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Have we lost sight of the human in personal development?

Updated: Dec 10, 2023

The best laid plans are scuppered by the messiness of us as human.

This article is not about learning making it back into the workplace (an obsession of mine as some of you will know).

No, it is about the complexity of the models and programmes employees epdcerience as people development.

The ideas are good and sound. It's the human execution that's the challenge. And that makes it sound like the humans are the problem; rather than the programme.

If you learn a 5-part process and when you get back into the poffice you can only remember 4 of the parts, you're very likely not to try at all.

If you've learnt vulnerability is an important leadership trait, but you feel unsafe to be so when you are around the meeting table, you're not going to risk it.

If you've been on a collaboration workshop but no-one around you seems to have got the memo, you'll drop the tips like a hot potato.

Development is messy - anyone who has ever really genuinely changed their beahviour in anything will know this. You have good and bad days, sometimes ten steps back and one measly step forward. Some days no steps at all, firefighting obliterates everything.

The problem is many programmes don't account for this. They're complicated, overly detailed with too much for participants to remember. They espouse a system - colours, numbers, letter, wheels, profiles. If you, as a 'red' person, can't rememnber how to treat your 'blue' colleagues in the way their profile suggested (or you do and they hate it as their profile is not 'them'), you might feel it's not worth pursuing at all.

This doesn't mean these models and psychometrics are not useful - they really can be. You need to start with what people are interested in and meet then where they are at.

This could be said to be about control. Participants often don't have control over the programme. They are often put on it, told to do it, and if they don't want to they risk not looking like a team player.

Handing over control can be unsettling. Lining up KPIs is harder, facilitation notes become shorter and the approach needed is more open and different. Some can feel it's harder to defend at board level (although why that should be when the programmes stuffed full of models and 'consultancy' go unchallenged is anyones' guess)

It also means that a true partnership between facilitator, organisation and aprticiapnts is needed. It needs to be OK for any of those gorups to question, not know, explore and make mistakes. It's a shift in how development is seen, and it requires all of us stakeholders to drop the mask of "I've got a model for this' to be more' let's work this out together to genuinely support your people'.

And if you have a programme that hasn't changed things as you wanted it to - don't abandon it, use it to continue the conversation in a different direction, it won't be a waste of time unless you never speak of it again.

Speak to Ginny on if you want to explore whats right for your people in your business.


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