WriterGirl team talkingIt’s November again, and I can’t believe it. Where did the year go already? It’s time to start winterizing my patio, making plans for the holidays … and deciding what to do with my personal development money.

At WriterGirl, we take personal development in the workplace seriously. Every year, employees are each given a budget to be used solely to pursue personal development. It’s a pretty sweet perk, but one that I (and it turns out some of my coworkers) find challenging to take advantage of.

The challenges of personal development

What would YOU do if someone gave you money just to improve yourself in any way you’d like to? Take a French class? Learn to ski? Work on anger management with a life coach?

Don’t know where to begin

The possibilities are endless, which can be overwhelming for some of us.

“It’s like a blessing and a curse because if we’re going to use the money, we want to make sure it’s on something great,” says WriterGirl Katie Snyder, project and marketing coordinator. “Plus, there’s some pressure to make sure you use it on something work-related but also wanting to use it on something fun, too,” she continues. (More on this later!)

Little ole me?

Then there’s the issue of time and feeling a little guilty about using it just for yourself. “I guess I hardly put myself as the priority because I am busy caring for so many others. It would inconvenience others if I took classes or set aside time to learn something new,” says Reba Thompson, VP of client partnerships.

But personal development in the workplace is pretty important — as I hope to demonstrate. Whether or not your place of employment has a program like the one at WriterGirl, it’s worth some reflection.

What is “personal development”?

What is personal development? Personal development boils down to two goals:

  1. Increasing your self-awareness
  2. Finding and pursuing your passions

Essentially, personal development is getting to know yourself and then working to address your weaknesses and strengthen your strengths. It’s learning to understand your own behavior and motivations and how your behavior affects those around you.

Then take what you learn and make changes that will help make you happier, improve your relationships and even give your life more meaning as you learn to be more intentional about your choices.

Personal growth = professional growth

WriterGirl President & CEO Christy Pretzinger has experienced the benefits of self-awareness in her own life, which is why she feels so strongly about cultivating a work culture that nurtures personal development in others.

“A coach told me in 2009: ‘WriterGirl is you; it won’t grow until you do,’” she shares. “So, I started reading personal development books. I became interested in the enneagram. And that was the year WriterGirl took off. We hit a million dollars in sales that year. My personal development translated directly to professional growth.”

As her understanding of her own tendencies and motivations grew, Christy began taking steps to capitalize on what she learned.

Insights turn to actions

She gives this example: “I learned that I like to tell people what to do. I have a quick mind, and I always have a solution. The problem is: I know what I know, but I don’t know what the other person knows. So, I was shutting people down – not getting their insight and brilliance because I was jumping ahead so quickly.”

Once she understood this, she was able to change her behavior and reap the benefits. “I now realize that when I ask a question,” Christy says about using this insight in relating to a coworker, “I know she first has to synthesize what she wants to say. I want her brilliance, so I have to leave room for silence. That was a big learning.”

Better workers mean a better workplace

Christy credits her investment in learning about herself and improving herself with greater personal satisfaction, healthier relationships and success in her career. It’s a gift she wants others to enjoy, and one that simultaneously contributes to the well-being of the whole organization.

“The culture of WriterGirl is important to me,” she says. “Life-work balance. Family. Positions are replaceable, but people are not. If there is trouble at home, it affects your work. You bring it with you. If you improve your personal life, that translates to work life,” she says.

Resources for self-assessment

Here are some resources for self-assessment

Finding and pursuing your passions

Exposing yourself to new things is another facet of personal development in the workplace or anywhere. New skills and new experiences enrich your life. There is joy in learning something new, and undertaking new activities lets you see what you’re capable of doing.

Trying new things helps you identify your passions. Passions are the activities that make your life feel meaningful and the avenue through which you give the world your best self.

“There is no difference between personal and professional development; they are one and the same,” Christy says. “Personal growth translates into professional growth. Nobody is just one thing. You’re much more than your job title. That’s not the only part or the biggest part of who you are. Nurture the whole of you,” she advises.

We’re trying new things. Here’s what we’ve learned.

