Employing Differences

Employing Differences, Episode 49: How do we stop people from growing?

April 20, 2021 Karen Gimnig & Paul Tevis
Employing Differences
Employing Differences, Episode 49: How do we stop people from growing?
Chapters
Employing Differences
Employing Differences, Episode 49: How do we stop people from growing?
Apr 20, 2021
Karen Gimnig & Paul Tevis

"There is a cultural belief at the root of this that says, 'Investing in our people and helping them grow and learn is the way that we succeed collectively.' If we don't believe in that, we will unconsciously do all kinds of things that stop people from growing."

Listen on the website and read the transcript

Watch this episode on YouTube

Show Notes Transcript

"There is a cultural belief at the root of this that says, 'Investing in our people and helping them grow and learn is the way that we succeed collectively.' If we don't believe in that, we will unconsciously do all kinds of things that stop people from growing."

Listen on the website and read the transcript

Watch this episode on YouTube

Paul:

Welcome to Employing Differences, a conversation about exploring the collaborative space between individuals.

Karen:

I'm Karen Gimnig.

Paul:

And I'm Paul Tevis.

Karen:

Each episode, we start with a question and see where it takes us. This week's question is, "How do we stop people from growing?"

Paul:

I don't think we intend to do this often. But I think it's useful to look at situations where in groups in organizations, whatever it may be how we often inadvertently undermine our own interests, stop people from growing and learning and getting better at whatever it is that we all kind of agree that we all need to get better at. I spent some time in HR in the Learning & Development role when I was working in corporate America. We were charged with helping people to learn and grow, to develop skills that were going to help them in their current role and in future roles, and things like that. And so I've dug a lot into what are the things that we need to do to help people to learn and grow. But I think it's also really useful to be aware of what are things that we may accidentally be doing that are stopping people from learning and growing? And so we want to kind of dig into some of that stuff today.

Karen:

Yeah, so I think the big obvious ones that we know are not good, although we still do them. Yeah, judgment, blame, put-downs. That whole package, which I think is about diverting from self. Like, I think, partly, those are bad, because they make people feel bad, and they disrupt relationships, those things are all true. But I think specifically around this growth potential, that we are creating a story within which I have no potential to either to solve this problem. I have no potential to grow myself. I have no potential to support somebody else in growing because it's because they are lazy or uncaring or dumb. Whatever those judgments are, that you're throwing at people, there's nothing anybody can do about it. That's just their problem. Or, you know, it's their fault, they need to do something different, that's the only answer that's the blame thing. You know, all of that is, it makes me disabled. I can't do anything about it. And that's a pretty good way to prevent anybody from growing myself and those around me.

Paul:

My, one of my least favorite practices in organizations is labeling individuals as "high potential." Because this is a thing that happens all the time, and then we invest a bunch of resources in those people. We're gonna give them time and money and things like that, because they're high potential. I mean, fundamentally, we all are high potential. The challenge is what most happens in organizations is that you're seeing whether or not that person as they are right now is a good match for the role that they're in, in the organization that they're in. It's actually the match that you're observing. Organizations often discount the impact of the environment on individual performance. Behavior is a function of the individual and the environment. And so by labeling individuals as high potential or not, the organization has actually taken any onus off of itself, to shape the environment in such a way that other people might be behaving in different ways. I mean, they don't mean to do that, but that is the net effect. Because now we're just focusing on these individuals. So that's one way we stop people from growing is basically saying that they don't have potential, that they don't have the ability to change, which both disempowers them from their standpoint, but also means that we don't make available things that are useful to them to help grow. So that that's definitely a way that we stop people from growing.

Karen:

I think another is to compete, or to ask people to compete. Wherever that source is, if we are in a competitive environment, and then I'm just holding on to doing my best. My best performance is the only thing I'm looking for, and I'm certainly not engaging with other people. I think one of the things we're saying here is that, while it's imaginable that I could just sit in a room by myself and grow, it's far more likely and far more productive to be growing in relationship with other people. And so if we get competitive, then I am disincentivized from investing in you and vice versa. And so that really richest growth space disappears, because we're not in that interactive space.

