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If You’re Not Helping People Develop, You’re Not Management Material

| June 24, 2014

by Jim Bruce

Today’s Tuesday Reading “If You’re Not Helping People Develop, You’re Not Management Material” <>, first appeared in the HBR Blog Network.  The author is Monique Valcour, Professor of Management at EDHEC business school in France.  She focuses on helping companies and individuals craft high performance, meaningful jobs, careers, workplaces, and lives.

Professor Valcour argues that today skilled leaders are more critical than ever before because of the role they play in talent management.  In Valcour’s view, the training and expectations of long-term employment that once functioned as glue in the employee-employer contract has been replaced by the leader/manager-emoloyee dyad which now functions as the building block of learning and development in organizations.

Good managers attract candidates, drive performance, engagement, and retention, and play a key role in maximizing a staff member’s contribution.  Poor managers have a negative impact on all of these and as a result cost the organization a significant sum in terms of staff turnover costs, lower employee contributions, and missed deadlines.

Further research has shown that job seekers at all levels are more concerned with opportunities for learning and development than any other aspect of a prospective job.  Valcour notes that this makes perfect sense, since continuous learning is a key strategy for crafting a sustainable career.  Studies show that the most learning occurs on the job through new challenges, assignments that require learning new skills, and developmental feedback and mentoring.  For these reasons an employee’s direct manager is often his or her most significant developer.  This makes the prospective boss the most important individual in the organization.

Professor Valcour says that “facilitating employee learning and development should be a non-negotiable  competency for all who have direct reports.”  Work by Google’s analytics team looking for behaviors that characterize the most effect managers as well as research by Ballup, have coaching at the top of the list.  They also report that work groups in which employees report that their manager cares about them as a person, talks with them about their career, encourages their development, and provides opportunities to learn and grow, have lower turnover, better productivity, and better relations with clients than groups where these characteristics are scarce.

So leader/managers need to expand their focus from getting excellent performance from their team members to getting excellentt performance while helping them to grow.  Doing the second, improves the doing of the first.

How, then, do leader/managers stimulate learning and developing on the part of their staff members?

1.  By being transparent.  Share information with your team about your organization’s operations, its challenges and direction, and how these impact the team.

2. By supporting the development of internal networks that span functions and organizational units.  Communities of Practice are an example here.

3.  Having frequent short conversations with each employee about his or her career goals and interests.  These conversations will help staff refine their goals, and give you the information you need to identify appropriate developmental opportunities for them.

4.  In planning your team’s work and in delegating tasks to staff, identify both what they can contribute as well as what they will learn.

5.  Ask each employee to periodically report to you and the team what they are learning and how they are applying these new skills.

So, are you actively developing the staff on your team?  If you are not, perhaps you should make some initial steps in this direction a near-term priority.

.  .  .  .    jim