My colleagues at WriterGirl have been doing just that. Here’s what they’ve been up to with their personal development money, along with some nuggets of wisdom they gleaned along the way.

Tend to every aspect of your health

Vegetables from Karrie's garden

Karrie’s vegetable garden bounty.

Client Services Manager Karrie Hoover decided to try a vegetable garden. She used her personal development money to meet with a master gardener from a local university, and her garden produced so much she also decided to learn water bath canning. She canned her own salsa, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce and pickles. And that’s not all; she also attended a web design seminar, ordered a book about setting boundaries and signed up for a Zumba class.

Karrie says, “As one of my clients puts it, to feel whole we have to tend to every aspect of our health – physically, mentally and spiritually. I have tried to put those principles into practice with my PD money and always do a few things for each aspect.”

Cultivate what you know you love

Senior Content Writer Leigh Wilkins bought a MasterClass subscription. Among other things, she worked on her tennis volleying skills with Serena Williams. “I think the classes showed me that you don’t have to try something totally new to develop as a person,” Leigh says. “You don’t have to go bungee jumping or learn how to paint if those things never interested you – you can deepen what you already know in an area of life that you already enjoy.”

Set no limits

Carol's ukulele

Carol’s new ukulele.

Content Director Carol Williams is getting a kick out of learning the ukulele. She says, “I’ve been part of other personal development programs at other companies, and I think the key for me has always been that the company isn’t prescriptive and doesn’t limit what the association can and can’t do. If it’s personal, it should truly be personal – no limits, no judgment on choices.”

Invest in yourself

COO Colleen Massa worked out with a personal trainer. “The money allowed me to take the time and investment into incorporating a healthy workout routine into my weekly schedule,” she says.

As for me, so far, I’ve taken an online class on improving my memory and purchased a pair of binoculars to go birdwatching with my dad. I also experimented with trying to dress better by engaging the help of an online personal styling service (being home day after day in front of my computer during the pandemic has not helped my style game). When coronavirus goes away, I’d like to take an outdoor survival course.

Benefits of personal development in the workplace

Personal development has many benefits – for individuals and for their employers. Consider these:

Happiness

Personal development makes us happier, which is a reward in itself, but it also pays off in the workplace. A Social Market Foundation survey revealed that happy employees are 20% more productive than employees who are unhappy.

Creativity and innovation

When we expose ourselves to new things, the more open our minds become, and an open mind is where creativity and innovation come from. That benefits the workplace and rounds out who you are.

Work culture

Work culture is an intangible thing. It can’t necessarily be measured, but people know a good work culture when they experience it. Personal development encourages people to try new things and grow, which contributes to a culture where people feel connected, valued and committed.

Retention

When a company invests in the personal development of its employees, people feel valued and that what they like to do is valued – so they stick around. We rely on the collective creativity and institutional knowledge of the group to refine the way we do things and generate new ideas, which also contributes to an organization’s sustainability.

Take the next step

“Christy’s investment and belief that all development – personal or professional – makes you better at your job has helped me think about how I want and need to grow,” says Client Services Manager Karla Webb, who put her money to work on improving her editing and management skills along with a class on humor and another about putting on makeup.

Brainstorm

That’s where personal development begins: taking the time to think about how you want and need to grow. Sit down with a piece of paper or your laptop and think about what you’d like to improve – physically, mentally and spiritually. Add more categories if that’s helpful – career, relationships, intellect, creativity and so on.

Get a buddy

Sometimes the biggest challenge to personal development is following through with what you decided you want to do.

“I realized when trying to decide how to spend the funds that so much of what I wanted to do to develop didn’t cost anything but required my disciplined effort and time!” says Karla.

Enlist the help of someone who can hold you accountable to stick with the plan you make. Maybe they can attend the class with you, set a date to discuss the book you read, or just check in and ask you how it’s going from time to time.

What are you waiting for?

If you’re someone who feels like taking the time for personal development is selfish, you may need someone to give you “permission” to spend that money or time on yourself. Consider this blog your permission. You owe it to yourself, your loved ones … and even your workplace.

How has personal development benefited you? Don’t forget to share your tips and advice for personal development! Reach out to us on FacebookLinkedIn or Twitter.

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