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Concern for the person supports organizational growth

In a recent workshop I asked participants to list the attributes of a good manager. One of the activities at the top of the list was the manager taking an interest in the employee as a person. This did not mean entering in a personal relationship that blurred boundaries but to recognize that the worker as a fellow human has both strengths and weaknesses. Some recent work by four colleagues at Way To Grow, Inc. LLC support this approach and describe a helpful framework.

The Deliberately Developmental Organization (DDO) recognizes the importance of personal growth and facilitates the continuous process of transitioning weaknesses into strengths with support from managers and supervisors. Employees “feel valuable even when they’re screwing up-to see limitations not as failures but as their 'growing edge', the path to the next level of performance."

Learning how to listen to negative feedback is an important part of the DDO structure. An interaction with negative feedback is seen as an important learning opportunity. One example of this shift from a study participant is available from this quote:“even if what he was saying was not true, I was giving him no chance to show me it might be”.

One of the challenges in the DDO framework is: “Do you worry about how good you are or how fast you are learning?” The latter is positioned as the ideal and the focus is more on continuous learning rather than operating mistake free. “Logging errors and problems is applauded and rewarded.” Workers are encouraged to “Explore the truth of the situation”.

Valuable feedback is mined and processes employed to support this information. The fishbowl format is a key technique for obtaining feedback. Fishbowl exercises become routine and “people view them as a healthy exercise in sharing vulnerability rather than a rare and threatening experience.”

“Constructive destabilization” is another key part of the DDO. Finding a good fit between an employee and a task is no longer discovering a good match for current skills but rather situating the employee so that he or she is in just a bit over their head, stretched beyond their current capabilities. This then becomes a profound learning experience that facilitates the development of new skills, adds to an employee’s feeling of accomplishment and supports the over-all growth of the organization. This process also contributes to the organization’s overall ability to respond the continuous changes in the modern market-place (yes this is occurring in health care as well as business). As employees try new things and stretch their abilities they become better able to respond to shifts in their business sector.

Robert Kegan, Lisa Lahey, Andy Fleming, and Matthew Miller are members of Way to Grow, INC, LLC described as “the intellectual and practice home of the Deliberately Developmental Organization”.