What is self-development?
This is the question that every organisation is seeking answers for. Every organisation that wants to grow also wants its employees to continually develop, learn, and improve over time. But many people still fail to understand that for meaningful development to occur, there must also be meaningful change in the individual.
In episode 3 of The Secret Sauce we talk to Khun Jeed (Patamawalai Ratanapol), Minor Food’s Chief People Officer, to hear about her secret sauce on the topic of change and development.
Development = Change
On a personal level, development always entails change.
Let’s say someone goes on a supplementary training or education course, and they are able to take one or two things from that course and apply them so that they change themselves for the better. If by applying those one or two takeaways, they change their mindset, their lifestyle, or the way they work for the better, then they have succeeded in personally developing to the next level.
On the other hand, someone could undergo additional training or attend an educational course, and they may feel good about it while they’re there. But if they fail to apply it in their work, then all they’ve effectively done is listen to somebody speak for a long time.
Why is self development important?
We are in the age of disruption, and one thing that’s very clear about it is that previous experience is no longer a reliable indicator of the future. Therefore, change means getting out of your comfort zone. The people who will make it in this environment are those who dare, those who act on their desires, and those who can adapt themselves without being told to.
At Minor, for example, we used to allow 3-5 years for employees to conduct experimental projects. But now we have hackathons - a startup methodology - where the project must be delivered within 72 hours.
Putting what you learn into practice
When we conduct a personal assessment of an individual, three areas in which they need to improve are identified. Their manager and team should be thinking about the changes that they want to see in this particular team member, not which courses to send them on.
You can’t just teach or do something once and call that training. I’m often invited to conduct training events as a speaker or a coach, where people pay to attend.
I always say to them, “There’s no way that you’re going to use every single thing that we talk about here. But after this class ends and you go back to face your work, please do get in touch with me to discuss how you can use what I teach to solve your problems. I owe it to everyone who is paying to listen to me.” But sadly, I know I will never hear from most of them again, and the people who do get in touch usually disappear after contacting me a couple of times at most. It’s a shame because they’re missing out on the opportunity to be coached through the challenges that they can take action on.
The desire to learn is a weapon
To learn effectively, we must first set the right goals and understand our career path. If we don’t know these two things we will not understand why we’re even supposed to learn.
For example, an accountant at Minor might requests English language lessons, citing that they want to be able to personally communicate with the many foreign employees at Minor. I would tell them that I will approve the request on condition that they work at our Khaosan Road branch of Burger King every Friday, so that put what they learn into action. More often than not, they withdraw the request with plenty of excuses. In order to effectively learn, you have to know why you are learning.
Understanding how you learn
There are many different styles of learning. Some like to study from literature written on the subject, some learn well through group discussions, while some might prefer to pose questions and learn via practical experimentation.
If you want employees to understand how they really learn, you have to let them try new things, and allow them to be honest with themselves about whether or not they enjoy what they do. Take me, for example: I used to really dislike reading, basically because I hated being forced to read. But realised that I was probably missing out on something, so I started reading visual novels, and then I moved on to reading books that were collections of quotes, until I finally became comfortable with reading entire tomes that were full of nothing but text.
But whatever your style of learning is, you need to get good at note-taking. This is how you develop the skill of identifying the points that are most salient to you. An easy way to remember is, “eyes see, ears listen, hand writes.” You need to do whatever you need to do to ensure that what you learn will be used later on.
Self improvement in a nutshell
1. Don’t learn from your point of view (you already know what you think!). Learn from the feedback given to you by others.
2. Measure your learning effectiveness by the success that you achieve with what you learn.
3. Find an inspirational role model, study the principles behind the way they think and how they work, and apply those principles to your own work.
4. Unlearn what doesn’t work, and overhaul your existing knowledge and assumptions. Take what you’ve used or relied upon over the past three years and consider whether it is really best or necessary to continue doing things that way.
5. What is guaranteed to never happen is gaining new knowledge and learning without any effort on your part.
6. Understand how to use digital technologies. Not just the tools that you have to use at work, but also learn about other tools or programs that can be brought to good use in your work.