Leadership, Our Blog

10 Qualities Needed for Personal Growth

By Tasha M. Troy

In 2012, I decided to pursue a second master’s degree.  I was teaching at a top university at the time that offered tuition benefits, and I love to learn, so it just made sense to me.

Unfortunately, it didn’t make sense to the director of the program I was teaching with.  She did not encourage us to grow. In fact, when I was intentionally trying to grow and learn and become more, I was actually discouraged – directly discouraged – from taking those courses.  This in part led to my decision to leave that department and to find a job teaching elsewhere.

I wanted to grow, but my environment had put a cap on how much I could grow.


Create a Growth Environment

Human beings are designed for growth – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. We are at our best when we are becoming more than we have been.

Whether you’re in a position of leadership or not, it’s important to encourage the people around you to grow.  If you’re one of the many people who do not have a formal a leadership position, you might consider what can you do to help the people around you grow, what can you do to create an environment where it is safe to learn new things. For example, with every class that I teach, I aim to create a learning community, to create an atmosphere where there’s a combination of respect and safety so that my students can try new things and can ask the questions they might not feel comfortable asking otherwise.

One of John Maxwell’s “Fifteen Laws of Growth” says that you have to be in an environment that encourages you to grow. In his book Leadership Gold, in the chapter titled Keep Learning to Keep Leading, he describes the key characteristics a growth environment.

  1. Others are ahead of you.With my students, in the very beginning of the semester, I like to emphasize that we all have different strengths and weaknesses. Some students are strong in some skills and weak in others, while others are strong in different skills and weak in others. And together, we can help each other. But if others are ahead of you in one area, then you’re challenged to catch up.
  2. You are continually challenged. It has been my observation that people are capable of much more than they think they are.  I sometimes tell my students that I see my job as pushing them to do the things they don’t push themselves to do.
  3. Your focus is forward. I am naturally future oriented, so perhaps it’s not surprising that I’m growth oriented as well.  When you’re thinking about the future, you’re inspired to reach for what’s next.
  4. The atmosphere is affirming.I try to find a balance between applauding effort and praising good performance. Even when the performance is not to its fullest potential, I try to point out, first, the areas where the performance was good, and second, some real practical steps where that performance can be improved. It’s the real practical steps that make criticism an encouragement.
  5. You’re often outside of your comfort zone. I wrote about this a little in my last blog article The Three Zones of Learning.  John Maxwell talks about the Challenge Zone, the Comfort Zone, and the Coasting Zone. If you spend too long in your comfort zone, you could slide back into the coasting zone, and no growth happens there!
  6. You wake up excited. When you are working towards a specific goal, you are naturally motivated to work towards it. I have found that growth is exciting!
  7. Failure is not your enemy.Looking back at the teaching department where I left because growth was not encouraged, failure was definitely considered the enemy. Mistakes I had made two, three, four years earlier had never been forgotten even though I had chosen to learn from those mistakes and move forward. For me, this is really an important characteristic. Failure is not the enemy.
  8. Others are growing. One of the best things about my job now is that I am working with students and colleagues who are working to improve their lives and learn new skills.  It is very inspiring to be around people who are just as interested in personal and professional growth as I am.
  9. People desire change.  It seems to me that the desire to change can come from two different sources – a sense of lack and a pursuit of excellence.  I have experienced both.  When I’m trying to do something new and come upon an area I don’t know well, I am motivated to learn and grow in that area.  However, even in areas I do well, I am often not content and look for ways to become even better in that area.
  10. Growth is modeled and expected. I think this reflects back to failure not being the enemy.  Are the leaders of the group engaged in learning and becoming more than they are?  Are group members coached through challenges and encouraged to achieve more?  Or is the status quo rewarded?

If you have these characteristics, you know you’re in an environment that encourages growth where you can learn and continue to become the person who can reach your potential, that you’re not going to leave untapped potential on the table.


Take It Deeper

Which of these characteristics are present in your life today? Which ones are missing?

