Harvey Firestone once said, “The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.” If you agree with me that people are truly the most valuable resource of any organization, then Harvey’s quote rings true. We need to invest in our people by helping them learn, grow, and develop. There are a number of good business reasons that support investing in the growth and development of people:

· Increases employee productivity

· Reduces turnover

· Helps retain and attract talented people

· Helps our teams and organization be more successful by being better able to serve our stakeholders

Let’s explore some key principles on investing in our people well, by developing and helping them to learn and grow.

Key Principles to Develop People

1) Make developing people a priority. To make developing people a true priority, we need to be intentional, schedule time, and make it happen. We need to develop and execute specific plans and strategies on how to develop people – then follow through, including making our meeting times with employees a priority so they feel we truly care about them.

2) Be a good role model. We can be transparent about our own need to learn and develop, and share how we are doing it. We can embrace vulnerability; people respect humble leaders that are trying to keep learning and developing themselves. Robin Sharma counsels us, “Investing in yourself is the best investment you will ever make. It will not only improve your life, it will improve the lives of all those around you.”

3) Reinforce the value of learning and growth. Discuss with employees what they would like to accomplish, and work with them to identify learning goals and strategies that will help them fulfill their ambitions. A positive side effect from our employees’ development is they will be adding more value to the organization at the same time they are improving themselves (a real win-win!).

4) Participatively create individual development plans. Collaborating with an employee on creating an individualized development plan is crucial. The plan can cover three to five specific learning and development goals over the next 12 months, and for each goal one or more specific actions can be identified to help achieve that goal. A simple example: a learning goal may be to “Become more proficient at Excel,” and the action to meet the goal could be to complete an Excel class.

5) Focus on maximizing strengths. Credible research over the past 20 years has demonstrated that individuals and their teams are better off when the majority of development is focused on maximizing strengths (as opposed to trying to fix weaknesses). One of my favorite authors on this topic is Marcus Buckingham, who has written classic books like Now Discover Your Strengths and Standout. His books contain free strength assessments. One of those can be found on marcusbuckingham.com/gift-of-standout. Another excellent book is Tom Rath’s StrengthFinders 2.0.

6) Consider the 70:20:10 model. A trio of industrial psychologists developed this model, which suggests that 70% of learning and development occurs in context of real-life and on-the-job experiences, tasks, and problem solving. Twenty percent comes from formal or informal feedback, mentoring, or coaching; and 10% comes from formal training. All three categories are important and can be incorporated into the individual development plans.

7) Delegate well. Given that up to 70% of learning and development comes from real-life and on-the-job experiences, delegation is a great tool to provide those opportunities. Tips to delegate well include delegating tasks that are within the skill set of the employee, even if a bit of a stretch (some stretch is a great way to learn!); ensure clear expectations; and offer help but avoid micromanaging. After any learning experience, it’s very helpful to ask questions to help people gain perspective and learn from both their successes and failures. Three good questions are:

“How was your experience?”

“What did you learn?”

“What would you do differently next time?”

8) Provide feedback and acknowledgement. We know from our experiences what research tells us – people crave appreciation and recognition, so let’s give that out. Positive feedback reinforces learning and incents people to keep on learning and developing. People also need helpful constructive feedback when mistakes happen, so they can turn mistakes into learning opportunities and move forward.

9) Use team meetings as learning opportunities. We can use time at some of our existing team meetings for learning, such as inviting guests to share useful information. We can also share key takeaways from recent articles, books, blogs, webinars, seminars, conferences, and classes we have learned from. And we can have team members share their recent learnings too. We all know team meetings can be B-O-R-I-N-G, so let's spice them up with some practical learning!

10) Understand and use relevant tools:

There are a wide array of tools we can use to help our employees learn and grow, including university and other classes, seminars, webinars, on-line learning, and special assignments, to name a few. Following are a few specific methods we can consider:

Coaching: Coaching involves a more experienced or skilled individual providing an employee with advice and guidance intended to help the employee gain new skills, improve performance, and enhance the quality of their career.

Mentoring: Mentoring typically matches less experienced employees with more experienced employees through formal or informal programs. The goal is to help the less experienced employee gain new skills and therefore improve performance.

Cross Training/Job Rotation: These programs are intended for participants to broaden their skills by having the opportunity to perform job tasks other than those currently assigned.

Job Enlargement and Job Enrichment: Job enlargement involves expanding the employee’s job by adding more tasks and duties, typically at the same level of complexity (example: have the employee who prepares report ABC also prepare report XYZ). Job enrichment builds more depth to an employee’s job through more control and responsibility (example: have employee who prepares a report also present it to management).

Jack Welch counseled, “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” One final recommendation: if you are considering books to read on this topic, another one I suggest is John Maxwell’s most recent entitled, The Leader’s Greatest Return. My best to you as you make your greatest investment into the people – they (and you!) will be glad you did.

Wes Friesen (MBA, EMCM, CMDSM, MCOM, MDC, OSPC, CCE, CBF, CBA ICP, CMA, CFM, CM, APP, PHR, CTP) is a proven leader and developer of high performing teams and has extensive experience in both the corporate and non-profit worlds. He is also an award-winning university instructor and speaker, and is the President of Solomon Training and Development, which provides leadership, management, and team building training. He is the Industry Co-Chair of the Greater Portland PCC.

His book, Your Team Can Soar! has 42 valuable lessons that will inspire you, and give you practical pointers to help you — and your team — soar to new heights of performance. Your Team Can Soar! can be ordered from Xulonpress.com/bookstore or wesfriesen.com (under Book) or an online retailer like Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Wes can be contacted at wesmfriesen@gmail.com or at 971.806.0812.

This article originally appeared in the September/October, 2020 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.