Over the past few weeks I’ve written a lot about personal growth. That’s because it’s so important to me – I believe personal growth is a crucial part in anyone’s journey toward success and significance. But this week, I want to talk about an area of personal growth that we sometimes forget: helping another person grow. And specifically someone else outside of work.

Whenever I write or speak on the subject of leadership, I share that the best leaders are always on the lookout for opportunities to help people in their organizations grow. Helping team members grow is a great way to enhance your own growth and develop together as a team.

But as I’m sure you know, life is about more than work. And influence is felt in more places than the office. Opportunities exist all around to encourage growth in the people we care about outside of work. That means your family, your neighbors, and people in your community can grow as a result of your influence.

What are the keys to encouraging growth in the people you care about?

1. Be Quick to Listen

We live in a world that is clamoring to be heard. Between social media, blogs, video journals, podcasts and traditional media, a lot is being said, but not many are listening. So when you go out of your way to listen – to your children, your neighbor, or that person in the grocery store – you are communicating two things: one, that the person speaking has value, and two, that you want to add value to them. The better your listening skills, the more others will seek you out for just that purpose. And often, people will discover their own path to growth without your having to say a word.

2. Be Quick to Laugh

Comic pianist Victor Borge once said, “Laughter is the closest distance between two people.” Nothing helps a person more than someone willing to share a laugh in times of stress, or times of trouble, or times of joy. That’s because laughter creates positivity. And positivity is essential for anyone trying to grow. After all, personal growth often comes with mistakes, bumps, and bruises, so it’s especially helpful when we have someone to help us laugh our way through the rough patches.

3. Be Quick to Encourage

The other day, I heard a wonderful story about a woman who recently passed away, after a nine year battle with a rare form of cancer. At the woman’s memorial service, person after person stood and shared stories about how she had always been quick to listen, quick to laugh, and quick to care for the people around her.

After the service, as her family received visitors, one visitor approached and said, “I want you to know what this woman meant to me. Whenever I saw her, she never failed to tell me I have a good heart. She always said that – ‘You have a good heart.’ She’s the only person who ever told the truth to me about who I really am. For that, I’m grateful.”

Sometimes, we forget to encourage others. Not because we can’t see good in them; usually it’s just that we don’t think to mention it. But it’s important to remember that we often see positive things in others that they don’t see in themselves. They may suspect these truths, but to have someone else come along and honestly point them out is a difference maker in ways we can’t imagine. When someone else sees and says the truth about who someone is capable of being, it goes a long way toward encouraging them to grow into that potential.

Helping others grow is a process – often a slow one. But just because the process is slow, it doesn’t mean that every aspect of it is. You can be quick – today, right now – to listen to, laugh with, and encourage the people you care about. This doesn’t always mean standing at the front of a room; sometimes, it means leaning across the neighbor’s fence. Or kneeling down by the side of your child’s bed. When you are quick to encourage the people you love to grow, you begin to unlock not just their potential, but your own as well.

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