For an effective personal development framework, one can just take what works for successful corporations. Similar to competitive advantage and performance management, what works well for a business also works wells for individuals.
Just as businesses need to grow to fulfill their potential and promise, so also at a personal level we are looking to constantly grow. Growth does not come by accident, it has to be strategically thought out and planned for. You need a framework for this.
For a business, an effective framework is one where the business thoroughly understands its product, capabilities, customers and competition.
This framework can be easily extrapolated to individual level these four parameters to individual cases as follows:
You, your skills, your accomplishments and what you can do for your new team, employer, organization
A good product is useful, performs consistently, is of good quality and lasts long. In a similar vein, the activities or roles that you will perform in your career, business or employment will be expected to have those attributes.
To be in demand, you must hone your “personal product” to be resilient, consistent and high quality performer. Your presence and output must add value to the team or organization that you represent.
You do need to know what your strengths are. Just as a corporation knows its capabilities (in terms of finances, employees, manufacturing capacity, research capability, etc.) you need to know yours.
Excelling in math, attention to detail, creative problem-solving, equanimity, a good voice, excellent hand-eye co-ordination are examples of personal capabilities. On the other hand panicking under stress, inability to focus for long periods, incoherent communication, etc. are weaknesses.
Once you understand, then you need to look for continuous improvement in your capability by way of personal development. This could be improvements in health, learning new skill sets, getting advanced education or building a new habit. Again, these improvements or taking up a new skill development should be aligned with overall strategic path that you have chosen.
Capability improvement is necessary to win the customer in the face of competition.
Capability improvement could be seen from two dimensions, both of which aim at gaining advantage over the competition:
a. Further reinforce or enhance your strengths; this helps to widen the chasm between you and your next competitor who is lagging behind you
b. Reduce the gap and edge towards your competitor by improving upon your weaknesses
Tim Ferriss, celebrity author of the 4-Hour Work Week advocates the former. He urges people to make better use of their weapons (i.e. multiplication of results using one’s strengths) than to be in a state of constant repair (i.e. incremental improvement fixing weaknesses so that they at least become mediocre).
The concept is to be aware of your weaknesses as well as strengths, and make a conscious, well-informed decision to which ones to work on.
Successful corporations are focused on their customers. They know exactly what their customers look like, how they behave, how they interact with the product, where they lurk and how they can be approached.
This can be effectively applied to personal situations as well. Your customer could be the company or employer you are seeking. Or the venture capitalist who you are looking to raise funds from. Or it could well be your customer.
If you understand your competitive advantage, how you are unique from the others applying for the same position, what the employer is looking for in the job and how to best approach them, you are in a great position to succeed in landing the job.
Competition is a wonderful thing for three reasons:
a) It indicates the presence of a profitable market
b) It improves the quality of the product which not only benefits the customer, but also helps you (the company) raise your own standards
c) Analysis of the competition helps you understand how they are differentiating themselves. This enables you to understand your own strengths and where to improve
While corporations are not permitted legally to “hang out” with their competitors (from a price manipulation perspective), on a personal level there is no such legal restriction. On the contrary this is a great thing to do, unless you feel you will lose if the other person wins. In most cases when you join forces with your competition you help accelerate your personal development.
Infographic: Personal Development Framework, (c) Kay Leadership Academy