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  • Writer's pictureCraig Risi

Creating a Culture of Growth



The past three months have been quiet for me from a blogging perspective, as I decided to take some time to focus on some extra learning, experimenting with new technologies and programming languages and overall, just broadening my mind. The world of tech is evolving at an incredible pace and its important to not let yourself or your skills become complacent. And I think even I felt like I was getting too comfortable and needed to invest some extra time into upskilling in this regard.


Hopefully, these new learnings will lead to some even more exciting topics over the next few years as I continue to grow and develop my skills. Along with my own development, I’ve also been working on growing and developing skills of these around me and in the process, become even more aware of just how important a culture of learning is for not only furthering your own personal growth but importantly for these around you.


What is a growth culture?

By growth culture, I’m not just referring to a culture where people participate in training courses, improve their skills or are able to quickly get promoted through the ranks. By growth, I mean a space where people are able to grow their skillset, develop as people and move closer to fulfilling career satisfaction, without needing to necessarily get promoted or complete a specific course. It is growth that should happen organically within their role, but also require additional effort from a person to ensure they are improving in tasks and work.


So, what does it take to create a culture of growth in your organisation? Well, as always, there I no one recipe, but the following tips I found incredibly useful in making this work in my own space. I’ve shared about mentoring and culture many times before, but these things can only go so far if the right culture of learning is no instilled in your team and organisation. Note, this is not about specifics on how to learn and grow, as those are different for each people, but about creating the right culture in which that learning can be most effective, whatever the plan, outcome or timeline. It’s about an environment where people thrive in their skillset and find growth and purpose and not lose in trying to fit into some mould that doesn’t work for them.


Recognise uniqueness and focus on the individual

I guess it should go without saying, but before you can expect people to grow in an environment, they need to know that you care about their interests. And by that, I don’t mean ticking a set of boxes answering questions or putting together some corporate policies that allow people to have their own learning time, but actual genuine interest in what their career needs are, where they want to grow and what makes them tick, including hobbies and family – provided they want you to share this interest. The only time a person should not have true freedom of expression, is when that expression hurts and infringes on the freedoms of others around them.


It might sound a little like you are over-stepping personal boundaries. But it’s not about trying to dig into personal lives but rather participating in things that you know are important to them that they’ve openly shared interests with and allowing them to be themselves in the work environment. It also means celebrating personal or family milestones like anniversaries or kids’ birthdays if they have revealed these to you. It doesn’t mean you need to support the same sports teams or even like what they enjoy, but rather asking questions around them and how they feel about them. If they choose to keep their personal interests private, then that is perfectly acceptable and do not try and pry information out of them.


The purpose of this is more than just creating casual conversation, but in allowing a person to be themselves and be accepted for who they are, they will feel more engaged to grow in the space and more willing to work in whatever direction you as an organisation would want them to. Note though that ingenuine interest is easily identified, so don’t fake it. If you struggle to show an interest in something, rather refrain from doing so.


Create safety and Value confidentiality.

As with the previous point, a comfortable environment for a person to express themselves, because a safe space for a person. However, it's more than just allowing them to be themselves. You also need to create an environment where privacy and confidentiality are respected. Personal conversation should be kept private and people should be allowed to share non-discriminatory opinions on their learnings and challenges in the workplace without fear of judgement or repercussion.


I’ve often seen companies want to help employees develop, only for a person to share struggles with something work-related and for that communication to go up to management and the person then treated like they aren’t performing. While it might’ve been done with the best intentions to help the individual, no information should ever be shared outside of a personal conversation without expression permission.


Focus on progress versus perfection.

What it means though is that the focus should be on the progress they are making and not the mistakes they are making. It’s easy to see a person’s flaws and identify areas where they can improve and indeed, we should do that. We should not do this though at the expense of recognising the progress they are making in other aspects of their career too.


If people feel the need to achieve a certain level of perfection or high standards that a few in the origination can achieve, they will feel as if they don’t belong, but if they are made to believe that they can still serve a purpose and that their progress is noticed, they will want to thrive and contribute as much as possible and find a way of using their unique skillset to be of more value.


Everyone grows at a different pace

While we want everyone to be a superstar, the truth is everyone develops at a different pace and any development and growth should be celebrated, regardless of pace. This doesn’t mean people shouldn’t be challenged to grow and pushed accordingly, but rather it just means that you should avoid comparisons of where a person should be in relation to their peers or expectations which might not be relevant to how they learn. Rather take the time to understand the pace at which people learn and then set realistic expectation according to that. Learning and development is a very individualised thing and if you try and fit people into schedules that don’t quite work for them, you will probably stop them from learning.


Growth is often difficult to achieve because we are trying to create a roadmap or model to help people to get there and while direction is certainly a good thing, it doesn’t work for everyone and it needs to be combined with the right culture in order to be effective. There are many other things that can be done and often before you can even build these cultures, you may need to weed out some other toxic ones. No matter the environment, certain people will always thrive in and if you just find tune around it to create these building blocks, you will find more people wanting to stay and grow rather than rushing out the door.

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