Is it personal or professional?

Why personal development is important for professional development

Are you one of those people who rolls their eyes at the words personal development? Does your mind automatically start imagining images of sad, lost souls at the bookstore searching for all the ways to find themselves?  Well, it shouldn’t. Let me tell you why.

What is personal development

It all depends on how you define “personal development”. To me, personal development is anything you do to develop or improve. It could be your mindset, professional skills, personal skills, environment, physical fitness, stamina, resilience, ability to handle criticism and conflict, communication skills, understanding of other people, work strategies, researching ability, new procedures for treating disorders, learning a new technology…….you get it now, right? I consider personal development to be a blanket term for anything a person can do to improve on some aspect of their personal and/or professional life.

For example, many people probably consider networking as professional development. However, if I want to be better at networking, this is a personal development need that I have that would help me develop professionally. To network, you must understand how to talk to people. In order to talk to people, you must have the confidence to walk up and start a conversation. You also have to learn how to speak clearly, contribute, and take criticism. Our confidence, relationship with criticism, feelings of belonging and being worthy of sharing an opinion, and ability to ask for help are all personal development issues that are necessary for professional development.

Humans need to solve problems

If you think about it simply, most of our days are spent trying to figure things out, getting things done, solving problems, and trying to make sense of it all along the way. It could be anything from figuring out when we’ll squeeze in breakfast to how we are going to keep our sanity when having to work with the public. No matter what your day consists of, we all have the need to solve problems. In my performance improvement course, we learned that you could also consider calling problems “improvement opportunities”. Now, isn’t that nice? The word problem has a way of making us put up our defenses. Nobody wants to think about and talk about problems all day long. But, it feels like most of us respond much better to the word opportunity. The opportunity is how you can improve a situation (aka solving a problem).

What is PI why should you care?

As part of my coursework for Instructional Design, we learned about a field called performance improvement (PI). At its most basic, performance improvement is the process of analyzing a performance problem (opportunity) in an attempt to fully understand the nature of the problem before jumping into trying to solve it. There are many more steps involved, but the point is to analyze the problem and to find the root cause before wasting unproductive time trying things that don’t actually address what is truly wrong. What does this have to do with personal development? I’m glad you asked.

Getting to the bottom of our problem and finding the real place for opportunity

What I am proposing is that we could use performance improvement process thinking for both personal and professional development. We tend to think of professional development and performance problems as being only business and work related. We think of words like sales strategies, public speaking, management, leadership, networking, content creation, marketing, etc. But, personal development issues are just as relevant. They are the beginning and should be acknowledged and pursued with the same structured analysis, truth, interventions, evaluations and persistence. Analysis of personal development problems will most likely lead to insight into a person’s mindset and belief systems, which affects how we perform professionally.

In her book Mindset, Carol Dweck shows how a person’s mindset can be the root of many performance problems and how uncovering this can lead to improved performance all around. Simply understanding or believing that you can improve can change your behavior and lead to more success.

The point it, we don’t spend enough time getting to the bottom of our personal problems. We don’t usually spend the same amount of time analyzing and finding the real root causes when it is personal. And, there is a real possibility that our lack of personal development is affecting our professional development.

Personal development leads to professional development

I am suggesting that we could consider the basic structure of performance improvement analysis for our personal development opportunities. When I think of performance improvement, I don’t just think of work. I think of anything I can do to improve both professionally and personally. By doing that, we can bring our more-developed selves to our organizations and focus on helping them solve problems. If you want to succeed professionally, you have to develop personally.

Resources you may like

Human performance improvement (HPT) and the HPT model

To learn more about Carol Dweck’s years of researching success and mindset:

(this article originally published on LinkedIn)

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