Great Leaders Develop Their People

A valuable lesson I learned from a former boss way back in the mid-80’s taught me firsthand the value of this. To quote him, “It’s important to understand the numbers, to monitor them, see what’s working and what needs attention. But if all you do is manage numbers and talk about them rather than manage your people you’ll never reach the level of success possible and you’ll lose your people. Be aware of the numbers, but take care of your people. Get to know them, what they need, want and like. Without them you can’t get where you need to get so treat them as individuals in order to hit your team’s goals.” Thanks again, Ed. You were exactly right. When I have occasionally gotten off track in the past as a manager and leader I was reminded by a couple of folks I was responsible for to not forget about THEM and stop talking SO much about the numbers. And they did so very directly and clearly! It took guts but they were right. Once we got back to watching our performance on paper but working together on the actual hard and soft skills plus having more fun, we rocked!!


My philosophy has been and continues to be, get the right players in the right seats. Then, feed them, water them and watch them grow! Let’s explore how to enhance that growth.


Soooooo….how do I do this development, managing to the individual, while at the same time tracking my results, aka NUMBERS? I am SO busy now, how could I possible do more is the next question I always get asked. Let’s address those now.


#1 – Set up individual meetings with each of your employees.   45-60 minutes initially. And the key questions you need to answer are as follows:

  • What challenges do you face every day?
  • What is most frustrating about your role?
  • What areas of your role, or the organization, do you wish you knew more about?
  • What skills or additional training would help you work more productively or effectively


Next, ask them about what they would like to get out of additional training and to visualize the outcomes that they’d like to achieve. What does that look like to them? Also, find out more about their personal goals, and think about how well these goals align with the organization’s objectives. When done properly, training and development will help them in both of these areas almost every time.


Some additional tips to gather the necessary information to “get it right” when laying out an individual plan might be:

  • MBWA (manage by wandering around); observe their behavior in the workplace AND in order to be honest and upfront let them know what you are doing. You don’t want them thinking something is wrong and you are spying on them!
  • Talk to internal and external customers they work with or have worked with in the past, along with past bosses, peers and co-workers.
  • Refer to past performance appraisals or feedback sessions when that information is available.
  • Conduct a High-Quality 360 assessment on them using an instrument that is validated and benchmarked. I use one of the best whenever I can on behalf of my clients!!


Lastly and most important of all, make sure that you take into account people’s individual learning styles before you commit to any one training & development program. Remember, everyone learns differently; your training will be most effective if you customize it to accommodate everyone’s best learning style.