Recently, I attended an ATD Charlotte meeting featuring Damian Johnson, founder of Mandeville Ingleside Consulting, as the speaker. As someone who has spent the better part of my career identifying, assessing, and coaching for potential, I was excited to hear his take on “Creating a Growth Environment.” To date, my research and experience has been looking for signs of potential in people at all points of their career and helping them to leverage that potential to the best of their abilities. My focus has been on the individual – helping them to recognize their blind spots, capitalize on their strengths, and develop a plan for growth that is both challenging and rewarding. Mr. Johnson brought to light something that in psychology we are taught from the very beginning, environment matters.

Mr. Johnson spoke about how the individual can foster their own growth and development by seeking out the right environment. The burden is on both the individual, to seek an environment that is conducive to building potential, as well as the organization and manager, to ensure that they are providing an environment that brings out the best in their employees.  The best leaders will create a culture that is positive and affirming and that also stretches individuals. Have you ever worked for someone who pushes you, believes in you, and challenges you to be better? If so, then you have experienced the value of a growth environment.

Does this growth always have to happen in an office environment? It is easy to get caught up in the day to day, managing issues as they come across your desk or in your inbox. One of Mr. Johnson’s eight signs of a growth environment is one that takes you outside of your comfort zone. He says that being out of your comfort zone is necessary to have breakthroughs and inspire others to have breakthroughs. As he put it, “All growth happens when you are outside of your comfort zone.” There are many ways for this to happen. A leader may ask you to take on a stretch assignment, present to a group, or engage with more senior leaders on a project, etc. Or, as Mr. Johnson says, the burden may be on the individual to seek out those opportunities for themselves.  

Outdoor experiential education has long been a valued resource for corporate groups to get employees out of their comfort zone for training leaders or bringing teams together. Getting away from the daily grind and doing something totally different creates those breakthroughs and “a-ha” moments that can be brought back to the office. These experiences can be extremely valuable for the individual’s personal growth as well. After all, as Damian Johnson emphasized, environment matters for developing and growing a person’s potential. This can explain a growing trend in leadership and career development. More and more people are seeking personal growth opportunities outside the office. From adventure travel to wilderness survival experiences, people are finding new and different ways to get out of their comfort zone. What better way to invest in your own potential than to challenge yourself and experience the breakthroughs that outdoor adventure can offer?

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