The 3 Crucial Factors Of Sustainable Staff Development

The 3 Crucial Factors Of Sustainable Staff Development

April 23, 2010 Email This Post Email This Post Print This Post Print This Post

“Staff development is a major task of leaders.”

I guess this is one of the most popular sentences in management and leadership literature.

The advantage of this sentence is that you will receive a bright agreement when mentioning it in a round of executives.

“Yes, staff development is extremely important” or
“Staff development should take most of a manager’s working time.”

These could be the encouraging and supporting words of your respective counterpart.

And, you know what? They’re absolutely true.

Staff development encourages your folks, it makes them more productive and it increases the quality of their work tremendously.

Finally, it turns them into happier and more confident human beings.

But as so often in our world appearance and being are also very far apart in this specific case.

Most leaders I know just invest little or even no time at all in the development of their staff.

Why is this so?

I know about the situation especially in larger companies where a high time pressure and a continuous increasing workload lead to a steady depletion of the resource “time”.

But this fact should not result in stifling the development of employees because of operational stress.

The conscious development and encouragement of your staff should rather be integrated into the daily business. There’s nothing more motivating for you as executive and leader than watching your people growing and developing.

And exactly here the main problem becomes obvious:

Many managers have a lack of the necessary knowledge about the decisive factors of effective staff development.

Now, one could argue that this is indeed a relatively simple problem to solve, which can be eliminated by appropriate training activities.

But this is just one part of the truth because the knowledge about good and sustainable conditions for staff development challenges managers very much.

Executives themselves are the ones who must first undergo a critical self-reflection in order to lay the foundation for the development of their employees.

This self-reflection is often thwarted by vanity, selfishness and a false self-perception.

To help you avoiding this mistake I would like to present you briefly the three crucial factors of sustainable staff development.

The Executive

Biographies of the great politicians, managers and entrepreneurs repeatedly show that the high performers of our society receive their superior motivation and energy from the emulation of great role models.

Herein lies a great tool for you as a leader.

Work on becoming a role model for your employees.
Work on being someone who is emulated.

Many mangers would claim now that they try to do exactly this nearly every day.

But in my opinion they make a big mistake:
They try to copy something like a general, universal role model which they have taken with them over the years through their own education, through newspapers, books, studies …

Unfortunately this ideal role model does not exist. There is no “ideal leader”. And something that does not exist can’t inspire or motivate humans. Neither you nor your team. It’s a dead imagination. There’s no life in it.

You should accept that and stop trying to copy such an ideal which is stamped by teachings and textbooks.

Good and effective leaders are inspired by great individuals.
Individuals that have also been inspired by other great individuals before.

But individuality always requires courage.
And many modern managers simply don’t possess this courage.

This is the reason why we are nowadays confronted with thousands of mediocre, assessment-center-embossed uniform managers.

If you ask a certain question each of them would answer something based upon a response from author x page 117 …

You know what I mean?

This development is absolutely bad because it leads to a big loss of authenticity, integrity, credibility and authority of modern leaders.

I always hated executives who were playing an artificial role and who learned lots of wise statements by heart.

I had to follow their instructions. But I never followed them.

I know modern companies support this development.
This means we are subordinated to certain constraints.

But, nevertheless, let me give you one good piece of advice:
Don’t partake in that!

Find your personal role model. Find a personality that inspires you and fills you with energy and motivation.

Try to Identify as precisely as possible what it is that you are so fascinated about concerning this person and try to emulate it.

Humans learn by emulation.

Your personal feeling will tell you if you’ve already found the right person.

It will also reveal the ideals to you that match your own personality and your own wishes.

In most cases it is the authenticity and integrity of the admired person that fascinates us so intensely.

And this is exactly what employees are missing today.

Very often these great role models are intellectually and morally independent persons.

They make decisions and take simultaneously the full responsibility for their actions.

At the same time they usually have an enormous deep knowledge in their field. This makes their credibility usually possible.

These are all properties that are attributable to almost all great leaders.

People would usually not hesitate to entrust their own children to them.

Work on being such a holistic personality and stop following blindly the common theoretical “management manuals”.

Orient yourself towards the great personalities that inspire you and give you that energy which you can afterwards pass on to you people.

This doesn’t have to be just one person. You can even mix the characteristics of different persons as long as they are affecting something on the emotional level deep within your soul.

If you emulate characteristics of persons that impress you and that match your own personal characteristics, you have a great chance to impress your folks too.

This is a great way for you personally to gain more authenticity, integrity, credibility and authority.

Play your very own song. Not according to the notes of others, not faster or better than the others, but just play your own song that feels right in your heart.

The Tasks

Employees grow with their tasks.

This is a very simple insight which is definitely not easy to implement into the daily grind.

At first it is essential to find the right tasks for your folks.

Therefore it is necessary to have a very accurate picture of the strengths and weaknesses of each of them.

Focus on the development of their strenghts instead of trying to eliminate their weaknesses.

This leads to a greater satisfaction of your people and it also prevents them from becoming mediocre.

Once you’ve found the right tasks you must establish the performance principle:

You acknowledge and appreciate any progress in the tasks and establish a culture of striving for growing tasks.

You can realize this very well using the idea of personified responsibility.

Everyone should know exactly what he or she is responsible for and where the concrete successes are founded in.

The results can be identified and honored also in a personified way afterwards.

Getting bigger tasks after having accomplished in slightly easier tasks must be perceived as an honor by your folks.

Everyone should fight for the challenging tasks.
Everyone should understand that growing recognition and appreciation is always based upon growing performance.

Initially, your folks will interpretate this principle very professionally.
But after some time they will note that benefits in their professional performace can also be very useful for their private life.

The more you challenge your people, the better their results can be represented, the more recognition and appreciation they can obtain, the larger the scope of your people becomes and the more the principle of performance can be established in your team.

This is a very effective spiral of success.

Money, status and career should only take a minor role.
Not only because these incentives are often very limited, but also because in my opinion they’re simply not the the adequate incentives for personal development.

After all, if you learn a second foreign language I guess you don’t do it for financial reasons. You do it for personal reasons, don’t you?

The Idea Of Man

You can’t change your employees and you can’t develop them.
Human beings can only change and develop themselves.

Your folks have always and everywhere the freedom to decide on their own about their actions, their decisions and their attitudes.

You can’t prevail over their will.

You can just offer them to be their personal coach.
A coach who can point out some new perspectives and show new prospects.

A coach who is simultaneously a role model for them who gives continuous and honest feedback.

Once you have developed a leading maturity as described above in the first point the probability that your folks will follow you increases dramatically.

But don’t forget to consider your employees as holistic human beings.

You can’t look at them only in a professional context. You should also consider the characteristics of private individuals like hobbies, needs, dislikes, and especially the individual biography of each person.

Everyone is different and according to this everyone should be treated differently.

The request that all human beings have to be treated equally applies only to a consistent performance measurement.

In the personal daily contact you have to consider the individuality of each team member.

Each person has a different button to push that you should try to find out cautiously.


So as you see my approach to staff development reveals a three-dimensional challenge:

Your authentic and individual personality as leader combined with challenging tasks for your folks and the holistic consideration of your employees as human beings are the decisive conditions for an effective learning environment.

The creation of such a learning environment is the central task for you as leader and executive.

This big job should always be the most challenging task for you personally on your way to a holistic leader.

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