Coaching employees for development is very different from coaching them to improve their performance. Managers need to do both, but unfortunately due to time constraints or shortsightedness, they primarily coach when they see a need to correct or improve sub-par performance in order to meet expectations.
Even though developing direct reports is (or should be) one of a manager’s highest priorities, with the way managers are overloaded, this vital leadership skill often ends up getting shoved aside. I am surprised at the 21% figure. Even my coaching clients – who are coached on this skill – don’t spend that amount of time on developing employees. Nor do they need to.
Every interaction with an employee is a chance for development. It only take a few minutes to ask what they like best about their job, what they find most challenging, and where they would like to see themselves in the company. An astute manager then takes this information, combines it with their own observations of the individual, and keeps it in mind whenever they are assigning new responsibilities or pondering training opportunities for their staff. Now that they know how the employee would like to grow, they can tailor their development efforts to those areas. Each time they talk to this employee they can update them as to what they are doing on their behalf, and ask if anything has changed about the employee’s goals, strengths, or challenges.
Even if there are no obvious advancement opportunities within your department or company, managers should have a development conversation with every employee. Those star employees need even more time from you –a formal career development plan can be written out, with periodic meetings scheduled to see how things are progressing.
As a matter of fact, it is even more important to have these development meetings when there are no obvious career paths within your organization for your employee. They are more likely to jump ship if you don’t sit them down and have a serious conversation, showing your interest in them and their career. That makes it a bonus for them to stick around, because having a manager that truly cares that they grow professionally -and acts on it - is rare. Just be clear with them that you are not able to help them prepare for any specific position, but that you want them to be ready if one does arise.
One of my clients – a high-tech department manager - once told me that developing his employees was his favorite part of his job. He got the most satisfaction from doing it, and wanted to do it as well as he could. I find that most people derive a high level of fulfillment from being able to coach, mentor, and assist employees’ growth. Unfortunately, their companies don’t formally place a high priority on it.
‘Developing others’ should be on every manager’s performance review, measured in number of promotions, number of career advancement plans, and direct reports’ feedback. From the process of helping them develop their potential, you get more productive, more loyal, and happier employees. The Corporate Executive Board reports that effective managers can increase the retention level of direct reports by 40 percent and performance levels by 25 percent by giving attention to development.
Take care of those valuable human resources, develop them, and the return will be measureable, not only in profits, but in your own feelings of well-being. And honing the leadership skill of ‘developing others’ can help you in your career advancement too.