Norton: Personal growth always precedes and accelerates professional growth |

Norton: Personal growth always precedes and accelerates professional growth

Last week, I had the privilege to participate in a professional development program for salespeople delivered by my good friend and mentor Bryan Flanagan. Although I have seen him and many other corporate trainers deliver quality programs for more than 20 years, I still pick up something new, or a lesson that needed to be reinforced.

I listened to this one sentence, and I was immediately transported back to hearing Zig Ziglar talk about how important it is to develop the person, not just the skill set. Here is what was said: “Personal growth always precedes professional growth.” Having spent most of my professional career in the personal and professional development industry, I know this to be an accurate statement.

Working with companies of all sizes, one of the questions I receive is around guidance for a sales training program or leadership development program that can help companies accelerate growth. And before I answer, I ask a question in return: “What have you done so far to build the people in your organization?”

Almost everyone will answer with a list of courses or companies that they have worked with to address or focus on a specific skill set, such as sales training, time management, communication skills, customer service training and presentation skills.

When this happens, I pause and reframe the question. I acknowledge that those skills absolutely help develop capabilities, and then I ask them to think about some of the other character traits that can impact their people personally and professionally while still helping the company to grow. Some understand my question, as they recognize that when we work on building our people, the people will in turn help us build our business.

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Equally, if not more important than the skills mentioned above, are the softer skills training such as confidence, developing a positive attitude, building winning relationships at home and at work, goal-setting and achievement, and learning to work and live with hope. When we can instill or work to strengthen these qualities, our people will be in a much better frame of mind to receive the other skills-based training that can further their career while contributing to their team and the organization.

Having been in the people building business for most of my life, I can share with you that unfortunately many organizations miss this opportunity. This is a shame because there is so much available data that supports the fact that when we work on the personal growth aspects of our people, the professional growth always follows. Companies who overlook investing in personal development opportunities often find themselves paying substantially higher replacement costs.

Sometimes we fall into the trap of believing that all the people we hire or who are already a part of our team don’t need any help in their personal growth. This is flawed thinking, because each of us will go through life’s challenges, and we may not always be prepared for the impact or toll those challenges can take on our lives. Even some of our people who we see as strong and capable may be going through a hardship that can cross over into their professional work. We all bring our home life to work and our work life home, both the good and the bad.

Self-confidence helps us to develop a positive outlook and attitude. A positive attitude contributes to building winning relationships. Confident and positive people who work well with others become goals-oriented and results-focused. And when we can help develop all these character traits in our people, hope abounds. And as John Maxwell says, “If there is hope in the future, there is power in the present.”

Personal growth precedes and accelerates professional growth. If you have questions about how to go about this for you and your team, I would love to hear from you at And when we can live and work with confidence, a positive attitude, establish winning relationships, realize our goals, and become filled with hope, it really will be a better than good year.

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