Developing People and Gardening

Michael McKinney over at Leading Blog has found some great stuff on developing people from Lord Sharman.

“To some degree, developing people in an organization is impossible. You can’t develop them; they develop themselves, and so your job is like that of a head gardener. You figure out what the various microclimates are around the place, and then you figure out the qualities of the plants that you need to go into those microclimates. Similarly, you select the people based on their strengths and place them in those jobs.”

Key point: If you have someone who is under-performing ask yourself “is this person in a microclimate, a context, in which it is possible for them to thrive?” If not – then move them. A cactus won’t thrive in a bog.

“I’ve seen notes of appraisal interviews, which say that two-thirds of the interview is spent talking about what the guy’s not good at. Now, that’s great—I can’t imagine anybody coming out of an interview like that feeling anything other than very depressed.”

The Gardener

“What you want to do is spend time talking about what the person is good at and how he’s going to develop that. Sure, see whether you can do something about the weaknesses, but to my way of thinking, appraisal interviews should be two-thirds about what the person is good at and how those great assets can be used within the organization.”

Key point: accentuate the positive – and get locked into a virtuous spiral rather than a death-roll of negativity and decline. Have you caught someone doing something well today?

“You’ll always have people that find it much easier to be critical than to be encouraging… If you start criticizing your colleagues about what they’re bad at all the time rather than encouraging them, that’s sure as hell going to get down through the organization very quickly.”

Key point: Learning to recognise, encourage and promote the positive is a surprisingly hard habit to acquire. In many organisations it is almost counter-cultural! I know this is something that I always have to keep working on personally.

How Top Companies Breed Stars

Geoff Colvin, Fortune Senior editor at large has just done a great piece for Fortune Magazine on how the best companies go about developing leaders. It is a long piece – but here are the headlines:

“You couldn’t be blamed for rolling your eyes when American Express chief Ken Chenault says, “People are our greatest asset.” CEOs always say that. They almost never mean it. Most companies maintain their office copiers better than they build the capabilities of their people…”

“A close look at the companies on our list reveals a set of best practices that seem to work in any environment… These companies operate in every kind of industry and are based all over the world. But what’s most striking are traits they share – specifically, nine practices that combine to create world-class leadership development.”

  1. Invest time and money
  2. Identify promising leaders early
  3. Choose assignments strategically
  4. Develop leaders within their current jobs
  5. Be passionate about feedback and support
  6. Develop teams, not just individuals
  7. Exert leadership through inspiration
  8. Encourage leaders to be active in their communities
  9. Make leadership development part of the culture

Great to see that much of this resonates with what we teach in the Progressive Managers Network! Delegation, coaching, feedback all come through strongly in this research.