Fostering Growth


One of the biggest frustrations I have run into as a member of an organization is how the leaders grow their employees. In my entire career, I have only had two leaders mentor me in such a way that I felt like I was growing as both an employee, as well as a person. Why there were not more people doing this, I will never understand. If you want to build an organization that is strong, it only makes sense to develop the next level of people below you in order to ensure that this happens consistently. This Harvard Business Review article says it best:

Regardless of what else you expect from your managers, facilitating employee learning and development should be a non-negotiable competency.

So how do you do this? How do you become a manager that people want to work for, and more importantly, how do you develop those people into the next wave of leaders in your organization? The first thing to realize is that there is no magic bullet. There is no secret recipe for success that is 100% repeatable. Instead, there are some key principles that you should keep in mind, and strive to work towards.

People vs Resources

I’m not talking about using resources other than people, but rather how you look at the people you have. Do you treat them like a resource to use as needed, or do you treat them as human beings, and use the individual/unique skills they bring to the table? Having the ability to recognize people for the unique individuals that they are is a lot tougher than it sounds, and takes deliberate and intentional effort. It is far easier to see them as a resource with skills that are defined by a job description, but that does not do anything to further the person, nor does it truly help further the organization. When you just throw resources at a problem, eventually you will run into a scaling problem.

Personal Interactions

When you connect with people on a personal level, they feel valued, and their desire for success, as well as their level engagement go up. In every position of authority I have ever been in, I have gotten the best results out of the people I was able to connect with on a personal level. This not a simple matter, and it is likely that you will have people on your team that you just can’t connect with. This is one of the key reasons why cultural fit is such an important part of the hiring process. When you spend as much time with your coworkers as you do your own family, you naturally want to enjoy that time (and conversely, your employees want the same thing). Having this feeling of camaraderie and friendship will lead the members of your team to want to do better by each other, and will result in a much higher level of efficiency.

Career Development

The resources on your team, regardless of where they are at in their career, need to be treated as a plant would be. They need fed and nurtured on a regular basis in order to keep them healthy and productive. One of the ways I like to do this is by sitting down with each person and outlining where they want to go in their career, and then take that and work with them to put together a list of goals for them to work towards. These goals should be S.M.A.R.T., should be a mixture of individual and teams goals, and should be measured on a quarterly basis at a minimum (I like to review during monthly 1-on–1’s). By including the employee in the process of creating the goals, you enable them to take ownership of their career, and thereby fostering better engagement on their part.


I know a lot of this seems pretty simple and basic on paper, but it is surprisingly difficult to accomplish in reality. The key is to make a deliberate choice with each and every employee to connect with them on their level, and be genuine in your conversations with them. You won’t win them all, but trust me, word will get around, and you’ll find that people are wanting to come to your team or organization. It’s not easy, and there are definitely some bumps along the way, but you will find it all that much more rewarding!

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