Are Personal & Professional Growth Separate?

You probably know we’re big on both personal and professional growth — but is there a connection? Can you develop and grow personally while remaining stagnant professionally, and vice versa? Or will growing in one area inevitably lead to growth in the other? Our two cents:

Wherever you focus your time, effort, and energy is where you’ll experience growth. But in our experience, when you care enough to put in the time and work to develop yourself— whether personally or professionally — it’s likely to bleed over into other areas of your life. Why do we say that?Hand drawn watercolor trees

When we start reflecting on ourselves, we’re inclined to take a comprehensive approach to growth to some degree, even if our initial intention to grow was personal OR professional. Inevitably, the two affect and influence each other, for better or for worse. Think about it: if you’re missing sleep or having troubles at home, your productivity and focus at work is likely to suffer. When you hate your job and you spend your day answering stupid questions or dealing with incompetency, you’re more likely go home unhappy and extend less patience and grace to your family than you would otherwise.

The truth is, we don’t have a “work self” and a “home self.” Most of us can’t completely separate our personal and professional lives, as much as we’d like to. So when we work on improving one, we’ll likely see some of that good and some of that effort showing up in the other.

In a way, this should be comforting. Many of the character traits and skills that are beneficial in the professional workplace are also beneficial in the personal realm, and vice versa. Working on developing one area and reaping the benefits in both worlds is a bonus.

Let’s look at some traits and skills you might work on and how they might be beneficial, both personally and professionally:

Leadership

We all want to be better leaders. Working on leadership skills can make you more effective when leading your team at work, but it can also benefit you personally. At the very least, when you’re in a group of Indecisives and no one can decide where to go for dinner, you’ll be ready to take the lead, without looking like a bossy control-freak.

Listening

If you asked a room full of people whose listening skills could be improved upon, everyone (if they’re listening) would raise their hand. Being a better listener helps improve communication and reduces miscommunication, misunderstanding, friction, and time waste. Sounds like a useful tool at work, at home, and just about everywhere else, doesn’t it?

Communication

Would you consider yourself an effective communicator? Better question, would others consider you an effective communicator? Communication is something that, if we’re honest with ourselves, we could all be better at. By working on achieving clarity and purpose with every written and verbal engagement, listening to others and anticipating their needs and questions, and reiterating to ensure understanding, we can avoid a whole host of problems, both professionally and personally.

Patience

Life doesn’t always go the way we planned. Obstacles arise and problems pop up, but if we want to maintain our sanity, we have to learn to be patient through those times and maintain some sense of calm. Why do you think “Keep Calm & Carry On” went viral? Because we could all use a daily reminder and we all stand to improve in this area. Whether we’re waiting on a coworker to get us the information we need, standing in line at the DMV, or answering the 65th question in a row from our toddler, patience is something we could all use more of.

Problem-Solving

Good leaders, good parents, and good friends are able to creatively solve problems and find ways around or through obstacles. Developing your creative problem solving skills will help you achieve your own personal and professional goals and will make you a great asset to others on their journeys as well.

Empathy

Are you good at relating to and empathizing with others? Empathy is one of the greatest traits you can have, across the board, and working on your empathy will benefit you in a million little ways. When you have the ability to see where others are coming from and feel for their circumstances, you’ll be better at communicating with them, no matter what the situation may be. Whether you’re trying to connect with and understand the woman at the checkout, console a crying child, or resolve an inter-office conflict, empathy goes a long way.

Time-Management

Time is not a renewable resource and each of us only has so much of it. Whether we’re at work or play, in order to get everything done and maintain our sanity, we need to work on our time-management skills. As a culture, we’ve meddled heavily with multi-tasking, but the reality is, multi-tasking is not a good time-management tool. You need to plan according to your own peak periods and focus on the task (and only the task) at hand. We could all use more time, but since that’s out of the question, why not learn to maximize what you’ve got?

Are there any traits or skills that you developed personally that ended up being surprisingly beneficial to you professionally (or the other way around)? Share with us in the comments below — we’d love to hear from you!

Keeping The Peace: How To Manage Interoffice Conflict

As our very own Taylor Hill put it: some people are like cats, some people are like dogs. And cats and dogs have different personalities, different likes and dislikes, different ways of thinking, and different ways of handling things. But what happens when these differences lead to interoffice conflicts? As the leader of your business, what do you do when employees on your team are fighting like cats and dogs?
Cat-Dog-Peaceful
Address each individual involved separately and privately – Every story has two (or more) sides, and you need to have private, one-on-one discussions to get the full scope of the problem at hand. Addressing each person individually will also help to keep the conversation cool and open.

Verbalize the problem & the reason it’s a problem – Even though the problem might be clear to you, when emotions are high, it can be difficult to zoom out and really pinpoint the true issue at hand. Verbalizing the problem and the reason it’s a problem will save a lot of time, ensure everyone is on the same page, and help you get to the bottom of things faster.

Avoid accusatory language – You want to get past this problem, and the only way to do that is to have open communication. When accusatory language is used, the individuals involved will feel personally attacked, which isn’t conducive to openness and growth. Stay focused and clear everything out of your mind but the problem at hand. Avoid bringing past situations or issues with the individual back up as a sort of “list of grievances.” Remember, you’re here to solve this problem – and if the individual feels personally attacked, they are likely to shut down instead of working with you to resolve this issue.
Dog-Listening-With-Ear-Up
Listen – Pay careful attention to the wording used by the individuals. It may come out that one of the involved individuals is having trouble outside of the workplace and a comment or tone was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back. As the leader of your company, it’s important to remember that we all have a life outside of work, and sometimes outside issues can bleed into our 9-5.

Act fast – Whatever you do, don’t let a problem escalate by ignoring it or letting too much time pass before addressing it. Nip it in the bud! If any of the involved parties need a minute to cool off, that’s one thing – but ignoring it is not an option.

Ok, so now you have the tools to mediate and diffuse interoffice conflict, but what you can do to prevent it altogether?

Foster A Respectful Company Culture & Encourage Communication

As the leader of your company, there are two big things you can do to prevent interoffice conflict:

Foster a respectful company culture – One of the things we all love about being a part of the team here at Spark Marketer is the company culture. Our leaders have made it very clear to each and every one of us that, no matter what is going on, we are to respect each other, PERIOD. And we do! We have several different personality types with several different innate communication styles, and enough sarcasm to make Lewis Black look like the Pope. But another thing we aren’t lacking is true respect and appreciation for each other. Sure, we joke around and we’re pretty laid back, but coarse jesting and passive aggressive, intentionally hurtful remarks are 100% absent from our work environment.

Encourage communication – Oftentimes, interoffice conflict arises as a result of miscommunication, poor communication, or a complete lack of communication. The more you do to prevent communication breakdown, the less you’ll need to worry about office conflicts. Encourage your employees to develop systems for communicating and to be open, direct, and polite about it. But remember, communication isn’t everyone’s strong point – be mindful of which employees might need a little push and direction, and give them a little nudge when they need it. With time, your guidance, and a little positive reinforcement when you notice them exhibiting excellent communication skills, it’ll only become more and more natural.

The good news is: once your company culture is in place and your employees start working on open communication, for the most part, they should keep the peace for you.