Are you suffering from "change fatigue" as you try to keep up with the latest restructuring, merger or upheaval in your organization? If you are experiencing high degrees of stress amid increasing pressure to perform, there may be little energy left for your own development.
While organizations offer varying levels of training and development, most are shifting the responsibility for career growth to employees. Smart employees are making it a point to chart their own course for growth in spite of a chaotic business climate.
The first step toward designing a personal development plan is to assess both your competence and motivation levels. Motivation is just as important to consider as competence, since it provides the inner drive to take action. Acknowledging areas of low motivation can help you reflect on the underlying causes, which can lead to more lasting solutions and growth.
There are at least four distinct phases of development and corresponding strategies, which can help you move toward deeper satisfaction and personal control:
Learning: When competence is low and motivation is high, employees are enthusiastic learners. You may find yourself in this situation if you are new to a company, job or role. Learners are highly motivated to perform and hungry to learn. They should seek out regular feedback from experienced people who can support growth through observation and regular coaching.
Often, new recruits are left to sink or swim. It becomes ever more important to take charge of your own assimilation process and leverage your enthusiasm by looking for self-directed learning tools and on-the-job training.
Performing: Learners who keep improving their skills eventually turn into performers. You are currently a performer if you have high competence and high motivation. Performers typically need little direction and feedback, thriving on autonomy and personal satisfaction.
High performers should continue to develop themselves by broadening their goals and becoming coaches or mentors to others. This is the time to take on more visible leadership roles, build networks, showcase skills and promote your reputation as an expert within your field.
Holding: When highly skilled individuals start to lose their motivation but continue to perform the same type of work, they go into a holding pattern. These employees are aware that their true destinations are elsewhere, but continue in their positions because they have attained a comfort zone of sorts, much like an airplane circling over an airport while waiting to land.
Because people in a holding pattern continue to perform, their motivation problems can be less visible to their organizations. However, the personal price of being in this position is substantial. You are in essence settling for a work life that does not allow you true expression and growth, and there is an element of slow decay that inevitably occurs to the spirit. Eventually the problem comes to the surface when performance begins to deteriorate.
If you are in this situation, acknowledge that you are dissatisfied, take proactive steps to uncover the reasons for your discontent, and examine what you want to see changed. To rekindle inspiration, people in a holding pattern should begin with personal reflection and evaluation. Career or personal counseling can help you explore options and stimulate new thinking that can lead to renewed energy and commitment.
Struggling: When competence is low and motivation is also low, you have a more problematic scenario. In these cases, performance problems are evident and will usually be addressed by management. If you are in this situation, you need to commit to improving performance immediately - or leave the job.
First, get very specific information from your manager about what is expected, how this will be measured, and what resources are available to tap into. Once the goals for improvement are clear, you can negotiate the time frames for improvement and the kind of support you will need. Even if performance improves, the motivation problems must also be addressed in order to understand how work can be made more meaningful in the future.
Being truly satisfied with work and career is a result of developing capabilities and fulfilling the deeply held personal interests that drive us. You need to make the time to examine what really brings you joy at work and take steps every day to move in that direction.