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If you’re trying to grow your business, don’t just focus on more marketing and new tech tools. It’s important to grow yourself before your productivity can improve.

An irony of a technology dominated business landscape is that even  an endless array of new tools doesn’t guarantee we’ll grow. Sometimes, it’s just the opposite: more tools decrease productivity. Now, don’t panic: I’m not becoming a luddite yet. But after twenty years of working with organizations around the world, I’ve seen too many people expect growth to come from more tools and more spending, that never pans out.

I’ve seen the reasons, too.

Consider two people at the same company, with the same tools, same training and same manager, yet only one increases their performance. It’s almost a tautology: tools and training are necessary – but not enough – to improve performance.

How about accountability, that buzzword that won’t die. Is one of them more accountable, and if so, to whom? Most of us consider accountability to mean punishment or, to be more accurate, pre-punishment before termination. In most cases, if you need accountability you’re probably in the wrong job. If you don’t need it, you’re probably growing just fine. I’m just not convinced that we’ll unleash our growth by someone wagging a finger at us every week.

Which leads us to what does release growth in business: Growing ourselves – first.

Isn’t that redundant? Not at all. As my friend John Schumacher reminds us frequently on his blog, growing yourself isn’t the same as learning to use a new business tool. We don’t automatically grow because we perform a new activity. We grow when we initiate new motion. It’s a fine point; but an important one.

When people are in motion, they are headed somewhere: usually towards a goal they consider important. Whether we’re improving our health, relationships or sales, we only move towards important goals that exceed the sum of the things we need to do to get there. If we don’t believe in the destination – that where we’re headed matters – we simply won’t go.

Or grow.

But when we do – well, you’ve seen it: Somebody around you starts gaining momentum, and they pull everything else into place. If they lose a few pounds, they spend that extra physical and mental energy closing more sales. If they spend the weekend pursing a hobby instead of cleaning their inbox, you’ll find them making big strides in the office on Monday.

It’s not only more work that creates better performance at work. 

It’s a mistake for managers and executives to believe that only growing our business skills will improve our business performance. Simply stuffing more things into our heads won’t create momentum.  Growth isn’t a knowledge problem. It’s a passion problem.

Momentum – growth – comes from releasing our achievement drive. Nobody has trouble doing something they’re passionate about. And passion begets passion. Help someone achieve an important goal in one part of their life and they’ll carry that energy over into other aspects. Like work.

And it’s not only organizations that can help us reach our goals. We must do it for ourselves. We have to grow ourselves – a little bit each day – so we can apply that momentum to growing our business at the same time.

It’s actually easier than you think. Consider a marketing person who finds time to engage their love of poetry; it helps them  improve their advertising copy at work. Or a salesperson who schedules time to play their favorite sport or instrument, suddenly making more sales as easily as playing a tune. The best approach would be to incorporate our personal goals into our work efforts: Imagine writing ad copy that was like writing poetry, or prospecting as if you were playing an inning of baseball!

Think of it like the vacation phenomenon. Remember how productive you are the week after you returned from vacation? What matters wasn’t how relaxed, rested or active you were that week, but that you spent the time pursuing something important. Your performance boost at work came from the lasting after-effect of doing something important outside of it. You grew yourself one week, so you could grow your business the next week.

Now imagine building that effect into your daily routine.

Nothing says that growth has to come from another phone call, another report, another email. It just as easily comes from working on ourselves. Restructure your day to incorporate personal growth – pursing your passions – to improve your professional ones. We can’t expect to grow our performance in one area without paying attention to the other.

If you want to take your performance at work to the next level, start by taking yourself there, first.