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Why Employees' Personal Growth Matters

Your ability to grow a company is dependent upon your ability to help others grow.
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Why do some companies continue to grow, while others falter and die? I'd argue it's the result of flexibility. Nimble companies adapt to new situations and marketing conditions while rigid companies eventually crack under the strain.

So, then, what makes a company nimble? My answer: management's commitment to personal growth. Here's why.

As a company grows, it must change, and those changes are only possible when employees take on new challenges, expand their capabilities, cultivate new behaviors and entertain new ideas.

In other words, companies grow when the people inside them grow first.

That's why it's so strange that so many bosses spend more energy on the "organization" than the individuals inside it.

Millions of management hours have been wasted in the vain attempt to create a perfect organization chart and the attempt to pigeonhole specific job responsibilities. They're trying to create the perfect corporate machine which is crazy because machines don't and can't adapt!

Instead, bosses should focus on the real business at hand, which is developing the capacity of every individual on the team. BTW, I'm not talking about a five minute discussion during a yearly salary review. I'm talking about day-to-day behavior.

Here's how to make the commitment real:

1. Think "community" rather than "machine."

Stop trying to turn your company into a gadget and your employees into replaceable cogs. Instead, see your company for what it really is: a community of individuals, each of whom has a boundless capacity to learn and grow.

2. Reorganize seldom (if ever).

Intuit Chairman Bill Campbell once told me that when he ran Claris (a company that Apple bought), he grew the organization from 1 to 100 people over four years, without a single reorganization, by letting roles and responsibilities evolve as the market evolved.

3. Pay your employees to expand their interests. 

Even in difficult economic times, employees should be encouraged to take classes and training outside their current job responsibilities. How else can they be expected to grow and adapt to new circumstances?

4. Be committed to your own personal growth. 

For entrepreneurs, this usually means giving up control. Let's face it: you can't manage 1,000 people the same way you manage 10. In fact, probably the most essential form of personal growth is learning to let go.

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IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Nov 19, 2012

GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James was recently named a "Top 40 Social Selling Marketing Master" by Forbes, and his blog has won awards from the Society of American Business Editors and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. His writing has appeared in publications as diverse as Wired, Brandweek, and Men's Health, and he is the author of numerous books, including The Tao of Programming, Business Wisdom of the Electronic Elite, and, most recently, Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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