Global competencies and personal growth do not seem related but they go hand in hand. Using assessments like the Global Competency Inventory (GCI) or Intercultural Effectiveness Scale (IES) is a terrific first step to see how one compares with others or identify strengths and areas that require more development.
But if you want to take full advantage of any global competency assessment, a process for personal development is essential. I have used the GCI and the IES with hundreds of professionals and students over the last decade and, yet, I am still touched and amazed by the progress they report at the end of a thorough developmental process.
Take a look at how some people have seen improvement in diversity and stress management skills:
“Rather than assume and judge, I have learned that taking a moment to step back, ask insightful questions and listen is key to connecting with people who are different from me and finding common ground.”
“At the last family gathering, when conversations began to get heated, I was able to simply walk away. I usually find myself getting worked up, but remembering to only control what I can control and simply walk away really helped. I also made sure to work out. The conscious effort to manage stressful situations has made a big difference. I actually enjoyed the holiday!”
In both cases, they had a plan of action that was effective and paid off. So how did they get to that point?
Both the GCI and IES results contain instructions for a Personal Development Plan (PDP) that includes a specific goal, tactics for achieving it, support needed from others, and someone to whom they are accountable for reporting their weekly progress. This is similar to any SMART goal, but the secret sauce lies in the entire PDP process, which is based on the tenets of Cognitive Behavior Therapy.*
Four Reasons Why Personal Development Plans Work
1 – Focus
Paying attention to our behavior and its effect on ourselves and others is the first step toward change. “What I realized this week was the power of consciously trying or focusing on something. I consciously tried to notice when I get emotionally wound up. I wouldn’t have been able to overcome that if I hadn’t taken the time to reflect and consciously think about it in certain situations.”
2 – Reflection
Research shows that reflection is a crucial part of personal development. We require reflection at three stages in the PDP process.
First, people analyze their assessment results and try to make sense of them.
Second, they reflect on these questions in weekly progress reports:
- Report the outcomes of your efforts to implement your plan from the previous week.
- Report insights you have gained from these outcomes.
- Based on the above reflections, what is your plan for the upcoming week?
Weekly reports may sound burdensome, but as one person wrote, “I love the weekly progress report because it became a meditation for me outside of my busy work. It makes me feel someone is listening to my thoughts and that I am not alone when I face difficulties.”
Third, people write a final report that leads them to reflect on how they succeeded or failed at improving themselves, what they learned as a consequence and how they plan to apply what they’ve learned about self-development in the future.
3 – Modification
Because the weekly reports provide an opportunity to evaluate whether one’s plan is working, people learn to tweak and personalize their development plans to be more effective. It’s good to understand that personal development requires experimentation, which in turn helps increase self-knowledge.
4 – Accountability
Being accountable to a peer or a professor forces people to make their personal development a higher priority in their life.
By following this process, people are better equipped for future personal development efforts. They can readily identify their strengths and weaknesses and they can speak knowledgeably about how they improved themselves. Imagine how useful this is when asked in a job interview, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” This simple process is surprisingly effective at helping others become more globally skilled — one global competency at a time.
*To learn more, read M.E. Mendenhall, A. Arnardottir, G. Oddou, and L. Burke (2013). Developing cross-cultural competencies in management education via cognitive behavior therapy, Academy of Management Education & Learning, 12(3), 436-451.