I ran across a recent posting from the Gallup Management Journal that made a point have I never thought about before:

“Raised through a childhood in which each new year brought novel opportunities, playing at ever more difficult levels of sports, growing physically, educated in a system of cleanly delineated grades — freshman, sophomore, junior, senior — many employees find themselves several years into their career wondering what happened to the momentum they used to enjoy. Being both conditioned and naturally wired to look forward to differences between seventh and eighth grade or high school and college, many workers are disappointed to discover there will be no dramatic difference between their experience as a 25-year-old employee and their experience as a 26-year-old employee.”

The full article talks about the plethora of studies that show what a powerful motivator is personal and professional growth, learning, and rising to a tough-but-attainable challenge.

So many people, in their jobs, no longer feel any sense of increasing their capacity and moving on to more challenging tasks. Each day is the same, each year essentially a clone of the last one. Clearly, one cause of this is structural. Some jobs, especially in manufacturing and straight forward service functions, are repetitive and have had any meaningful discretion engineered out of them.

But, in the vast number of jobs, this is not the case. Here it is incumbent upon managers to periodically ask what their employees have learned and how they have grown over the last year. Better still, however, let’s get out in front of the curve. At least once a year–perhaps at performance review time–ask each of your staff members,

“What do would like to learn/know/be able to do 12 months from today that you don’t know or can’t do today?”

I believe the best bosses are catalysts for the never-ending growth of every employee in their charge.