Paul:

Yeah. One of the one of the best ways we can stop people from growing is disabuse people of the notion that it is their job to help each other. It's one of these things that happens. Things that we know that help us grow and help us learn are things like feedback loops. We get information about how we are doing. And so one way to stop people from growing is cut off any feedback that they're getting. But also they need we grow and we learn when we have mentoring and support and empathy and coaching from other people who have done this or have other experiences. And so one way we stop people from growing is by telling particularly as people go up in the organization, we tell managers and directors and VPs, we tell them, "Your job is to produce results." And we don't emphasize, "Your job is to grow your people. Your job is to share what you have to support people, to help them learn and grow." And to widely broadcast the message, "Hey, everybody, your manager's, your colleagues' job is to support you, is to give you help." Because when we think that we are imposing on somebody else by asking them to coach or mentor or support us in some way, we don't ask and we don't grow. And so I think that that emphasis solely on delivering results rather than, "Hey, the way we deliver results is by growing our people," and actually seeing those two is intertwined by treating it as a trade off, we really do stop people from growing.

Karen:

I think a corollary to that is scorekeeping. This person achieved this, this, and this. That person achieved this, that or that. Then if I do a thing, I'm interested in getting my name on it, I want credit for the thing that I did. None of that is growth producing. It really takes us away from the interactive spaces where growth is most likely.

Paul:

Yeah. One other thing that comes to mind is, the way we stop people from growing is by telling them that they don't need to grow anymore. Learning and growth and development is a continuous process. There's no there there. There's no end to our potential, to where we can kind of go. And I think at any point where and we see this, again, in hierarchical organizations all the time where there may be a fair amount of growth focused on frontline employees, which is often skill- building, getting them to have the skills they need in their roles. And there may be some some growth as people are beginning their careers. And that is usually, "Hey, we're gonna send you off to a workshop for a few days, and good luck." Good luck applying that when you come back. But that becomes less and less the case in many organizations the higher up the org chart you go, because you're assumed to know the things that you need to know. So we don't need to invest in your growth. We don't need you to keep growing. Sending that message that growth and learning is only for people who haven't done as much right, that there are people who are exempted from needing to learn and grow is a way that we stop people from growing.

Karen:

So I think to head towards summing up, I want to flip it a little bit and say, okay. So having gone down this road of what stops people from growing and maybe we can identify some of those. What are the antidotes? These are things that there are other episodes about that we've done. But you know that the antidote to sort of the judgment/blame is the curiosity and the "what can I do?" Curiosity about what's going on curiosity about what I can do, a problem solving kind of mindset. If we're in that hierarchical/competitive space, we want to get more collaborative. We want to get rid of the scorekeeping and be more in team-minded oriented directions. And I think we want to be in the vulnerable space, which is another thing we keep coming up with. We want to be in that space where we're vulnerable enough to ask for help, and we're vulnerable enough to offer help. The assumption is that the growth of every individual is the responsibility of every individual. Helping someone else is every bit as valuable as completing your own tasks.

Paul:

Yeah. And that really is a cultural shift. That's a whole lot of assumptions and beliefs that are under there. That's, I think, why we have difficulty making those shifts sometimes. Because there's there's a lot of different things that we have to unpack around it, but I think when we do, I think fundamentally, what organizations are seeing more and more I mean, this is organizations, this is groups, this is communities as well we're actually realizing what the benefits are the upsides are of sort of thinking continuously about how we keep our people growing. There's a there's an old line about, it's a CTO and a CFO talking to each other. And the CFO says, "Well, what if we invest in all of our people's growth, and they just leave?" And the CTO says, "What if we don't, and they stay?" And it's really fundamentally like how we think about this. There is a there's a cultural belief that is sort of at the root of all this that says, "Investing in our people and helping people grow and helping people learn is the way that we succeed collectively." If we don't believe in that, then I think we will do all kinds of things that stop people from growing, not because we mean to, but because we do these things unconsciously that get in the way of growth.

Karen:

And I think that's the big takeaway here is that making the unconscious conscious. I don't think any of what we've said here is a surprise orground shaking for anyone. But I do think that we do things unconsciously. And if we want to be growth-oriented, for all the reasons that's beneficial, making conscious thoughts about it, and getting increased awareness is an important part of that path.

Paul:

Yeah. Well, I think that's gonna do it for us for today. Until next time, I'm Paul Tevis.

Karen:

I'm Karen Gimnig. And this has been Employing Differences.