The Path to Developing Others


“We live in paradise”, my husband Ken likes to say. I agree that we’re blessed to live in beautiful surroundings that are thickly wooded and particularly stunning this time of year. The woods in back and at the side of our house have special appeal, especially since a few years ago Ken decided to begin to maintain some walking paths through them. Before he did so, the underbrush was so thick that all we could do is observe it at the edges, without a notion of what goes on inside that mystical place.

We can now walk along paths observing day to day changes from the inside. It’s fascinating how things change with a good rain or a warm day or two. A month ago, we could see through to the edge of our property and beyond, but now with the smaller trees leafed out the trails feel very private and personal. I now notice things up close; a new flower I hadn’t seen previously, or a ground cover that I swear wasn’t there last year. Mushrooms, small animal homes and occasionally a red squirrel chattering at us for invading his territory give me pause to breathe in and enjoy every uniquely changing moment.

When I walk the paths in early spring after the snow has gone, there is nothing but possibility there. I am able to walk the trails and watch the change unfold daily when I’m intentional about observing it.

And so it is with the people you lead. Part of the work of leading others is finding the path to leading each and every unique individual as they change. This begins with your keen observation for the daily changes they make so that you can adapt, coach, and lead them as they are today – not as they were six months ago. This requires the skill of noticing the small changes they make so you can help them to be at their best every day:

Observe: This requires your presence and powers of observation to notice the growth and development in others. Small daily changes are sometimes barely noticeable, so observe closely. Look for possibility that you can nurture.

Adapt: Adapting to the changes your followers make helps you to keep up and lead as they adapt. This allows you to assist when there is a barrier to their success that you can help with.

Provide the right conditions: Make sure that you foster the right conditions for others’ growth and development. Set an example first as a leader who is open to learning and provide the opportunities that others need.

Don’t just observe from the edges. People are wonderfully mystical, full of possibility. Watch for the changes those you lead make. Your job is to foster those changes and help them to develop and grow.





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.

2 comments on “The Path to Developing Others

  1. This post is a gem, Mary Jo. I love the image of the paths, their different seasons, and your reflections on them as a metaphor for the work of helping others develop their capabilities. What I especially love is the sense that it is not the leader who “knows” what those changes should be, but the leader who observes changes are already taking place in order to nurture them. Just terrific!

  2. Thanks Dan. I’m quite honored by your comments, and especially like the insight you provided about observing (as opposed to “knowing”). This is a key distinction that I hadn’t fully explored!

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