Building a Strong Foundation: The Six Essential Elements of Personal Growth

“Employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers.”

It’s a saying that pops up fairly frequently in the world of leadership and management circles. I think that it’s true to some extent, but even the most effective managers will have staff that leave for perfectly legitimate reasons which are no reflection of their management style.

However, I do believe that employees leave managers who don’t invest enough time and energy into personal development for their team. 

Everyone needs a next step in their career which can be something big, such as a promotion or a pay increase. Or it can be something smaller such as taking on more responsibilities or starting to manage a junior person.

No matter what, I believe that there is a base level of personal development that everyone needs. If you can satisfy this base level at a minimum, then I believe that most other elements of job satisfaction and happiness will be a lot easier and unlikely to be deal breakers in someone’s decision to leave your company. 

Today, I’m going to talk about the six fundamentals of personal development that you should cover as a manager. Now, these aren’t things that you can simply tick off and forget about. They are ongoing elements that you need to regularly talk about and work on. Sure, there may be times when some are less important than others, but you can’t go too long before covering them, otherwise they may become a problem. 

We’re going to cover:

  • Pay
  • Progression
  • Having an impact
  • Feeling heard
  • Learning
  • Autonomy

Let’s take a closer look at them and learn how we can cover each one for our team members.


Let’s start with one of the obvious things that everyone needs – pay that they are happy with. Within the people that you will manager throughout your career, you’ll probably have a mix of:

  • People who are very driven by money.
  • People who are not driven by money, but care about it.
  • People who are not driven by money at all.

It’s important to learn where your team members sit on this kind of scale. But it’s also fair to say that at an absolute minimum, the vast majority of people will need a fair salary and fair pay increases as a hygiene factor. Everyone has bills, everyone needs to pay rent or a mortgage, so it’s only sensible that everyone will need to feel that they are earning enough to cover their basic needs.

This means that you should not only strive to pay what is fair, but you should also do your best to show your team members what is possible as they develop, take on more responsibilities and become more senior.

For example, if one of your team members currently earns $30,000 per year and the top pay for their particular job role is $40,000, then you should work with them to map out the steps and increases that they can reasonably expect to get on the way to that level. 

This will depend a lot on the company that you work for and their propensity to share salary ranges, as well as how profitable they are. After all, you don’t want to promise a salary that you can’t deliver on. But where possible, you should try to tell someone what’s next for them in terms of a salary increase and when that increase is likely to happen.

Just as importantly, if the pay increase is above average and requires them to hit certain levels of job performance, you should be clear about this so that they know what part they play in achieving that increase.


Alongside pay, most of your team members will pursue job promotions at some point in their careers and want to become more senior and take on more responsibility. This is likely to be accompanied by a pay increase, but given that we’ve already talked about that, let’s focus on promotions.

Where possible, work with your team members to map out what their career may look like over the next few years in terms of job roles. At the absolute minimum, you should work with them to map out what the next promotion looks like. For example, if someone is a Digital Marketing Consultant at the moment, they should be aware of what the next promotion available to them is. If it’s something such as a Senior Digital Marketing Consultant, you should understand if this is something they want to shoot for and if so, what they need to do in order to get to that point.

When you are putting together a personal development plan for your team, ensure that you talk about what the next level of promotion is for them in concrete terms and agree on what skills they are going to develop in order to get there – along with a timeline. 

Having an impact

Aside from the more tangible side of personal development such as pay and promotions, there are a range of softer things too which we’ll talk about now.

Firstly, everyone wants to feel like they are having an impact in their role. It’s really important that you work with your team to understand two things:

  1. What type of work is impactful for them and gives them satisfaction.
  2. How they can achieve this specific type of work in their day-to-day role.

Once you’ve talked about these, you need to ensure that your team member has the opportunity to work in a way that allows them to have a tangible impact. This may mean that they see the end results of their work e.g. a designer seeing their work get published and shared with the world. Or a consultant having their recommendations implemented and measured. 

Whatever it is, you can’t necessarily tick this off in a personal development plan. 

Instead, it’s something to make a note of and to check in on regularly with your team members. Don’t be afraid to ask them directly if they feel that their work is having an impact and if it makes them feel like their work is valuable.

No one likes to get to the end of a day at work and not feel like they’ve achieved something or had an impact. So don’t skip this or leave it too long before checking in on it.

Feeling heard

Everyone wants to feel like their opinion is valuable enough to be heard. It’s pretty demoralising if someone feels like they speak up and share an idea or a view, then it’s completely ignored and not even considered.

Of course, particularly at a larger company or a growing team, not every single piece of feedback or every single idea can be actioned. But most people wouldn’t expect their ideas to be actioned immediately and will understand that sometimes, this won’t be possible.

But, they will expect you to at least listen. And not just pretend to listen, but really take on board their views. If you can listen to their views and discuss them, this is usually enough to satisfy this particular part of someone’s development and engagement in their role.


The vast majority of people want to keep learning in their careers. A pretty common reason I hear with people who apply to work at Aira is that they’ve plateaued in their learning at their current company. A lack of learning and training plans can lead to a lack of engagement, not to mention having a tangible impact on the work that someone produces for you.

It can also lead to a feeling that their training isn’t important. The implication being that the company (and therefore you) don’t value their training if you’re not putting in place a proper training plan or giving them direction on what types of things to learn.

When you’re working on someone’s personal development, make sure that you brainstorm (with them) a range of skills that they want to develop. Then list out the various ways that they can develop these skills. This is likely to be a combination of things like:

  • Online courses
  • Conferences
  • Webinars
  • Books
  • Internal or external training sessions

Whatever it is, list it all out so that they are never short of ideas when it comes to training resources. You can then plan which ones they prioritise and work on first. 


Finally, very few people enjoy the feeling of being micromanaged. Most people want to be given autonomy and freedom to crack on with their jobs and do it in the best way possible. The main reason for this is that it provokes a strong feeling of trust. If you truly trust someone, then you can leave them to get on with a job and know that it will be done.

Feeling like your boss doesn’t trust you is probably one of the worst feelings that someone can have.

Giving them autonomy and freedom is a great way to reduce this feeling and to inspire trust. When you give people this level of trust, very few will let you down or abuse it. Of course, mistakes can happen, but mistakes will happen no matter what, so the key is to learn from those mistakes and not instantly lose trust in someone because of it. 

One great way to give someone autonomy is to define the output of the task i.e. what the deliverable is, then let them decide on the best way of getting there. You can provide guidance and direction, but try not to prescribe exactly what they should do. Try to avoid a level of detail that takes away all decision making and freedom from them.

To wrap up for this week, you should ensure that on a regular basis, you discuss these six fundamentals of personal development. It will increase the chances of someone feeling constantly engaged with their role and satisfied. Sure, they will have bad days here and there – we all do. But overall, looking after these core areas will leave them feeling like you’re taking their job satisfaction seriously and providing them with a concrete development plan.

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