The ability of any manager or leader to develop the people working for them has always been considered important and even essential. It has been considered a critical competence, a competitive advantage and a key factor in fostering good engagement. It is now evident that employees not only expect it from their managers and leaders but believe that it is perhaps the most important contribution they can and need to make.
Tomes have been written about what it takes to develop people. A lot is now being said about the need for a coaching culture within organizations. 360-degree assessments focus sharply on this competence and unfortunately many managers and leaders come out wanting.
So, it is obvious by now that developing people is easier said than done.
Why so? What does developing people really mean and why is it so hard?
It is hard because managers and leaders need to make fundamental changes in themselves and their values and styles if they need to be able to develop others. It is not merely a skill. It is a mind-set.
There are four fundamental shifts or changes that we as managers and leaders need to make if we need to be able to truly develop another person.
- Modify our ways of thinking about performance, results, perfection
Most managers and leaders in Organisation have been brought up to believe that they are as good as what they produce and deliver, that they need to be unfailingly competent, that they need to be perfect and nothing else matters.
The tendency to catastrophize about their performance, results and perfection leads managers and leaders to constantly focus on themselves and how they will look and less about their people. As a result, the mind space for others gets restricted. Developing others is not about us – it is about others.
- Broaden our understanding of what our people want
Many managers and leaders believe that they “take good care of their people” and that is all to it. They are right that many do take care of people but in a benevolent way. Developing people is not about taking care of them. It is about supporting them to take care of themselves. It is about empowering them. It is about truly understanding what they really want – that they want growth and development and not mere benevolence.
- Reinvent our style of getting work done
Managers often believe that it is more efficient to tell than to ask – to instruct than to listen. Time pressures, task demands and a challenging environment are often cited as reasons to tell people what to do rather then let them find answers.
Developing people is all about not prescribing and directing but about asking and that can be a shift that many can struggle with. Yet, that shift is at the very heart of development. Delegation, empowerment and freedom to act are not just ingredients of good style – they are tools for development.
- Revisit our relationship with our people
For the first three shifts to happen, we need to start right at the foundation – our relationship with our people. Is it contractual, are they instruments to achieve our results or are they human? Do we show respect, value their competence, see their potential, get excited about their aspirations or we merely engage in transactions?
Developing people starts with developing ourselves – developing our ability to look beyond our success, our anxieties and our needs. It is not about us at all.
Managers and leaders may need help and support to make these shifts and when they do, they will begin to practice the art and experience the joy of developing others.