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Simplify Leadership: Develop

Last time, we discussed step 2 of the Simplify Leadership model: Appreciate. So simple to do, but also so utterly powerful. Appreciation sets the stage for an open, collaborative work environment. And it also creates motivated, agile team members. So today, we continue our journey and talk about step 3: Develop.

This step is where many leaders spend much of their time with their people. The whole basis of Working Title HR is that we are all perpetual works in progress. Meaning we're constantly developing. And if we're not, we're losing ground. Your team members are no different. Very few of them, if any, come to you completely 100% ready to go, needing no guidance or input from you. Yes, they have a skillset that you've identified, they're aligned with your organization's vision and mission (hopefully!!). But what they need from you is to help them attain the contextual knowledge they'll need to be successful. I wrote about the importance of context earlier this year in Context is King.

Without question, the job market is changing and will continue to change. With unemployment rates hovering in the mid-3's, employers aren't able to make their pick of top talent like they did in years past. In my own county, we the unomployment rate is at a scant 3.1%. Which is great for employees, but it makes life that much more challening for companies to recruit and find top talken. Today, recruiting is all about finding potential. And we need to be looking outside of the industries and job histories that we used to rely on.

Leaders need to be excellent at developing people. They realize that it's not about hiring for experience, it's about hiring for potential. Our potential is not a sum total of what we have already done, but rather what our skills can allow us to do with the proper coaching and guidance. And that should be our mission as leaders, to provide that coaching and guidance for our team members, so they can be high contributors. And development isn't only for new team members either. One of the greatest crimes we can commit towards a seasoned team member is to assume that they're where they need to be, and let them stagnate.

Coaching and development is a highly individualized process. No two people are going to progress exactly the same way. So we need to take some things into consideration.

Who is the best person to train them?

Sometimes we forget to ask this question, but it's an important one. Before just assigning a high performer to teach the new person, ask whether they're the best choice for it. Training and development is not something that everyone just instinctively knows how to do. The person may be a high performer, but may also be a lousy trainer. If you have someone on your staff that you'd like to give some training duties to, it's important to vet them first. Consider having them train you on a process to see how they do.

How do they learn best?

Some people you'll find are visual learners. They see something and they just get it. Others, they'll have lots of questions and it will require some more explanation. Some people like reading SOP's so they understand the background, others want to talk about it. Again, we need to be conscious to tailor the training to the learner.

Each person learns differently. It's usually a good idea to diversify your technique to appeal to all the different learner types. This is especially helpful with new team members who you don't know that well yet. It will help you identify what connects with them the best, and then you can play to that.

What is the right pace for them?

Some of your team members, you'll tell/show them something once, and they've got it. Others, it'll take some repitition, and likely a few missteps, until they are proficient. Be careful when you're setting expectations. Avoid saying things like "I'm sure you'll pick this up in no time." You might think you're encouraging them, but instead you may be setting an expectation in their mind that they might have trouble reaching. You don't want this to turn into a demotivator if it takes a little longer than expected.

Some of your folks will be so eager to learn that they'll be asking for more stuff even before they've mastered their current items. Wheras other folks will be a bit more methodical with their learning, and want to make sure they're completely proficient before they take on more tasks.

Is it the best way, or just YOUR way?

Certain tasks require it to be done exactly as prescribed. There might be compliance or accounting implications, and there just isn't another way to do it. But often, there is a fair amount of room for interpretation. SOP's are good, but be careful that you aren't boxing in your team members to doing things a certain way just because it's your way.

No doubt you're smart and successful, otherwise you probably wouldn't be in the position you're in. But leaders need to be humble enough to realize there may be better/faster ways to do things. That's not saying you need to take a green newbie and tell them to figure out how best to do their job. That would be overwhelming and stressful for them. But as they mature and develop in their job, loosen the reigns a little bit, and allow them to explore alternatives. You never know where they might help the company go.

Your team members are the most valuable asset your company has. So the best and most impactful use of your time is the development of those people. They are the future of your company, and it's important that we position them well for that future.

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