Ongoing Development

Chapter 4 105-108  Lead With Love By: Gerry Czarnecki

 Not all development should focus on job skills. Personal growth is also important. Encouraging personal growth is not just good for an associate, it is good for the organization. The whole person comes to work each day, and associates who know and understand themselves have more time to know and understand their work. Far too many staff members spend half their lives searching for themselves and the rest of the time just “getting by” at work. An associate cannot be productive if his day is consumed by self-doubt or worry over personal inadequacy. It is not the leader’s responsibility to fund such efforts to find inner-confidence, but the leader does have an opportunity to encourage them.

 Deciding how to encourage these efforts for personal discovery can be a challenge. On one hand, we must avoid appearing to act like amateur psychologists; on the other, we actually need to do just that. As leaders, we are not therapists helping people work through their personal identity and psychological-well-being issues. We are, however, in many ways diagnosticians. We must be able to recognize psychological challenges that negatively impact an associate’s performance. How we use the diagnosis to facilitate resolution of the problem is a sensitive and difficult matter. Once again, it is much easier to be sensitive to the psychology of your associates if you love them enough to probe what makes them “tick.”

 As a leader you should get all of the professional help you can to facilitate increased wellness of your staff. This is one of those times when consulting with your superior is probably the best advice. If your organization has a human resources department, then go there for counsel. If the problem is important enough, it may be necessary to rely on or establish an organizational process that refers individuals to a therapist, social service agency, or even private-sector support such as a minister or counselor. If you have a relationship with the associate or the associate discusses the problem with you, then you might be able to suggest he or she seek help. It is imperative that you not damage your working relationship by appearing to interfere in the personal life of an associate; hence, getting professional support in handling this type of situation is always the best course of action.

 What responsibilities do your staff members have for their own development? Have they created their own development plans? Have you asked them to write out those plans and then commit to accomplishing them? Have you reviewed and approved the plans? How do you decide what extraordinary training or development your staff requires? Do you have those programs already established? If not, you should create a program that can be used as a general development tool for the entire unit, not just one or more staff members. Your commitment to supporting the continual development of associates should also extend to broadening their knowledge beyond what is required for the day-to-day tasks of the job. A course in art history may have very little to do with your work environment, but it can have everything to do with the development of a person who appreciates aesthetic beauty. In turn, it can influence an employee’s ability to appreciate the value of the organization and its support of the arts in the community. The same  could be said for a course in biology, which can help an individual appreciate the need to preserve the environment. In turn, it can help that same associate recognize, and even get involved in, the efforts of the organization to preserve the environment at the workplace. In short, seldom does a learning experience go to waste. Organizations should encourage general educational development. Those that can afford the expense should continue to subsidize advanced education as they are able, but they should also encourage learning in any formal or informal setting that helps associates grow.

 Don’t just allow your staff to self-improve, encourage it. Expanded knowledge helps your associates grow. On the job, you must allow them to learn tasks they do not need to know. One day, their knowledge may have a profound impact on your ability to fulfill the organization’s needs. Today’s seemingly extraneous knowledge may lead to tomorrow’s promotion from within. Let the B clerk learn about the A clerk’s job. Someday you may need another A clerk. The added cost of satisfying the intellectual curiosity of an associate is trivial in comparison to the cost of ignorance. Just as important, if you believe workplace improvements can and should come from the people in the workplace, then increased knowledge and skills will enhance associates’ ability to contribute to employee-driven change through suggestion systems, quality control circles, and other employee participation systems. Harness the power of staff members instead of stifling them. Their growth can enhance the organization’s growth.

Do you have a staff member who has received all the training your organization requires but is still not performing to expected levels? What do you think you could do to facilitate a development experience that could make a real difference for that staff member? Why have you not done it? If you could do anything you wanted, how would you develop or train your staff member? Weak performers may well be the result of inadequate training and development. Your weak performers can be a clue to a failure of the development process, and that should be the first place you look for improvement. Create a list of your weakest staff member’s shortcomings and create a development plan that will provide the changes required to improve his performance. Compare that plan to the training and development plans already in place. If there is a disconnect, then talk to the training department about the problem. Continuing growth is essential, even when excellence has been achieved. Keep the pressure on and push your associates to continuously improve. Complacency is a serious problem for a developing associate. The need for continuous improvement is never greater than when the staff members are fully comfortable with their current level of knowledge. As they lose the thrill of growth, they will become bored and may decide to leave to find something more exciting. Those who stay will settle into a comfortable rut, and inevitably their performance will deteriorate, or worse, they will fail. Standing still is not possible. The choice is between moving forward and falling behind.

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