How to Develop Your People – Part Two

Most, yes, sadly most, organizations get so busy doing the urgent things that they forget to do the truly important ones. Sometimes they even forget to do the most important thing of all – develop their people. 

I believe it’s most important because when it comes right down to it organizations, companies and teams are about the PEOPLE who make them up. Your company can have the best technology, the best systems and the best process but if it is staffed by overwhelmed and under-appreciated people it will struggle to succeed.

Great companies and great leaders are intentional in developing their people. They build the whole developmental concept right into their business plan. They know that success rarely happens by accident and neither does people development. 

Pull out the plan for your business or organization right now. Go to the section on developing your people….can’t find it? Then get yourself a new plan and get it immediately before you waste anymore time struggling in areas that you don’t need to.

Developing your people begins with an understanding that most people simply don’t know how to be successful. A very few people can succeed by being told what to do but almost all people need to be shown. Most people need a model of success. They need to see successful behaviors in action. They need to see that if they put in the effort that they too might succeed.

How conscious are you of your role as a model for your people? How do you make certain that you are the model they need?

Great companies and leaders know that most people are naturally motivated. YES, you read that right. Most people are motivated until somebody comes along and de-motivates them.

Clearly, no leader in their right mind would do that intentionally but they do it all the same. The number one way to de-motivate a member of your team or organization is to micro-manage them. Micro-managing sends the message that they can’t be trusted. It says they just aren’t good enough to do the job on their own. 

People have a built in need to be valued and trusted; micro-managing sends the message that they are neither. If you feel the need to micro-manage your people there can really only be two possibilities: either you hired the wrong people or you’re not giving them the skills they require to succeed. Micro-managing exposes the weakness of the leader, not the weakness of their people.

Great companies and leaders know that developing their people takes time. There are two types of mindsets in business; one says that we “spend time on” our people and the other says we “invest time with” our people. 

If you see your people as a time “expense” you’ll likely never do what it takes to develop them. If you see your people as an “investment” then you have a chance to develop them into your organization’s leaders of tomorrow. 

Let me be clear about this; if you really want your business to thrive, if you want to build a world class organization then you simply MUST develop your people. It really isn’t optional. 

The most current research available shows that less than 25% of employees describe themselves as “fully engaged” and nearly a third say they are “completely disengaged.” Some may even be “actively disengaged” meaning they actually look for ways to damage the organization.  

Employees who believe they don’t matter and employees who believe they are not trusted tend to disengage pretty quickly. 

Do you really think you can grow your business and be successful when 75% of your people are at best just sort of engaged? 

Do you still think developing your people is optional? 

I didn’t think so!

How Stupid are You?

I once worked with a guy who managed someone much older and more experienced than him. The more experienced guy was always offering suggestions and sometimes professionally challenging the ideas of his manager.

This was very frustrating to the younger less experienced manager and when the older employee finally retired, the younger manager announced to no one in particular, “The next person I hire for that job isn’t going to know anything about it.” “They won’t have any ideas and they won’t challenge anything I say.” 

Well it turns out he wasn’t actually kidding. He hired a very inexperienced person who meekly did as he was told.  The inexperienced new employee failed in his job. 

So did the much more experienced manager.

Without saying it in so many words, what the manager was saying was that he wanted to hire someone who was functionally stupid. They might be very smart but not about the task they were hired for. They would just do the job and not “get in the way” of a busy manager. 

A pair of Swedish professors are trying to make the case that these functionally stupid people are the best team players because they just “do want they are told” and never disrupt workflow by asking questions.

Isn’t that crazy! Who in the world would want to hire someone that never had ideas, was afraid to suggest solutions or even offer an occasional differing opinion. 

A person like that would be considered “disengaged” by most leaders. They would bring little additional value to the team beyond completing whatever tasks they were assigned. They are the kind of employees that growing companies cannot afford to have on the payroll. 

Most managers and leaders will tell you that they want people around them who will ask questions and even challenge them. They say they want people who can think on their feet and offer solutions to problems. They claim to want people who have the courage to “tell it like it is.”

Yet experienced managers and even some experienced leaders hire very smart people and unintentionally turn them into functionally stupid people.  

They do that by not really listening to their employees ideas, by criticizing their ideas when they do listen and just subtly sending the message that it’s my way or else. Many times the manager or leader isn’t even aware that’s what they are doing. 

Research shows that as a result only 31% of people will express their ideas, thoughts or suggestions to their boss. Far fewer than that will ever dare to actually challenge their boss. They have just learned over time that the boss “isn’t really into that” kind of interaction.

If you’re a leader who is hoping to grow your organization then you must know you can’t afford functionally stupid and disengaged people on your team. Some might sneak past the interview process and others may develop those tendencies after being hired through no fault of yours.  

The one thing YOU can’t afford to do is turn a productive, engaged employee into a functionally stupid one by ignoring or devaluing their ideas and suggestions. Think about it like this: you put up a “suggestion box” and then criticize some ideas and simply ignore the others.

How long do you think it would take before the “suggestions” stopped coming? Well guess what – if you are a leader you have a “suggestion box” sign hanging around your neck and it works just like one hanging on the wall.

If you ignore the well intentioned ideas and suggestions of your team they will go away… if you’re lucky. If you’re not lucky they will stay and become functionally stupid.

Which would you prefer?