I recently returned from Professional Builder's Benchmark Conference where I feasted on a cornucopia of educational seminars served up by some of the best minds inside and outside our industry. One of those was Ram Charan, an acclaimed adviser, author and teacher to some of the world's most successful companies.
- They are voracious readers of diverse materials and have an insatiable appetite to find new ideas.
- They are very performance oriented.
- They are very conscious of the unconscious.
While each of these bullet points are worthy topics, I would like to focus this month's column on the first bullet, something we call Self Development Orientation (SDO).
I did a quick Google search on Self Development Orientation and found no shortage of definitions. In its simplest terms, SDO means to initiate actions to further improve skills and performance proficiency. And, as Charan suggested, continuously learning and improving, usually without being prompted to do so.
Lets face it, most of us have more on our plates today than we can deal with and are in no hurry to add more. When times are good, it is normal for us to focus on doing rather than growing. Unfortunately, that is the reason so many people hit the career ceiling. People are so busy excelling in their current jobs that they see no need to broaden their horizons. After all, success in their current role will surely follow them into their next role, right? Not altogether untrue, but it is like betting on 36 red at the roulette table... just how lucky do you feel?
Whether you are a hiring manager or a potential candidate, SDO separates the great people from the occasionally lucky ones. And a complete lack of SDO can curtail, or worse, derail a person's career (depending on how fast your industry is changing). Open any interview how-to book and a variation of the following two questions can always be found:
- What are your career aspirations... your plans for the future?
- What steps have you taken to prepare yourself and what steps are you planning to take?
The first answer is self-explanatory, but the second reveals a host of dimensions about the person including their initiative, problem analysis and judgment, planning and organization, etc. Before I lose you on this, let's look at a real-life example.
A vice president of construction for a Top 10 builder aspired to become a division president. For the first seven years of his career, his experience was all about construction. Recognizing his lack of sales and marketing experience — showing problem analysis and judgment — he signed up for and completed all Member, Institute of Residential Marketing courses offered by the National Association of Home Builders — showing initiative. Because his company did not advocate such action, he paid for it himself and used personal vacation days over four years — showing drive, planning and organization — to pull it off. Starting to make sense now?
The bottom line is that individual development starts with you — the individual.