My friend David Chinsky teaches a year-long course called “The Institute for Leadership Fitness“. Be sure to check it out; it`s a very unique and important program for high-potential leaders. Because I am coaching some of the leaders in the program, I am also attending David`s classes, and though I may be battle-worn and (so I`d like to believe) relatively wise, I learn something in every class.
His recent class was no exception. There was some discussion about the importance of developing others within the leader’s organization, and some discussion about resistance to doing so because of time, cost, priorities, etc. Admittedly, I’ve heard all of the excuses before. However, David`s guidance to class participants helped me to think about the selfish reasons for a leader to encourage and support employee development.
Go ahead. Be selfish.
It is a leader`s responsibility to partner with employees in finding and supporting opportunities for their development, including appropriate training, assignments, mentoring and coaching. Rarely, however, is a leader held accountable for developing their employees, and many leaders spend minimal time or effort on it. It just isn’t a priority for them.
Perhaps it will help to consider how developing your employees will be good for you. It will help you to:
- Delegate more of your work: you’ll be able to delegate more of your work so that you can focus on the activities that will make a greater impact. Developing your employees allows them to take on new assignments that will lighten your load.
- Increase your talent pool: when you increase the talent within your organization, you have more people who can be your “A” players. This increases the chances of focusing on high priority initiatives and achieving organizational goals.
- Get promoted: you need to help your people to get ready to fill your shoes when you leave for that next step up. You may not get promoted unless someone is ready to take your place.
- Enjoy personal satisfaction: the personal satisfaction of supporting your employees to be their best shouldn’t be underestimated. Remember the leaders who helped you to develop? They’ve left their legacy with you, and you can also leave one with your employees.
Whether or not your company offers programs to develop the employees, your responsibility is to help your employees to find ways develop themselves. These can also include no-cost or low-cost options such as community volunteering, stretch and cross functional assignments, and mentoring and coaching from well respected leaders inside or outside of your organization.
A regular agenda item of your 1:1 meetings with your direct reports should be about their development. Co-create an action plan with them and work with them to find developmental opportunities. Coach them on how to use what they`ve learned in your organization.
P.S. Why not set an example for your employees by developing yourself? The best leaders do!