Illustration by Fanny Luor

Design your personal growth

Melissa Mandelbaum
6 min readJul 13, 2017

Over the years, I’ve been so lucky to work on teams that support my growth. Most notably, I’ve learned so much from Percolate, Dropbox, and leadership coaches.

I’ve tried lots of growth frameworks and found the best ones promote self discovery and focus.

In recent conversation, I discovered many of my friends are trying to grow, but struggling to make progress. I dug deeper and realized, growth frameworks are not widely known or practiced.

In response, I’ve shared growth frameworks with friends and they are now giving them a try. It’s awesome to see friends progressing in exciting new directions.

As we move into the 2nd half of 2017, it seems like a good time to share my current growth framework with a wider audience. The following is a remix of my favorite growth frameworks and habits. I’m currently using this framework and loving it. I revisit and update each quarter. Hope you find it useful!


“To be successful at growth management, you need to find out what motivates each person on your team…You also need to learn what each person’s long-term ambitions are, and understand how their current circumstances fit into their motivations and their life goals.” — Kim Scott, Radical Candor

Although this is written from a manager’s perspective, the sentiment is spot on for both managers and ICs (Individual Contributors). Motivations are foundational to growth. If you know what motivates you to do what you do, you can focus on the most meaningful growth efforts.

I started thinking about my motivations during my time at Percolate. Years ago, I wrote my first personal growth plan and the template asked me to list my top 3 motivations. Although difficult, I quickly learned this is one of the most important growth exercises. Such a deep level of self reflection lead to a remarkable sense of clarity and purpose. In a work environment, I’ve enjoyed sharing motivations with my manager because it’s helped us align on my most meaningful growth trajectories.

What motivates you to do what you do? Update yearly.


Similar to motivations, it’s important to write down your values. My last leadership coach began with this exercise because it helped us align on my core being. Whereas motivations may change over time, values have deeper roots and longer life spans.

My coach explained, values should serve as guideposts for life’s decisions. In the context of growth, values can help you accept or deny opportunities. Although values may be personal, it’s helpful to share them with your manager for additional alignment. The more your manager knows about you, the more they can help move you in the right directions.

What are your values? Update yearly.

Strengths and weaknesses

Once you’ve drafted motivations and values, it’s time to think about your current strengths and weaknesses. This exercise is commonly used in growth frameworks to help establish a baseline. If you know where you stand today, you can spot growth opportunities and plan where you want to go in the future.

What are your top strengths? What are your top weaknesses? Update yearly.

Objectives and key results

Once you establish a baseline, it’s time to set growth goals. I’ve tried many different frameworks for this step, and my favorite is the OKR or “Objectives and Key Results” model, which I learned at Dropbox. In this model, you define ~3 Objectives, each with 1–2 Key Results. At the end of the quarter, you grade the results. I love this framework because the “Key Results” make it easy to take action and measure progress.

After you craft your OKRs, it’s helpful to copy and paste them next to your to-do list. If you review them each week, it’s a great way to keep them in mind and ensure progress.

What 3 objectives would you like to achieve this quarter? What are 1–2 key results for each? Update quarterly.


Early in my career, I thought growth was about turning weaknesses into strengths. Although true, I’ve recently learned growth is also about discovering or optimizing things that give you energy.

My coworker and friend Jennifer Brook said in a recent interview,

“Pay attention to aspects of your work that energize you; figure out how to do more of those things and less of everything else.”

Personality tests such Myers Briggs and Enneagram will help you discover your natural strengths. If you want to understand what energizes you, I recommend taking Strengths Profile. I recently took this test as part of leadership coaching and found it fascinating. You answer questions, then receive a detailed report with the following.

  • Realized Strengths — things you’re good at, that you know you’re good at
  • Learned Behaviors — things you’re good at, but you’ve learned
  • Realized Weaknesses — weaknesses you’re aware of
  • Unrealized Strengths — things you’re good at, but you don’t realize

On the energy spectrum…

  • Realized Strengths — boost your energy
  • Learned Behaviors — drain your energy
  • Realized Weaknesses — drain your energy
  • Unrealized Strengths —boost your energy

Knowing which activities boost and drain your energy is important to growth. If you turn a weakness into a strength, you gain skills, but they still might drain you. Alternatively, you can double down on your unrealized strengths to boost energy and offset some of your more draining activities. I’ve tried the latter, felt a lot more energized and grown in some exciting new areas.

Take the Strengths Profile test. What unrealized strengths can you do more of this quarter? Update quarterly.


Since a big part of growth is focus, it’s helpful to practice focus with meditation. A few months ago, I started meditating with Headspace. I now start every day with a 10 minute guided meditation. Although it was hard to focus at first, it’s gotten much easier over time. At this point, I benefit from added focus both in and outside the office.

How might you introduce meditation into your daily routine?

Proactive habits

Last but not least, a more proactive lifestyle can help promote growth. A helpful way to become more proactive is to limit notifications. I’ve benefited from turning off all notifications on my phone, except text messages and calendar events. I also put my phone on silent each night. Last but not least, in the mornings, I keep email off until I’ve left the apt. Although this may seem extreme, it’s done wonders for helping me lead a more proactive and focused life.

How might you practice a more proactive lifestyle?

Give it a try

In conclusion, here’s a recap of the framework for you to try. Copy and paste the following into a new doc. When you’re ready, share with your manager. Discuss, align, and get started. Revisit at the end of the quarter and see how you did. Rinse and repeat.

  • What motivates you to do what you do? Update yearly.
  • What are your values? Update yearly.
  • What are your top strengths and weaknesses? Update yearly.
  • What 3 objectives would you like to achieve? What are 1–2 key results for each? Update quarterly.
  • Take the Strengths Profile test. What unrealized strengths can you do more of this quarter? Update quarterly.


  • How might you introduce meditation into your daily routine?
  • How might you practice a more proactive lifestyle?

Although growth is great, remember it’s a process that takes time. As you make steps in new directions, it’s helpful to adopt a “peace with progress” mindset. In time, progress will lead to positive results. Onwards and upwards!

Thanks for reading!

If you practice additional growth frameworks or tactics, I’d love to hear about them. Additionally, if you give this framework a try, let me know how it goes.

Many thanks to Fanny Luor for the awesome illustration.



Melissa Mandelbaum

design @Dropbox. formerly @Percolate. architect by training.