Your Development – It’s All Down To You

June 8, 2010 | By

Too many times do we pass the buck with developing our skills and abilities.

Too often is it easy to take the easy way and say that what life throws at us is nothing to do with us – it’s just not fair.

Yet there is something in the words of John F Kennedy that can make the difference – with a twist!

Today, I’m minded of the phrase that’s come up in recent weeks with the semi-election of David Cameron and the Conservatives in the UK.

Cameron is known to be fascinated by the words of both John and Robert Kennedy and if you want to see more on this, you can do a quick search of a nice little video of him at

The words of John F Kennedy are appropriate here and as I set off later this morning to start leading a development program with a bunch of managers who might feel that they’ve been let down by development promises over the last few years, it’s useful to reflect on just what he said.

It’s a small saying that has been well worn down the 40+ years that have passed:-

“Think not what your country can do for you, rather, what you can do for your country.”

In the self-development context, many of us work for, or with huge global organizations. They have that reputation, which is most often true, that they are poor at creating those relationships with their people that show they care.

As I took a briefing from the senior executive leading the development project for his people, he was freely open with me, in his acceptance that their employees had been let down.

Whilst he was forthright in his disappointment with that and his resolve to make it much better, he had something else to say as well.

“They also need to recognize that they need to take personal responsibility for their own development too, then we can work together to develop them.”

In John Whitmore’s excellent coaching book, ‘Coaching for Performance’, the very first steps in coaching (and this can be coaching others or indeed simply coaching yourself) are about ‘Awareness and Responsibility’.

The ‘Awareness’ of our situation and beliefs; our perceptions and preferences; our wants, needs and values and how all of these things – and more, for this is not a comprehensive list – make us who we are.

Make us think we can’t, when we can. Our awareness of our people is the same, where we neatly box people without too much consideration for them and consequently miss many, many opportunities.

The ‘Responsibility’ is all about what WE do about it – not pass the buck and expect others to do things for us. WE take the responsibility to make the most of the opportunities presented to us and more.

Where we also become proactive in our growth – finding out what we need to make the most of ourselves and then go find out what we need to do to release it.

I hope JFK won’t mind, but we have other opportunities that are closer to home for us, so…

“Think not what your organization can do for you, rather, what you can do for yourself – and your organization.”

It’s all down to you.

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