By Lourdes Coss, MPA, CPPO
Transformation and growth go together, and awareness is a prerequisite for development. I found this to be true throughout my career in public service. Both personal and organizational development requires the understanding that there is the potential to expand our capabilities and perform at a higher level. We may have a natural talent in some areas. But talent alone does not determine the level of performance or success. It is necessary to cultivate and develop those talents. We all have high potential to become more and do more, but we each choose to use that potential. I read in several sources that we use anywhere between 10% to 40% of our potential. I can only imagine how much more we would accomplish it we use another 20% of our capabilities. It is a daily choice that we make to set our priorities and determine how we spend our time. It is easier to go about life underperforming than elevate our game and take a more challenging path, a path that can lead us to achieve extraordinary things.
Some of us may have lofty goals of making a mark in the world by leaving our leadership legacy for our family, colleagues, and our profession. Some of us want our existence to matter by making the contributions that future generations can enjoy. If our goal is to leave a mark in the world, we need to stay relevant, and to remain relevant, we must continue to evolve into the best possible version of ourselves. But growth is change, and change is uncomfortable.
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” — Albert Einstein
I led a mastermind with a group of procurement professionals. A mastermind is a group of like-minded people who come together to share and discuss ideas and concepts. The book that we studied was “The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth” by Dr. John C. Maxwell. As I gathered with colleagues and friends, it is refreshing to learn that many want to continue to learn, grow, and make a difference. We all struggle with the day-to-day and perhaps mundane tasks that often get in the way of our growth. Sometimes we wonder why we’re not further along in our career or other aspects of life. I think the answer to that is in our daily schedule, our habits, and routines. The choices that we make today reveal the results tomorrow.
The reason these are laws is that they apply in every situation. I am now putting this book in the context of team transformation, and I believe that these laws are applicable based on my experience. There is a reason why they are considered laws. The awareness step always preceded any transformation plan, at least, those I led. It was necessary to assess and take inventory of the conditions and circumstances that led the team to the present state. Reflecting on the past helped take stock of the present conditions of the team and their performance. This reflection and observations helped identify the gap between the vision for the future and the current state. Understanding the gap helped me develop a path forward. The purpose of the goals for growth was to help the team become people who could achieve the vision. Change, of course, was necessary.
In my opinion, John Maxwell’s laws of reflection, intentionality, and awareness are present in the initial assessment exercise. If we want to grow, it is necessary to take inventory of where you are, determine where you want to be, and be intentional about taking steps that move us towards the desired state. The law of the mirror comes into play when the organization decides to invest in the procurement team’s transformation. From the organizational perspective, those making the decision see sufficient value in the procurement function to invest in it.
Interestingly, these laws apply both at the group level and the individual level. Each individual in the organization needs to self-assess where they are and where they want to go. Once they identify the gap, they can design their growth journey. Individual awareness goes beyond professional goals. Taking a hard look at themselves in every aspect of their lives is ideal. Understanding where we are is vital because we cannot change what we don’t know is broken or no longer serves us. Having awareness is the first step, but we must also take action. Action has to be very intentional to move us in the direction of our vision for the future.
Another law that I found revealing was the law of the environment. I can relate this law to the culture of the organization. The atmosphere within the team may or may not be conducive to growth and development. In an organization, everyone influences everyone else. When each member of the organization is at a higher level of awareness and has the right leadership in promoting an environment of collaboration, that environment will be conducive to growth. This particular law says that “growth thrives in conducive environments.” We don’t select our co-workers, but a team environment can make change possible. If the people around us are on a growth journey, the chances for the team’s collective growth are more significant.
We see the law of the rubber band in the tension created by growth. Change is difficult, and development requires change. This tension between the comfort zone and the unknown translates into growth both individually and collectively. When we stretch our abilities, we are essentially learning and growing. Challenging situations offer us tremendous growth opportunities. Being in that tension stage is very challenging, particularly for the most tenured staff. Imagine going from the most knowledgeable in the room to having to re-learn your job! Although you are always the most knowledgeable in the group, there is no tension and, therefore, not growth. This tension stage is uncomfortable, but as the rubber band, individuals add the most value to the organization. This tension is a good thing even though there’s plenty of frustration. To stay relevant, one must continue to grow and change. This tension benefits everyone both individually and collectively.
Growth tension can be maintained when each team member remains curious about the continuous improvement of processes and finding ways to bring best practices to the operation. Staying curious is an asset that will help keep the individuals in the team growing. An environment that enables individuals to explore that curiosity will benefit the entire organization.
We can observe on the back end of the transformation process, the laws of expansion and contribution. The result of the growing tension is the increased capabilities of the team and each individual. As the group expands its capabilities in an environment conducive to growth, team members will want to share knowledge, particularly with new team members. This mindset of sharing information, helping those around you, and contributing to others’ growth also helps individuals get a more in-depth understanding of what they have learned. An environment of collaboration is beneficial when it comes to change.
To conclude, I think that all of the laws discussed in the book are important and very relevant both on an individual basis or a group basis. I only mentioned a few of the 15 laws of growth. These are present in the transformation process, starting with awareness, reflection, intentionality, and worth (law of the mirror) at the very beginning. Growth comes from the tension caused by a change in an environment that supports collaboration and the continued curiosity for continuous improvement. Finally, when team members can teach each other, their knowledge is elevated and helps create a culture of collaboration, growth, and development.