Office of Culture and Experience

Talent Development—A Responsibility and a Privilege

November 8, 2017 • Leadership

According to Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development, growth occurs when we are outside of our comfort zones. This makes perfect sense, of course. If you aspire to be a mogul expert, you’ll never get there by skiing the wide and smooth green slopes every day.

The concept applies to both our personal and professional lives. Many of us are fortunate to have or have had a mentor or supervisor who either challenged us to do something that we didn’t necessarily want to do or allowed us to try something we were not fully equipped to take on. We did it, and we are better for it, but we probably didn’t do it without that person’s support or guidance…just like we are more likely to be a skier who can make a nice run down a bumpy mountain if we take a lesson, watch a video, or at least move to a blue before taking off down a double black.

Our people-focused culture at the Health Science Center allows and in fact encourages us to step outside of our comfort zones. Our values and their behaviors steer us to empower one another and break down barriers. There is no question, then, it is my responsibility as a supervisor to develop members of my team, to help create opportunities and challenges for them to embrace.

During much of the time, our jobs require us to complete tasks, check things off the list, wrap up projects that fall squarely within our position descriptions. If I’m being honest, I will say that as a supervisor it is much easier to make sure everybody is working their list than it is to open a comfort-zone conversation. However, I am blessed to work with a team of people whose commitment to the HSC’s mission and vision is clear and whose professionalism and passion are real assets to the institution. As a team, I think we have done a good job of assuming the “permission to fail” mentality and developed new ideas and programs that we acknowledged might be outside the HSC’s comfort zone. But I need to take a more proactive approach in encouraging each person I supervise to think about what being “outside the comfort zone” would look like for them. Then it will be my privilege to answer, “How can I help?”


Carol Noel

Senior Director, Development

2017 HSC Fellows Candidate