One recent evening, I had a conversation with some young professionals in their late twenties and early thirties. While they represented a variety of personal as well as professional backgrounds, the main theme of the conversation was about their career and outlook. Looking at it from the perspective of talent development, I tempted the group by stating that they may not be able to change what comes at them, however, they always can choose to take control over what they are going to do and how they are going to react. Hence, the magic question:
“What are you going to do to meet your challenges, and how are you going to prepare yourself?”
Talent development is the term that is now in fashion to describe this process. When creating personal development plans, leaders, managers and individuals need to decide what the focus of the development should be to generate the desired outcome. I suggest there to be essentially 4 areas that should be carefully considered:
- Knowledge: Which in practical terms defines WHAT to do.
- Skills: Our skills are about HOW we do what we do.
- Attitude: This one is rather intricate and represents our motivation, basically WHY we do or don’t (want to) do what we are doing.
- Habits: Probably the most important, yet least recognized factor for achieving our goals and creating our successes, personal and professional.
However, both individuals and organizations tend to focus only on the first two, knowledge and skills. These are certainly of great importance and tend to be the most developed in the first place. Our scholastic environment predominantly delivers great value in establishing a strong basis in knowledge and skills. Furthermore, most additional training and development is about the enhancement of the same. I would also claim that traditionally, 80% of hiring decisions are made primarily with these two parameters in mind.
When looking at the reversal of the process, when we must part with employees or associates for reasons other than lack of sufficient work, rarely is it about knowledge and skills. The painful reality is that reasons for firing someone are mostly based on attitude and habits.
Both, our attitudes and our habits are acquired from many sources along our way, some very early in our childhood and some later in life. The important fact is that they are acquired and manifested through conditioning. This also means that they can be altered, and new ones acquired, to meet our individual as well as organizational requirements and goals. A significant part of developing effective leaders is anchored in attitude and habit development.
The main challenge in talent development is the factor of time and effort. Knowledge can be gained quickly, and skills may take more time to practice, but the process of furthering both is fairly straightforward. Attitude is a little trickier, as both keen self-awareness and clear recognition of cause and effect are a prerequisite before one can do something meaningful about it.
Habits have their own set of rules to work with, yet with respect to personal development, habits have the biggest impact of all. Consider the fact that more than 90% of what we do every day, how we act and react, or how we think is habitual. Our habits completely define our behavior, and our behavior is what creates our results. Consequently, when we desire different results, we first need to change our behavior and understand our habits, most of which are not readily recognizable without professional support, such as a mentor or a coach.
You may want to ponder these four factors when considering your own or someone else’s personal development plans. Good luck, and let us know should you have any questions!