Growing or Dying

Growing or Dying

If you’re not familiar with thermodynamics (no judgment!), the field has defined four laws that help explain temperature, heat, work and energy. The second law, most applicable to leadership and development, is tricky despite its simplicity. It’s often expressed as a simple truth: Energy is converted through work, yet you never get the same level of energy out of the work that you put into it. While energy is never created or destroyed, it does convert, and it often turns into something involving waste or an unwanted by-product. There are complex equations that demonstrate this, but frankly as soon as letters are introduced in math, I bow out.

But what if we looked at the law through a slightly different lens? The second law is also interested in the direction of the flow of energy and states that there is only one direction in the natural process, and that it cannot be reversed. In the human development, coaching, training and education realms, we translate this idea such that the application of energy has one direction but two possible outcomes. Until we figure out time travel, we can only be in the current state, and our efforts are either anabolic (growing, building) or catabolic (draining or dying) heading into the future.

You are either growing or dying.

That’s harsh and quite absolute, no? Well, laws tend to be absolute – which is why I tend to look for ways to (respectfully and intelligently) break them; like many of us, I dislike being constrained or told what to do and appreciate creativity over compliance.

Let’s apply this law to our development. As carbon-based life forms, we are subject to the natural laws and forces in our universe, whether we like it or not. Personally, I don’t like many of them and that just sends me down the rabbit hole of being constrained again so I’ll stop complaining and get on with it with some examples: If we want to fly, we must burn enormous amounts of fuel to do so. Traveling far and fast consumes energy, but converts that energy into heat and what we’ve come to know as pollutants. And it’s not just flying; choose any process and we see the law manifest into reality. Failing to develop your skills and knowledge and abilities as a leader is the opposite of growing.

Development takes energy. In a previous career, I had the honor of developing a diverse group of people in a large organization where the leaders encouraged and believed in human development, there were ample funds and budgeted dollars available, and there were generous policies around time off and often paid time to train, educate and develop. All of these resources AND the individual’s desire and commitment to develop where needed. It takes energy in the form of all the aforementioned; however, I want to highlight the most often experienced barrier to development: the desire and commitment, rather than the more tangible resources of money and time.

As I worked to unpack this barrier, fear became the common denominator – fear of failing, fear of the unknown and fear of the changes that might occur. Overcoming fear is not easy for most people (including the author of this post). We’d like to think that willpower is the key, and while that helps, most of us cannot simply “will” ourselves into development. Rather, we need to become aware of why the growth and development is or could be wanted and applied. The vast majority of us need to know that our efforts in developing will be applicable immediately or in the very near future.

When you look at your development as a leader, what barriers do you face? Do you have a clear vision of how your development will be applied and valued in your organization, how it might make you more promotable, effective or fulfilled?

We coach leaders to get that type of clarity, and we train leaders and teams to make an immediate and future impact in their organizations. Let me know how I can help you and your teams grow!

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