Why Continual Personal Development is Pivotal to All Business Success
Becoming successful in business is much more about your psychology than it is about finding gaps, technological advantages and shortcuts in the marketplace.
Instead, managing and maintaining your mindset and mental health are proving to be the most essential ingredients to being a successful entrepreneur or business leader.
If you asked anyone born after 1990 for ten ways to make communication more effective in the workplace, most could list at least five cloud software solutions (i.e., Slack, Zoho, Flock, Spark or Yammer) in the blink of an eye. However, if you then asked the same individuals how to effectively communicate with a decision-maker to influence a buying decision, the result would not likely come as thick and as fast.
Don't blame age. Age is not necessarily the influential variable here. Just think about those innovative youngsters delivering 18-minute TED talks: Clear differences set them apart from the other kids on the block. Their presence, poise, public speaking skills, confidence and authentic sense of knowing themselves is quite inspiring and moving to witness. You can’t help but take these youngsters seriously.
Clearly, then, age is not a limiting factor when it comes to starting and growing successful businesses or enterprises. A lack of people skills is, however, and the foundation for that is the mental skills you can build through personal development.
Finding the help you need to build personal development
When business technology designers and market analyst CB Insights conducted a review of 101 post-mortem essays of start-up founders whose businesses had folded, the publication uncovered some interesting commonalities and statistics in those companies' reasons for failure.
Examples: 13 percent of owners of failed businesses reported a loss of focus; 8 percent said they'd experienced burnout.
A different study led by Michael Freedman at the University of California found that 72 percent of (still active) entrepreneurs surveyed had self-reported mental health concerns. Without dedicated attention to your mental state of play, you can lose in the game of business before you’ve gotten off the ground.
What entrepreneurs really need -- unique mindset features and mental strength -- demonstrates the high value of working with a coach and/or business psychologist or therapist. By its nature, entrepreneurship constitutes the ability to "pioneer" new ground on an almost daily basis. Thinking you can "do it all" on your own in this journey of unpredictable twists and turns is limiting enough.
Many aspiring business entrepreneurs fail to consider the mental resources and people skills they need to have in place, let alone those they need to develop. CB Insights’ study also reported that 13 percent of respondents had experienced disharmony with team members and/or investors, while 9 percent said they didn't use networks or advisors.
Clearly, there's room for improvement here. So, where does one start? One place I can think of are the four four fundamental areas of personal development described below. Business owners should schedule attention to these as a routine part of being a leader -- not just of their businesses but their own lives.
Identify and maximize your strengths.
Completing any behavioral psychometric assessment will highlight a few people skill areas you can work on. A better place to start, however, is to recognize where your people skills are strong, and expand your exercise of those even further.
If networking is something you love, create opportunities to keep doing it. Capitalize on your ability to develop new connections even more. Your natural flair and ability in some areas can be the saving grace for any deficits you have in other areas. Being and feeling competent in one area also catalyzes your motivation to improve in others.
Always invest in your foundational relationships.
Despite the trials and tribulations of your business journey, protect, nurture and invest in those people and relationships which are your constants. Whether it is your life partner, your parents, friends who knew you even before you started your business journey …treat and care for these relationships as though these people are your trusted disciples (they are).
Don’t take these people for granted. When your journey turns sour and goes south, you’re going to need these special people to be around you because they won't judge or criticize but will be supporters to catch you when you fall and bounce you back into the boxing ring.
Dedicate time for personal development and do regular mental health checks.
For many, health care in Western society focuses on remediation. But don’t be like the majority who wait until something goes wrong. A focus on remediation rather than prevention is often far more difficult.
So, be proactive and put yourself ahead of the curve. Work to increase your self-awareness of what makes you vulnerable to stress and anxiety. Identify what your thresholds are. Learn about the sorts of circumstances, people and challenges that may be likely to throw you off balance; and recognize those in which you thrive.
When it comes to working on areas that you know -- or those that your psychometric assessment results indicate -- include room for improvement. Choose a coach, mentor or therapist to work with you on these issues. Having qualified and trained professionals in this area who can remain objective and nonjudgmental will open your eyes to different perspectives and offer you techniques and skills to strengthen your mental toolkit.
Elevate your emotional intelligence and your compassion and empathy for others.
Start with your existing relationships and evaluate their quality. How do you contribute to those relationships, whether they might be for work or ersonal life? What is the dynamic, the type of exchange as to why there is a relationship between you and that other individual in the first place? Is it healthy for both of you? What can you contribute or change to make it better?
In the book Working with Emotional Intelligence, author Dan Goleman writes that making conscious changes in our own behavior, demonstrating compassion and truly empathizing with others greatly affects the strength and quality of our relationships.
As you begin to change your behavior, others will have no other option than to respond. Whether that means your learning how to create safe spaces for your employees, or admitting your errors or confidently responding to their feedback and ideas, you'll find that the benefits of those changes, both professional and personal, will proliferate.
Deliberately review your professional and personal relationships and concertedly explore ways to improve them. The mental and emotional satisfaction you will gain will outlast any business journey, successful or otherwise.