External vs. Internal Growth

December 10, 2018

What’s the Real Difference Between External and Internal Growth?

Exploring What These Concepts Should Mean to a Business Leader

One of the most popular questions asked of executives is “How much time are you working on your business vs. in your business?” While I contend that executives should spend more time on the former, I prefer to ask this question:

 “How much time are you spending on your external growth vs. your internal growth?”

 External growth is typically associated with who we are in the workforce. Something we do in our 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s. And this is important for business leaders, but at some point, we must actively find ways to spend time on our internal growth. In my experience, internal growth is usually focused on ourselves, and as executives, it best translates into how we show up as a leader.

 For too many leaders, internal growth can take a back seat to ensuring your business continues to achieve continued external growth. I would like to see this change, which means I need to talk about how this changed for me.

How I Found My Turning Point

I didn’t begin my true journey on my internal growth until tragedy struck in 2009. While I was on yet another business trip pursuing "The Goal,” my wife died suddenly of a stroke. Her unexpected death left me and our three sons – ages 9, 12, and 13 –completely lost. As I stood in the wake of our collective heartbreak, all I knew was that I needed to change and that had to come from within.

Before that, so much of my focus in life had been on “The Goal” in a classic business world sense. Unfortunately, with all of that work on external growth, I had lost touch with why I am here on this earth. I lost touch with my purpose in life.

Sure, I started some internal work in my 30’s, and I made some progress toward a renewed focus for my life, but it was nothing compared to my growth as a person, as a father, and as a leader in the 9 years since that disaster. In the aftermath, I started my long-delayed spiritual journey back to who I really was when I arrived on this planet – and who I should be going forward. And since there was no roadmap, I created my own.

Finding Your Turning Point and Helping Your Employees Find Theirs

The good news is you don’t have to experience misfortune, mid-life crisis, or some type of “event” to begin your inner personal journey. All you need is the desire to change, to show up as a better leader to your employees, a better member to your family, or a better person.

It doesn’t even necessarily matter what the reason is. What matters is that you want to improve your life.

As a leader, have you ever created such a safe place for your employees to tell you anything without their fear of how you may react? Have you developed a business culture where people can talk to you without them thinking it’s a waste of their time to tell you what they think and feel because you are going to do what you want anyway?

And if you have a family, the same question applies for your kids and spouse or partner – maybe even more so.

Why Do I Want to Share This? Why am I Writing About This Now?

People shouldn’t have to go through a tragedy or crisis in order to become a better person, to be more present to themselves, their families, their employees. Just imagine a world where everyone is aware of their authentic selves, and when they’re aware of when they aren’t acting as their authentic selves, they have the ability to self-correct and return to their authentic selves in the moment.

I want this dream to become reality – to become the heart of what I do as a business leader and executive coach. I believe that, as leaders, we have the ability to change people’s lives on a greater scale. To do so, we have to show up as our authentic selves, but I must first ask you:

“Do you know how to show up as your authentic self? Do you even know what your authentic self looks like?”

Over the next few months, I will write more about the importance of internal growth and related topics. I think effective leaders in the 21st century owe it to themselves, their company, their employees, and the people in their lives to focus on their internal growth in equal proportion to their external growth.

And if you’re interested, I welcome the chance to speak to you directly. Let’s talk about your life, your business, your leadership style, and how it can better reflect who you really are. Let’s find your authentic self.