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“We cannot become what we want to be by remaining who we are”. Max DePree

Organizations are hyper-focused on writing their growth story. Growth is the ultimate objective. But the organization is not an amorphous concept. It is a structure that is run by the power generated by the employees. Organizational innovation is directly proportional to the “bandwidth” to innovate, which is based on employee initiative. That’s why employee growth and organizational growth are deeply interlinked.

Growth is essential for survival – Challenges are essential for growth

Growth is, in fact, inevitable. Look at software development methodologies – waterfall grew to agile, agile grew to DevOps, and this trend of evolutionary growth continues. Those who don’t grow are left behind.

Change is now constant – Growth is in focus especially as we seek the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. The pandemic has shaken all assumptions and the world of work is experiencing untold disruption and yet, that opens up opportunities as well. The ability to see these opportunities is central to being growth-focused.

Technology is evolving – Technology evolution is a by-product of the times we live in. Futuristic technologies become mainstream every day and the shelf life of technologies is becoming shorter. The only way to capitalize on new trends is to get out of the comfort zone and the built-up technology bias to start exploring opportunities to grow.

Developing the leadership pipeline with high-value employees is an organization imperative – Organizations need to be that parent that identifies the potential of the child even before they identify it themselves. They must know how much further to push the individual. They must figure out which situation or project to put them in where they are compelled to explore their capabilities, identify what is missing, and become creative problem-solvers. This is the surest way to power up your leadership pipeline with high-potential employees who will eventually drive business success.

Changing workplace demographics – Organizations also need to think about challenging their employees now because there’s a completely new generation at work. Millennials now form the majority of the workforce. Super-ambitious and prone to getting bored easily, this demographic will rate your employee experience only if they get challenges to navigate and the accompanying growth opportunities. This generation has been asking ‘why’ all their lives and wants career maps always pointing upward. The absence of challenges will prove demotivating and drive disengagement. Identifying high-potential millennials employees and keeping them motivated by providing them with the right set of challenges or giving them opportunities to challenge themselves thus become essential.

How to challenge people to challenge themselves?

Challenging employees the right way to help them reach their full potential can be a tricky game. You need to give them the opportunity to grow and correct their deficits but without demoralizing them. You have to push them, but not so much that they get pushed to the door.

Drive the Pygmalion effect

The Pygmalion effect states that the power of expectations cannot be overestimated. Conscious or unconscious, these expectations impact the productivity of the employees and influence their desire to meet performance expectations and be better. This effect has been proven in settings from the classroom to corporations.

Leadership thus has to use their power of words to motivate and influence others on how to view themselves. Expressing belief in your employees, focusing on helping them set higher expectations of themselves, and communicating why you see them succeeding even in the face of tough problems/challenges/projects, etc. helps them set higher expectations of themselves.

However, when communicating the same, it is essential to also express as to why you feel the employee can do XYZ things more. Don’t leave anything to the imagination here. Show them ‘why’ you feel they can achieve what you feel they can.

Identify complacency and challenge it

As human beings, we naturally gravitate towards things we are good at. You’ll hardly ever say “hey, I suck at this. Let me do this”. However, being focused only on what we do best leads us to become comfortable. And this comfort can be the death knell of creativity, imagination, and innovation. Here lies atrophy.

Organizations should constantly be on the lookout for when their employees are getting comfortable. They need to actively lookout for projects and roles to help employees increase their professional repertoire, give them opportunities to explore, and to take risks.

Treat failure as a learning process

People begin to take risks, they begin to challenge themselves when there is no fear of failure. While organizations should drive ownership and accountability, they have to remove the stigma of failure from their assessments completely.

Failure, no matter how brilliant or accomplished the individual is inevitable. Everyone fails at some point in their professional careers. However, organizations that make their employees feel that they’ve got their back, discuss failure as a learning opportunity, and are not overly-critical turn failure into a growth opportunity.

Organizations that help their employees internalize that they view failure as a necessary part of innovation and growth end up having employees who do not crumble in the face of challenges. If anything challenges help them thrive.

Drive the growth-mindset

The growth mindset, a trait most entrepreneurs endorse, is a way of thinking that places process over innate intelligence. This helps in creating a motivated and driven workforce. Ability or talent can only be useful when people are more resilient, and not fearful of challenges.

Recognizing employee strengths, their abilities, and the efforts and strategies that make them successful and also showing them where they can grow and create more value help in creating a ‘growth mindset’. These people then naturally become focused on self-growth and seek out challenges that will fuel their growth story.

Whether you are an organization or an individual, ‘growth’ is something that everyone is looking for. However, we tend to confuse ‘change’ with growth. We feel if our job role has changed, we have grown. But is that what growth is in its all-encompassing self? Growth has to be linked with not just a change in the role but has to be about the personal exploration by the employees of the traits and. If we want to create a dream workforce, I believe, this is where leaders should focus on.