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5 Mistakes Leaders Make When It Comes to People Development

There comes a time in everyone's career when they feel they have "arrived." It's the attainment of a particular job, the fulfillment of a dream or the time when everything is clicking into place.

For leaders, this is a dangerous place to be. It's a potential trap, one you will fall into if you allow yourself to become complacent. When complacency settles in, it's only a matter of time before a leader (and/or his or her team) suddenly feel dissatisfied and less capable of handling new challenges.

That's why it's so important to continually focus on people development. A leader's primary responsibility is to be a people builder. Building people is not done in occasional workshops or classes. It's done continuously and intentionally.

When it comes to people development, leaders often make these five mistakes. If you are making any one of these mistakes, it's time to course correct. The cost of not developing people is significantly greater than the cost of proactively developing all people at all times.

1. They don't allow time or resources for people development. Some leaders overlook the need for people development entirely. Some say there's no budget for development, others say there's simply no time. There are those who also say that the work itself is what develops people. You have to step back and examine those perceptions.

First, the budget question. Development work need not be expensive. Non-profits, schools and other low budget organizations find ways to develop people because they know it's also the best way to retain talent. People report higher levels of engagement and job satisfaction when they get development support. The costs you save in reduced turnover, recruiting and ramp up of new employees  will more than cover the costs of people development.

If there is no time for development work, then you aren't appropriately staffed. Development should be a part of the job. When you develop people, you expand their capacity and they can do more. When you limit their development, you will always get less from each individual.

There may be some truth to the notion that development can occur while the work is being done. The question, though, is this: Is the work they're doing developing them in the ways that benefit both the individual and the organization over the long term? Do you need people to be super technicians in the work they already do? Or do you need next-level skills, cross-functional skills and interpersonal skills to be developed?

2. They don't provide opportunities for people to get 360-degree feedback. We all have "blind spots" or things we can't see about ourselves. The leader can't observe every individual in every setting either. So enlisting feedback from all those who work with an individual is the best way to truly understand what the development opportunities are. This is particularly important for people in management roles because a manager's behaviors impact the performance and job satisfaction of others.

A quality 360-degree feedback process will maintain the confidentiality of those who participate. That way, they will feel "safe" and offer candid feedback. Effective 360s are not used for performance management and are, in fact, seen only by the person the feedback is intended for.

When a leader doesn't offer opportunities for 360-degree feedback, it may look like there is a lack of concern for the team or a lack of interest in their feedback. Further, the leader inadvertently allows problems to continue without there being any awareness of them for the offender. Good leaders get 360-degree feedback for themselves and for others.

3. They limit access to development opportunities. For some companies, people they deem as "high performing, high potential' earn the keys to the kingdom. The development dollars are invested in this elite group (usually a small number). The rationale behind this approach is simple, maybe even simplistic: allocate resources to the people we most want to retain, the ones we envision promoting in the near future.

Theoretically, this makes sense. It's a way to reward those who have proven themselves. However...

Philosophically, should companies really telegraph that only a small group of employees are worth investing in? And, practically, few companies have the systems to do this well. Most allow subjective opinions to creep in and find there is little consensus on who is truly "high potential." Further, the risk of developing only an elite few is that companies are "putting all their eggs in one basket" and have to scramble when those who have been developed later prove themselves not to have the potential or leave the company altogether.

4. They prescribe "one size fits all" development activities. The companies with the strongest pipelines of internal candidates for key roles are the ones who offer a variety of development opportunities. They:

-  create formal and robust mentoring programs,

- provide access to internal and external coaches,

- offer training on both hard skills and soft skills,

- promote cross-functional stretch assignments and programs to build business acumen,

- encourage continuing education,

- set expectations for every employee to develop and embed this in their annual goal-setting and performance review processes, and

- value learning so much that senior executives role model it by continually developing, too.

Every employee brings a unique mix of knowledge and experience. Setting up ways for people to learn from each other is smart business. Every employee learns in different ways. Setting up a variety of learning and development experiences is smart business. a "one size fits all" approach will never work and is, frankly, a waste of time and money.

5. They forget to set aside time for their own ongoing development. Leaders are learners. They don't allow themselves to stop learning or to devalue opportunities for their own personal growth. Instead, they see every conversation as an opening to ask questions and learn. They get out of their office often to mingle with others and learn from them. They attend the same training they expect others to attend, eager to learn and understand what's new and what's next.

As a leader, you are expected to deliver results that move the company toward its long-term strategic priorities. Building people is the surest way to make that happen.

CONNECT 2 Lead graphic smalThe CONNECT2Lead Blog and training programs are products of People First Productivity Solutions. We build organizational strength by putting people first. If you’d like to read more this month about mistakes leaders make, subscribe to our weekly CONNECT2Lead Newsletter for special offers, content, and blog posts.