Build Your Skills: Being Deliberately Developmental

Being Deliberately Developmental is a key concept introduced in the book “An Everyone Culture” that I’ve recently read and reviewed. And I think it holds an important place in the context of Building Your Skills for the Future of Work. It’s especially important if you’re not part of a Deliberately Developmental organization, and you don’t yet have the power to influence this transformation for your organisation.

Become Deliberately Developmental

Even as a simple employee, you can focus on developing this intent through a set of key practices. Let’s see them together:

  1. Become developmental buddies with someone. Creating a sense of home is important for your development, and you can experience it by mutually sharing what you’re working on about yourself. Remember that it’s not about giving each other advice about how to solve problems. Rather, it’s about giving one another a chance to regularly check in about how your growing edge is showing up on a daily basis. Useful questions to ask a development buddy go something like this: “What did that experience bring up for you? Why do you think you had that response, reaction, thought, or fear?”. Learning Agility becomes a key skill in building this practice.
  2. Seek input about your growing edge. It’s hard to take advantage of all the opportunities to grow at work if you don’t have a sense of what you’re actively working on. Try this simple exercise to jump-start identifying your own growing edge. Ask three people you trust, who know how you get work done, to answer a question for you: “As someone who knows me and wants to help me keep growing, what do you observe that I could be doing differently that might make me more effective?”. It’s the basic concept for continuous growth.
  3. Create an immunity-to-change map on your growing edge goal. Check in the next chapter or read chapter 6 of the book. Then share your map, as well as your observations and tests of your big assumptions, with your developmental buddy.
  4. Seek bite-size, regular, meaningful feedback from trusted observers. Ask trusted colleagues to watch you during a meeting, a presentation, or other setting and give you a little feedback afterwards. For example, hypothetically you might say, “I’m working on doing more active listening and less talking, less justifying of my reasoning and sharing my opinions. Can you tell me what you notice about my actions at this meeting?
  5. Bring your manager into your growth agenda. If you feel comfortable doing so, tell your manager about your goals for learning and growth. When you proactively seek feedback and signal your intention to keep working on your effectiveness, by and large, your supervisors have more room to mentor you. For most managers, it’s a breath of fresh air—and a clear win-win situation for the organization—to have employees with a genuine interest in self-improvement. It’s also a key asset in creating true Followership.
  6. Watch for modelling by others. Some colleagues and experienced leaders are especially good role models for seizing opportunities to grow at work. Look for evidence of people who seek active input, publicly model learning behaviours, and invest in others’ growth. Watch what they do, and ask to talk to them about their day-to-day approach to learning and growing at work.

Build your Immunity to Change Map

The Immunity fo Change Map is a tool that will help you understand what’s keeping you from your goal. What you perceive as obstacles could be competing commitments. Instead of surrendering your goal to a lack of time, money, or support, you should instead consider how you’re utilizing these scarce resources.

Can you change the allocations? And, if so, will you be comfortable with the tradeoff?

When embracing change, you’ll confront your core values and operating assumptions. If you are open to revising your guiding assumptions, you will find it easier to achieve your desired change.

To uncover the issues that are inhibiting change and identify opportunities for improvement, Kegan and Lahey developed a four-step framework for tracking goals, overcoming perceived barriers, and outlining productive actions.


Step 1 – Get Goal Oriented

In column one, identify the areas in your life that are due for a positive change. These might include things like saving more money, becoming a better listener or switching careers.

Underneath, list the actions that will help you achieve your goal. If you are thinking of changing careers, for example, you might consider going back to school or taking an online course.

Step 2 – Clear Out Obstructive Behaviors

What’s stalling your efforts? Maybe you find yourself crushed under a jam-packed schedule or consistently deprioritizing your goal in favour of more immediate tasks. Detail these behaviours in column two.

Step 3 – Confront competing commitments  

Here’s where the real self-exploration comes in. Look at the behaviours you listed in column two and ask yourself how you’d feel if you did the opposite. Identify the fears you face in pursuing change by outlining key concerns in the box at the top of column three. Follow these concerns with what you fear will be compromised—your competing commitments.

Step 4 – Challenge your big assumptions

In this last step, you’ll identify the barriers you must overcome to achieve lasting change. Figure out what internalized truths are at the heart of your competing commitments by developing “if ____, then ____” statements. List these big assumptions in column four.

the ITC map targets hidden fears, commitments, and beliefs that, once uncovered, recast the personal challenge in a way that involves the whole self. You see how you can, if you’re willing, put your whole self at risk for change.

Kegan and Lahey, An Everyone Culture, page 227


This post is slightly different than the others in this series, and you could argue that Being Deliberately Developmental is not a skill on its own. But I wanted to really put some focus on the fact that we need to be intentional on developing some of these distinguishing skills. I suspect that many organisations will need to turn in DDO soon. So this skill is just to start becoming ready for the moment in the future.

And you? Are you ready to become Deliberately Developmental?

What Skills for the Future of Work?

This post is part of a series of articles on Skills and Competencies required to succeed in the Future of Work. Read the main article, and access all the other available posts.

Cover Photo by Santi Vedrí on Unsplash

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Sergio Caredda

Digital Knowmad | Multipotentialite | HR Leader | Transformation Agent | Future of Work thinker | On a mission to re-embed Human into HR.

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