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Take a look in the mirror: when developing others becomes an opportunity for your personal growth

Allan Christensen
Allan Christensen, Senior Director – Quality, Pratt & Whitney Canada

One of the most remarkable moments when developing people is realizing how it can be at once a selfless activity, and at the same time, an opportunity for your own personal growth. I have learned that people development involves three inter-related elements: (1) Coaching (encouraging, championing, and facilitating decision-making); (2) Mentoring (sharing personal lessons learned – successes and failures – around career choices); and (3) Sponsoring (actively promoting the individual within the organization). When all three are executed consistently and with purpose, developing people is a gift as you stand witness to the greatness that lies within others. While it is part of the role of a leader, it is equally an opportunity for personal reflection. At least that has been the case for me.

I have come to learn that a leader’s most significant asset is their time, and time is used based on personal priorities, professional choices, and values. By investing time in others, time is taken away from other priorities – operational deliverables, many of which are likely much more visible to the organization, and time even possibly taken away from one’s family. Giving time to develop your employees offers them the opportunity to benefit from your knowledge, background, experience and understanding. More importantly, you remind them that they matter to you.

The Return on Investment – Self-Reflection

What may be less obvious is that your time spent developing others presents you with a great opportunity to reflect on your own personal development. In other words, you learn about yourself and how others experience you as well as how you have made sense of your own experiences that paved the path to where you are today. When helping an employee consider options as in a coaching conversation, what more perfect time to think about how you yourself could have proceeded differently in a similar situation? When mentoring others, why not use your own achievements – and missteps – to illustrate what could have been managed differently, and share how your perspective has changed, thereby contributing to the dialogue as a peer?

And while this mentoring conversation moves forward, take time to reflect on how you will make different decisions for yourself going forward. Depending on the situation and the individual that you are developing, these examples can be given in the first person, or preferably anonymously – “a colleague did this…,” “I once knew somebody who did that…,” to protect confidentiality, for instance.

A Symbiotic Relationship

I have moved from saying, “I don’t have time” to purposefully letting people know, “I have time for you”. This has been a defining turning point for me as it has allowed me to help others grow while also contributing and deepening my own reflection. In fact, developing others is the “Mirror” opportunity where you get to look at yourself through the lens of how others are experiencing you for in that very, real moment you get a glimpse into how you are thinking, how you are reacting, and how you are processing your own experiences. Make time.

About Allan Christensen

Allan Christensen

Senior Director – Quality
Pratt & Whitney Canada

Allan has over 25 years in the aerospace industry, mostly in product and process design, development and industrialisation, as well as profitably servicing these products in the aftermarket. In his career, Allan has lead a variety of teams from PhD-level Engineering experts, to unionized assemblers of the final product, and as an expat, aftermarket P&L facilities remote from head office.

As a leader, Allan has most enjoyed the opportunity to challenge and develop the people around him. An employee once mentioned that “you’re always making us think…,” which was the best compliment that Allan could ever receive. Whereas aircraft engines are engineering and manufacturing marvels, people are all the more challenging and interesting to develop.

While extremely intense and focused, and very much in the “executive zone” during the workweek, Allan prefers slow-paced down-time. Weekends are dedicated to walking the dog with his wife Trish, ferrying his three children to a variety of sporting activities, and cooking elaborate meals with local ingredients, paired with the appropriate bottle from his considerable wine cellar.

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