Personal Development in the Workplace

“Development,” as used here refers to adaptive or transformative change, as differentiated from technical change.

Technical change implies a new skill or an improvement in a current skill or process. To be clear, technical does not imply unimportant, basic or simple: a surgeon who creates a new surgical procedure or improves on a current one is working with technical change.

Adaptive or transformative change refers to an authentic shift in worldview—how an individual or culture views itself, others and the environment. This type of shift makes possible new, perhaps previously unimagined capacities, behaviors and outcomes. Staying with our surgeon: after she undergoes surgery, she sees herself, her work and her patients, for the first time, from both a surgeon’s and a patient’s perspective, and engages her patients through a whole new set of capacities (especially, but not only, empathy).

Both technical and adaptive change have important roles in our day-to-day lives.


Increasingly the workplace calls for ongoing developmental opportunities for individuals and teams at all levels of any organization that is committed to the integrated health and wellbeing of its employees and its relationships with multiple stakeholders—clients/customers, vendors, local community, and the marketplace at large.

Unengaged employees, unconscious leadership, employee turnover and other similar issues take both financial and cultural tolls on large and small organizations alike, and these occur even where leaders and employees feel they are justly compensated for their work. For one case-study and research-based take on the other-than-money motivators that keep people engaged, I recommend Dan Pink’s (A Whole New Mind, Drive, To Sell Is Human) under-20-minute TED talk:

In organizations in which employees at any level feel they are justly compensated, more money motivates them only in cases of narrow, simple tasks—many of which are outsourced and/or done by computer. Among the intrinsic, other-than-money motivators that Pink addresses are autonomy, mastery, and purpose—we want to be treated like adults, we derive satisfaction from doing our work well, and we have a deep desire to believe in the work we do.

Evidence is also clear that most of us, even if we’ve achieved a comfortable level of socially visible success (status, income, title, etc.), regularly have issues with confidence, overwhelm, shame and anxiety, among other “not-enough” or “in-over-my- head” experiences.

With all of the above in mind, intentional, ongoing personal development workshops and trainings serve at least a twofold purpose: first, employees at all levels engage and develop an enhanced sense of identity and perspective along with the accompanying increased capacities; second, they recognize that their employer cares about them beyond “just” the workplace and financial bottom line, and they show up at work happier, more engaged and more productive. Conscious leaders understand this and make it happen.

The particular approach to conscious leadership that informs my work is integral—simply put, integral leadership recognizes multiple leadership styles and engages what is appropriate and most effective in a given set of circumstances, utilizing the best of what’s out there. The same is true with personal development—working with emotional intelligence or personality type or conversation skills or any other important area may or may not be what an individual needs (i.e. if my only tool is a hammer, that’s what I use). Rather, an integral approach assesses strengths and areas that need to be developed, and leverages the former in service of the latter (if I have a well-equipped tool belt, I choose what’s best for the job at hand—no preconceived notions of what is needed).

I am interested in conversations with leaders with whom the above resonates, and who are open to exploring the possibilities around bringing this level of engagement to their organizations. Whether we simply have a single one-on-one dialogue, or we dive in more deeply through coaching or training with my partners at ParadoxEdge, or we engage in ways as yet unimagined through our network of integral practitioners, coaches and leaders on six continents, these conversations have value.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, concerns, observations.

2 thoughts on “Personal Development in the Workplace

  1. Great post & thoroughly enjoyed the supportive TED Talk from Dan Pink. Interesting in that I found Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose in both of my professional endeavors and this helps me understand why I enjoyed them so much. Also, this shows me how to shape and influence a “work environment” where others feel this and the team is more successful. Great post.

  2. Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like you
    wrote the book in iit or something. I think that you couuld
    do witgh some pics too drive thee message home a little bit, but instead of that, this is wonderful
    blog. A great read. I wijll definitely be back.

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