I remember the exact moment I knew that to be successful, I had to grow faster than my company and the industry I was working in.  I had just taken the top human resources (HR) job for one of the fastest-growing business units in a global technology solutions company. I was joining HR after a career in research and development so my learning curve was steep.

I had to set myself on a growth path to learn and lead  . . . ahead of the business.  And, this business was destined to grow from $1 billion in revenue to $9 billion in revenue over four years – all organically.  So, needless to say, I had to get busy.  In the end we had great success, and I emerged four years later a better leader. How did I do it?

First, I knew I had to passionately own helping this business and myself grow. Second, my leader was fully engaged in both; and third, I was working for a company that was committed to building a successful and rewarding workplace.

As we look at our value of Employee Growth at Celanese, I’d like to share a few learnings to help each of us grow and develop.

Passionately “Owning” My Development

To grow, we must commit to own our development. No one can do it for us. Here are a few ways I learned to “own” it:

  • Focus on delivering value to the company – I never forgot that I needed to deliver great outcomes. Focusing on that first and foremost allowed me to do well in my current job which eventually allowed for other opportunities.
  • Seek feedback and adapt – We can’t grow, if we don’t know. I ask people I trust to tell me how I’m adding value and how I can do better. From there, I work to adapt.
  • Challenge yourself – I learned early that I could get a bunch more done when I surrounded myself with people smarter than me.
  • Be curious – I’m constantly asking questions and seeking to understand.
  • Ask for the tough assignments – I’ve taken some wickedly scary projects (a few that made me almost sick when I said “yes”) but by doing all the things above I knew I would grow tremendously and add value along the way.
  • Know your limits – When the technology company reached $9 billion in revenue, they reorganized the business and overnight it was a $13 billion business.  This is when I told my boss to hire someone who knew more than me.  This has not held me back.  In fact, this was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done.  Without this honesty, I would have failed.

Leadership Engaged in Employee Growth

The second requirement is leaders who help their employees grow. How did some of my leaders help me?

  • Expected great results.
  • Pushed me beyond my own perceived potential.
  • Provided challenging projects for me to work through and learn from.
  • Gave me positive and constructive feedback.
  • Freed me to do my work while staying involved and engaged.
  • Cared about me, my family and interests beyond the workplace.

If you manage people, you are responsible for helping your employees grow. Give them assignments that stretch them, give them feedback on their progress and encourage them along the way. Acknowledge the efforts they take to push themselves. For more on this, read “Know Your People” in 24 Hours to Better Leadership, a blog with great tips from Ram Charan.

A Company Committed to a Rewarding Workplace

The last condition for employee growth is a company that believes employees deserve a rewarding and high performing workplace and the leaders work to make that a reality. This is where Celanese is, striving toward an environment that:

  • Hires the best so we are surrounded with highly engaged, motivated and talented peers.
  • Does meaningful work for our customers, our communities and each other.
  • Encourages and motivates each of us to bring our best to work every day.
  • Lives its values and respects backgrounds, thoughts and ideas to be a customer-solution provider.

We began putting these pieces in place with our Winning Culture. At the heart of a Winning Culture is an environment where employees can grow and develop. While our journey will take time, I’m reminded of Leonardo Da Vinci’s words, “It has long since come to my attention that  people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them…They went out and happened to things.”

As employees and leaders of Celanese, let’s make things happen together! Thanks for reading and take care.