I think we try and deliver a message in organizations that all employees need and want to be developed. This is a lie. Many of our employees do want and need development. Some don’t need it, they’re better than you. Some don’t want it, just give me my check.
Too many of our leaders truly believe they can develop and make their employees better than they already are. This is a lot tougher than it sounds, and something most leaders actually fail at moving the needle on.
Here are some things I like to share with leaders in developing their employees:
1. “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time” -Maya Angelou. I see too many leaders trying to change adult employees. Adult behaviors are basically locked. If they show you they don’t want to work. They don’t want to work. Part of developing a strong relationship is spending time on people who are not a waste of time.
2. People only change behavior they want to change, and even then, sometimes they’re not capable of it. See above. When I was young in my career, I was very ‘passionate’. That’s what I liked calling it – passionate. I think the leaders I worked with called it, “career derailer”. It took a lot for me to understand what I thought was a strength, was really a major weakness. Some people never will gain this insight. They’ll continue to believe they’re just passionate when in reality they’re just really an asshole.
3. Don’t invest more in a person than they are willing to invest in themselves. I want you to be great. I want you to be the best employee we have ever had work here. You need to be a part of that. I’m willing to invest an immense amount of time and resources to help you reach your goals, but you have to meet me halfway, at least.
4. It’s usually never the situation that’s pissing you off, it’s the mindset behind the situation that’s pissing you off. Rarely do I get upset over a certain situation. Frequently, I get upset over how someone has decided to handle that situation. Getting your employees to understand your level of importance on a situation is key to getting you both on the same page towards a solution. Failure to do this goes down a really disastrous path.
5, Endeavor to look at disappointment with broader strokes. It’s all going to work out in the end. It’s hard for leaders to act disappointed. We are supposed to be strong and not show our disappointment. This often makes our employees feel like we aren’t human. The best leaders I’ve ever had showed disappoint, but with this great level of resolve that I admired. This sucks. We are all going to make it through this and be better. Disappointment might be the strongest developmental opportunity you’ll ever get as a leader, with your people.
As you get ready for 2017 and you have big plans for employee development in the new year, keep these things in mind. Development of adult learners, your employees, is extremely complex. You want to help them better their weaknesses when in reality you should really be focusing on how to leverage their strengths, at least this is what science tells us.
Regardless of your approach, employee development fails when you try a one-sized approach to teach all the employees the same. The best employee development is individualized, focused, and driven by the employee themselves.