Four Selfish Reasons to Develop Your Employees

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!

I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.

7 comments on “Four Selfish Reasons to Develop Your Employees

  1. Well, that class really got you thinking! It's true…development takes a back seat to "urgent", performance issues every day. Yet it is developing self and team that can help to anticipate what is to come. Some leaders like the rush of always being in over their heads. In that sense, too, development can be exciting because it is never ending and perpetually evolving 😉

  2. I enjoyed this post, Mary Jo.

    Having been out of the work world for a while, I am curious to hear your experience with leaders developing their employees. I don't know that I have ever seen or experienced an employer who was intentional about development in the way you describe. It makes perfect sense, though ~ and doesn't seem so selfish to me. It seems like what is best for the leader, the employee, and the organization.

  3. Monica, sometimes I think too much! Its a shame but a reality that development takes a back seat to everything else.But it doesn't have to take a lot of time or expense! If managers are meeting with their employees on a regular basis to talk about their work, why not also spend a few minutes talking about "How can I support you in your development?"

    Becky, These kinds of managers are few and far between! I hope you'll have the experience of knowing or working with one some day. I knew scant few in my corporate life, and still know few now. For some, it is important enough to be a regular part of what they do.

    Paul, Interesting article, thanks for pointing it out.If I said that I thought there were people who weren't interested in self-improvement, would that make me one of those people who divides the world in two :^)?

  4. Excellent post! I have this same conversation all the time. Development doesn't have to come from a training class, conference or seminar. A lot of leaders do not get the concept of developing others as part of their role.

  5. You hit one of my key messages to new bosses. You will do better and have an easier time of it if you help you people grow and develop. That's how you come up with the idea team, one where everyone can handle every task without close supervision and everyone brings ideas to the team about how to do things better. I've never seen anyone achieve that, but I have seen lots of great managers work on it. It can't be programmatic. It has to be habitual.

  6. Mary Jo –
    Great post! I love your last point about starting with yourself. When I get asked by a manager to show how to develop employees, that's the first place I start. They need to experience what a good development plan and discussion feels like first, before they try it with others.

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