Developing Others

By Randy Chittum, Ph.D.

What you should commit to while trying to bring out the best in your team members

rep-oct16-developingothersThe list of things leaders have to be very good at it just gets longer and longer. Some of the most important ingredients to a leader’s success are bringing the right people on the team, on-boarding and developing those people, and knowing when to move on from those who are unsuccessful. In this column, we will focus on the key factors in developing others.

Perhaps the single most common mistake in this area is that leaders wait until there is a problem to try and develop someone. So often, by that point it is already too late. Development is best thought of as an ongoing, and proactive process. It is an elegant blend of support and challenge. Too much support creates no incentive to grow. Too much challenge overwhelms. When we wait until there is a problem, the challenge often exceeds the capacity.

Focus on the individual
When considering development, it is ideally focused on the individual, and not necessarily on the results. For example, you can challenge a sales rep by increasing expectations. And while that may be useful in some ways, by itself it is not developmental. If, however, you added something that addresses why this is a challenge, there is now a chance it is development. What are some potential underlying issues? It could be that the person lacks organizational skills. It could be that the person has a pessimistic outlook. It could be the person doesn’t fully understand product lines and offerings. The point is, unless you deal with the underlying issue, it’s not true development.

There are several common explanations for what gets in someone’s way. The first is that they lack competence. In many ways, this is the easiest to develop. It really may be that I just need to practice or learn something new. The second common reason is missing structure. This means that there are systems and processes that could be utilized to support the person. A simple example is a calendar, which is a system that could support someone who struggles with time management. Finally, the interference may come in the form of a lack of commitment.

So the first step in helping someone develop is to understand whether it is primarily a competence, structure, or commitment challenge. The plan you put together with that person will be very different depending on the answer. The second step is to make sure that the plan has a nice balance of challenge and support built in.

It is generally understood that the accountability for following through on development and a development plan belongs to the person being developed. At the end of the day, I am responsible for my own growth. However, in real life, it can be really important for the leader to be connected to and feel committed to that person’s growth. That may show up in the form of asking questions, being curious, collaboratively tracking progress, and serving as a thinking partner.

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