If you would like to enter into a growth environment, I offer an ongoing live online course on personal and professional development:  Professional Development Essentials.  In this course, you will join with others who are also looking for a growth environment.  We meet every Monday night for a short lesson and discussion.  You can check out the website or contact me for more information: https://troycommunications.net/professional-development-essentials/.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.


Leadership, Our Blog

The Three Zones of Learning

By Tasha M. Troy

This past semester, I taught a “language support” class for international students taking a world history course. As part of my duties, I was required to attend all the world history lectures with my students.

I loved it!  While I took Western history as part of my own college education, I really enjoyed learning with my expanded view of the world after 20 years teaching students from all around the globe.
I have never really thought of it this way before, but I realize now that my hunger to learn has been a major contributing factor to my success. Most of the time, this hunger is shown in the books I read, sometimes in classes I take, occasionally in the classes I teach. I try to learn something every day!


Learn to Love Learning

I love learning, and I love helping people learn. No matter what the topic, if I know even a little more than others, I’m going to try to those around me.  I like to say it’s in my blood, being a third generation educator as I am.

John Maxwell, in his book Leadership Gold, spends a whole chapter on the topic of learning and gives three suggestions that will help you adopt this attitude of learning – Keep Learning to Keep Leading.

  1. Invest in yourself.
  2. Be a continual learner.
  3. Create a growth environment.

Today, I’m going to focus on the second suggestion, being a continual learner.


Becoming a Continual Learner

For me, this is natural. I was one of those really strange kids who was always happy at the end of summer when school started again. But I do recognize that a lot of people struggle with traditional education. Even if you hated school, you can still love learning. Learning is different than education.

Now, I’ve spent most of my career on university campuses. Some academics might think this is sacrilegious, but I truly see that education and learning are not the same thing.  I’ve learned so much just from reading books or watching videos, attending classes where I was learning a skill or spending time with people in discussion.

For example, last week I had my first international ballroom dance class that was taught in English.  The lesson last night was familiar, but the last time I learned it, I was in South Korea and the lesson was taught in Korean.  I had to depend on observation and practice with skilled partners more than listening to explanations when I first learned – and I appreciated the finer points that were explained to me in English last week!

There are so many different ways to learn things. I encourage you to explore some of those different methods of learning even if you enjoy traditional-style-education learning like I did. But always be looking for ways to grow and to learn and to understand the world and the people in it just a little better.


The Three Learning Zones

John Maxwell describes three zones that people live in:

  • The Coasting Zone– You’ve done that before, and you don’t feel you need to do it again. You might not even be doing what you did before. You don’t have to work so hard, and you’re not going try real hard.
  • The Comfort Zone– You have done it, and now you know how to do it. You know you’re good at it, so you’re not going to push the limits.
  • The Challenge Zone– You’re trying new things, and you’re going new places. You’re learning and stretching to new levels.

As we’re talking about this, I have students in all three categories. I have one or two students – not so many this semester – but one or two students have the attitude of “been there, done that; I’m comfortable talking in English and using these skills, so I don’t need to work real hard.” They’re coasting. However, I have one student in particular who is always hungry to understand everything, and he makes me work hard.

I thought it is really interesting how John Maxwell talks about these three zones. Usually you think about your comfort zone and getting in or out of your comfort zone, but it’s not just advancing beyond the comfort zone. It’s a possible slide back into a coasting zone. Nothing is accomplished when you’re coasting.

InThe 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, John Maxwell points out that, while we’re growing up and attending school, it is natural for us to feel stretched out of our comfort zone because we are naturally growing and learning.  But as adults, growth doesn’t happen as a matter of course.  We have to be intentional about continuing to grow and expand our capacity.


Take It Deeper

What are you reading or learning right now? You might be reading up on leadership or another professional skill, or you might be working towards an additional graduate degree.  You might take up dancing or skiing or windsurfing.  You might join a choir or start volunteering for a charity.

No matter where you are in life, you can always become more than you are today.  And in that lies your secret path to success!

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I offer an ongoing live online course on personal and professional development:  Professional Development Essentials.


If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.