September 7, 2021 Laura Morgan

What is Self-Development? Is it an oxymoron?

By Laura Morgan, Managing Partner at MorganHR 

Managers are eager to discuss development plans with their employees. The list of ideas is generated to help the employee select the growth-oriented exposure to a key project or the certification courses that would augment their understanding. The employee is also encouraged to read, be mentored, and participate in leadership development programs with special experiences and coaching. Is that enough? I think development happens when someone’s mind is exposed to new ideas AND when they have a way to discuss, gain opinions, and receive feedback on their interpretation of it all. 

What is the definition of development? 

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, development is defined as the process of growing or changing into a more advanced, larger, or stronger form. It’s a relative process: people experience their own development in different ways, which is a function of their personalities, background, learning style, and preferences. What you might think of as good training, for example, might not be relevant for an employee who comes from a different background. The disconnect might be due to a lack of experience, lack of financial resources, or a multitude of other reasons. So while development can mean a variety of things to different people, it can be easily described, for our sake, as bringing the employee up to speed in terms of their applicable knowledge and skills.  

What is missing with self-development? 

In many organizations, employees think of self-development as a career enhancer or a simple learning opportunity. Let’s just go back to that oxymoron “self-development”. How can you truly grow into a more “advanced form” by yourself? What is missing when you read development articles or attend lectures? Discussions & debates are key in digging deeper into your own development. The best way to strengthen a muscle is to add resistance, so why don’t we automatically do the same with our professional development?  

The best ways to improve development 

Often, managers are invested to create these exposures and identify development opportunities to help their employees. That is true for those managers with budgets and open access to these amazing tools and systems. When you don’t have the budget or team of trainers available, where do you turn? At MorganHR, we foster conversations, debates, and feedback-oriented discussions that stretch and shape each other’s development. We all have experience with speed bumps and roadblocks in our paths, and when we can learn from others’ expertise, we begin to foster our own growth and development.  

When working on your own development, you become focused on improving. You may even get stuck in a tunnel vision mindset that prevents you from seeing the forest from the trees. If you really want to strengthen and develop your skills, take your new ideas and learnings and share them with others. Get into discussions and challenge each other’s interpretations. You need to be exposed to more than your own thoughts and to be able to shift, shape, and strain (in some cases). Otherwise, it is to self-vacuum, not develop.