I heard this lesson years ago from my mentor John C. Maxwell. Many of the elements he suggests for a growth environment have inspired my leadership style and my thinking to develop a growth environment for people in my circle.
This morning as I look at my 2014 goals and see which ones I have accomplished or can accomplish by the end of the year, I had to come back to this lesson again. I searched through my archives and found it because I had to hear again, especially right now. In this lesson, John talks about being 27 years old and having to make a critical decision in his life on which way to go. He said he had to be in a growth environment and this was the basis for his decision at that crossroads as well as his entire life.
What is a growth environment? John provides a great checklist to determine if you are in a growth environment.
- Others are ahead of you
If you are always out in front, then you are not growing. You can’t, it is impossible. You have to be around people who push you. The only way to be pushed is when others are challenging you to think differently than you are thinking, they are out in front of you. You get better when you are around better.
Example: In the 2012 Summer Olympics, Kenyan David Rudisha set the world record in the 800 meter race. Seven of the eight runners set their personal bests during that race. The last place runner was the fastest last place in the history of the event. David Symmonds fifth place time would have been good enough for a gold in every Olympics, except one in 1896.
- You are continually challenged
What is a challenge? I don’t consider challenges to be the same stuff that you have already done time and time again. I think challenges are new challenges, seeing things and doing things you haven’t done before. Those are the challenges that are fun.
- Your focus is forward
When you are thinking forward in “How can we”, “In what way can we”, “If we do this”, “We do this, we can expect this”, all of these statements require us to think and “DO” things with a forward thinking mentality.
- The atmosphere is affirming
When the atmosphere is affirming, it means that it is stated and recognized as being an environment where growth and development is encouraged publicly.
- You’re often out of your comfort zone.
A growth environment must have you out of your comfort zone a lot. Not out of your strength zone, but out of your comfort zone. Doing things that you have done, but doing them differently than you have ever done them before.
- You wake up excited
A growth environment makes you get up early and stay late, because you want to.
- Failure is not your enemy
You are encouraged to fail, a lot. If you are failing a lot, it means you are trying lots of different things. In a growth environment failure is not a bad thing, it is a good thing and it is celebrated.
- Others are growing
When the people around you are growing and everyone is thinking about growth and development of the business in every way, then you are in a growth environment.
- People desire change
Change is hard, but for things to change you must change. If you want success and you are not having success, then something must change for that success to happen. For this to occur, change must be actively pursued and implemented. The key is implementation of the changes to be made. No lip service or one of these days we will. If it is good enough to talk about, it is good enough to implement now.
- Growth is modeled and expected
If you are the only one growing that means you are the model, and if you go back to the first bullet point above then it would be very clear that you are at the head of the class. So there must be models of growth around you. The expectation of personal growth, which in turn will lead to business growth must be modeled, expected, and sought out.
The question John doesn’t answer is this. Can you have some of the elements above and not all of them. As I look at the list, my answer is no. A growth environment must include all of the elements for it to truly be a growth environment. What kind of environment are you in? Are you growing, or are things about the same they have always been? Do people really desire change?