than outstanding in a few. Physical, mental, emotional, spiritual facets (along with well-spent time and adaptive effort) may create opportunities, though only based in areas you control as an individual. For areas outside your span of control, recognise the extent and limitations of your influence and desires in these opportunities. These may be red-oceans in your personal space where your growth may be structurally limited.
Growth as Parents: The growth found as parents or whilst supporting children is two-fold – growing personally as you help your offspring in much the same. Personal stories aside, the focus in case of children is not only provisioning opportunities and time with which to adapt, but using different forms of influence in helping them channel their adaptations. Many times the time required for consistency may be curtailed by areas competing for their attention; the work required for adaptation is at the initial stages. Often enough the notion “something is worth the effort” falls on deaf ears. However, there is also absolute brilliance found when they find direction for their growth.*
Growth in Organisations: As much as we talk of innovation, disruption, and the like, growth in organisations is either very quick (as when we scale based on client demand) or very slow (when we want to shift underlying culture). Everyone within the organisation has value, but seeing where it fits – and when it doesn’t – is a challenging endeavor. How we grow as individuals within an organisation creates interdependencies potentially used for greater good, allowing leadership with the desire and the foresight to take advantage and create further opportunities for the collective. By implementing brilliance found in the people, we are making up a larger in-group to become part of the organisation as a whole (“how?” is for another post). There is more than profit and shareholder value to grow, more than lip service to pay.*
Growth and Boards: No longer a retirement programme, present-day board work requires more growth than ever before. Guidance and challenge in very different markets/ sectors/ foundational elements require more child-like curiosity and vigorous enquiry than was assumed in the past, as boards are increasingly held responsible for what is seen (or more disconcertingly, overlooked). This is made even more difficult with unpaid boards, with embedded understanding the members have time or sufficient means to spend. It is brought to light when reviewing the 610-page board pack in detail, on the off-chance of the organisation being involved in an incident for which they will be held at least partially accountable to stakeholders and the public at large. Never mind the emerging potential threats and associated risks. Our current environment offers growth for a new kind of board director, but you need to pay for talent.
Growth and the role of Leadership: Leadership was referenced several times in this post. Defining the role of leadership in growth (not the growth of leadership, another post entirely) is important. Leadership – whether as a mentor or indirect leader via influence, or as a sponsor more directly involved in the development of others – is a catalyst for growth, but not the cause. A leader’s role is cultivating trust, care, support, and finding chances for the people in their orbit to grow beyond their current role. This is often forgotten. Yes, you are responsible for others who are reliant on you and their output in meeting requirements. However, you are responsible to them, as they trust you.*
Growth and Cyber: And what would one of my posts be without cyber? Cyber and digital space has given organisations new growth opportunities we didn’t comprehend ten years ago. We are still learning what other growth is possible in these spaces – from continental ecosystems to new means to secure assistive technologies. Security moving from a cost centre to becoming part of the P&L will spark another growth area, as will developing a more digestible understanding of cyber risk. Not to mention its role in space.
With so much to come in these spaces, I can’t wait to see who plants the seeds, what we can grow, and which hardy dandelions of ideas persist until broader buy-in is created.
*more to come.