If your management said “You are most definitely on our A team!”…How would you feel? Now, suppose you were told that you are clearly on the B team or “the everybody else team”…How motivated would you feel then?
Too often, management focuses on the high potentials, providing them with targeted training, access to senior management and special career paths, while leaving everybody else to fend for themselves. If your development stops with your high potentials; you are handicapping your potential, and your talent development efforts. This concept has been generating lots of buzz, for example this piece in Vanity Fair about Microsoft losing its mojo (due to competitive people practices that immortalizes high performers).
So, what is the solution to providing great talent development that advances the performance of all of your people? It starts with the manager. I have learned a lot by studying a group of Exceptional Development Managers. These managers have departments that are humming all the time, their teams are constantly developing skills, feeling more engaged, and voluntarily staying extra hours to be part of the action.
Sound too good to be true? It isn’t. If you think that this is not possible in your shop or will take too much time, try these 3 deliberate, everyday steps to drive plentiful development into the work environment.
Adopt an “enough for all” mentality
Exceptional development managers adopt an abundance for all mindset and actions that reinforce that mindset. They use a democratic approach and assume everyone can grow regularly.
Then, they DO what helps people develop in their roles. In our research, when employees identified their most developmental managers, they described very specific behaviors and interactions—not speeches or memos. It was the sheer density of development-focused interactions with their manager that created a deeply felt growth environment. Instead of big dramatic acts, it is often small ones. For example:
Ask thought provoking questions at staff meetings.
Insist on learning debriefs at the end of projects.
Have people transfer learning at regular meetings.
Acknowledge and praise team members not just for what they did but also for what they learned.
Shift Work Around to Refresh Development
Exceptional Development Managers look at the total workload and find creative ways to shift it around for optimal collective learning. People get bored and feel hemmed in if they repeat the same types of assignments over and over. By mixing it up, instead of operating from scarcity (no new budget for training, no turnover, no new jobs), you’ll be operating from abundance.
Grow an abundant supply of development challenges from outside the department.
I know....it sounds like an even bigger workload, but hear me out. By taking this approach, and selectively taking on new challenges, handpicked to give employees new experiences, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the new energy people display. You and your team will also develop a reputation for being willing to help within your organization. As an example, Sid, a project leader in Product Development, talked with his team about taking on a particularly broken project on a tight deadline. His team agreed to tackle it because of the value in further developing resilience under pressure and increasing abilities to deal with distraught clients.
You CAN create an abundance of development opportunities for your entire team without spending lots of money or sending people off the job. No more "A team" and "everybody else team", just one unified, strong team.