5 Things Leaders Need to Know About Developing Employees

I think we try and deliver a message to 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 my 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 with 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. Don’t think this means a class costs $2,000, so you should be willing to pay half. It doesn’t. Financial investment is easier for organizations to put in than for employees, but if you pay for the class and it’s on a Saturday and the employee turns their nose up to it, they’re not willing to ‘invest’ their share.

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 in 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.

5 thoughts on “5 Things Leaders Need to Know About Developing Employees

  1. Absolutely! Thank you for the clarification and I can understand the struggle there. Any strength used in excess can certainly become a weakness and it is very intuitive to recognize this. Truly appreciate the response and have a good day Tim!

  2. You lost me a little when discussing passion, career derailing, and asshole. What was it you were passionate about that was being perceived as career derailing?

    • Dustin,

      I thought I ‘cared’ more than everyone else (passion). In reality, I just burn hot. Being that personality can rub people the wrong way. It doesn’t fit in with a team well. It becomes a career derailer when you can’t get a handle on it. People begin to think you’re not ‘passionate’ but just an ‘asshole’.

      Does that help?


  3. Thank you for a concise but persuasive argument.

    “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time” -Maya Angelou.

    Great advice and we should strive to hear their message when evaluating applicants.

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