We’re All On a Journey...Where Are You Going?

I talk to clients every day about how we can help them with their journey.

By journey I mean the path that we are all traveling as we invest in the daily practice of learning, growing, managing, and leading ourselves and others. Ideally, this path is intentional--we are consciously identifying topics around which we want and need to gain greater clarity, a more robust foundation of knowledge, or take our skills to the next level of proficiency.

I’m often asked about how one should approach their own developmental journey--should it be a serendipitous series of experiences or structured and applied by an outside force, like one’s employer? Though I am a huge fan of serendipity, it won’t lead to the equitable outcomes many of us hope for ourselves and our employees.

For example, I recently spoke with an executive, Tim, who loves to describe himself as a “collector of experiences.” His career path has been formed by “taps on the shoulder” from people who “saw something in him” and opened a door. Each time, he happily walked through the door, just excited about the new experience but without an overall end goal in mind. In each of these instances, he dug in deep to the experience he was having at the time--to learn new skills, understand new angles of the business, and expand his network. His zeal within each of those experiences led to the next tap on the shoulder, all the way to his now CEO status. 

I love Tim’s story--but it’s not going to be like that for many of us. First, Tim is a white man with a top notch academic pedigree and who began his career with a solid professional network. In Tim’s industry, many of the people who would be his bosses or bosses’ bosses looked like him, had similar pedigrees and shared the same network. Tim certainly worked hard, but he also had a base of privileges that made it easy for decision-makers to “see themselves in him” and tap him on the shoulder. They could easily translate their level of success to something that Tim was destined to achieve. 

 It is certainly the case that those taps on the shoulder continue to exist, but the world is shifting. More and more organizations are incorporating systems that prevent the kind of implicit bias described in Tim’s story (bias can also be positive!) from negatively impacting the likelihood of people who do not share all of Tim’s identities and characteristics from being excluded from opportunities for advancement. One example of new systemic approaches to enabling career advancement is development and/or integration of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) into your organization’s existing learning journey. 

A learning journey is a pathway to gain knowledge, skills and competencies that will elevate your ability, as an individual and a manager, to incorporate values-driven practices in ways that have a positive impact on you, your employees, customers and other stakeholders.

 Among its many benefits, a learning journey is an essential tool for creating clarity. Clarity--understanding what is expected of me in order to attain success in my current  function and as part of my career progression. Clarity is one of the core ingredients needed to achieve “flow” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990), an enabler of productivity and driver of peak performance. As important as clarity is, it has become much more elusive in an environment with so many changing expectations.

Managers are expected to have sophisticated skills in behavioral science; individual contributors need to know how to collaborate and exert multi-directional influence; and executives must exude competence and confidence leading around issues that may be new to them, or outside of their comfort zone, like anti-racism and anti-oppression. 

DJA’s learning journey is based on 18 competencies. Our competencies span across organizational functions--from individual contributor to manager to executive--and integrate equity-rich values with demonstrable leadership characteristics and behaviors. Our learning journey framework provides access points for entry at any stage of a person’s career and includes detailed descriptions of the skills associated with each competency in ways that support communication, inclusion in performance management and coaching systems. Most importantly, the design and implementation of a learning journey supports the creation and pursual of intentional personal development and career advancement.  

If you haven’t been using an intentional process for your own development, now’s the time to make an adjustment. The new and changing workplace is going to require a new level of investment. If you would like to discuss how DJA can support the professional development needs of your organization, please contact us. We would love to hear from you.

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