Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Leadership Skill of DEVELOPMENT

Let’s continue this week with our examination of leadership skills. The last 2 weeks, I’ve shared articles to reinforce the three concepts that we discussed during our “Introduction to Leadership” on the December 8th airing of The Leader’s Edge.

We’ve covered the topics of Listening and Action. So, that leaves us with Development. The development of your employees and leaders is paramount to the success of your organization! Not only to make them as effective in their roles as possible (whether it’s technical or “people skills” training), but also to show them that you care about them and their contributions to your organization. The more opportunities you offer your employees to develop themselves and to then utilize those skills, the more likely they are to trust you and be loyal to you, in good times and bad.

Indeed, that reflects the title of a blog post which Dave published a couple of years ago, “Great Leaders Develop Good People - Even in Bad Times”. The topic of that article is certainly relevant to our current discussion:

Whenever the economy turns bad, and that seems to happen on a regular basis, many companies start looking for ways to cut their costs. One of the very first things that some companies cut are any costs associated with human development. Coaching, training classes, and even brown-bag lunches are viewed as a “soft cost” that have no direct impact on the bottom line.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

On the surface, wringing out any excess costs seems to make a lot of sense. But great leaders know that wringing out all the costs might also mean wringing out all of the energy, excitement and creativity from a company as well. And, when things are tough, you need your team to crank up the energy and creativity, not bury it under a blanket.

Imagine a scenario where one of your top customers places a big order that is going to require the very best from your team to complete the delivery. Your team, suffering the blahs after having their overtime cut, all of the plants removed from the office, the coffee service removed from the office, and all personal development eliminated, can’t figure out how to deliver this order on time with the correct content.

Of course, Jack could have led his team to get this done, but Jack left 6 weeks ago to join a competitor. Sally was another manager who could probably have pulled it off as well, but she left about 3 months ago and changed careers entirely. Their replacements came from in house and, while they are excellent technically, they lack the skills to lead the team on a project of this size.

You meant to develop more managers with the appropriate team leadership skills, but with times being tight, you cut back on hiring, stopped training both your technicians and your managers and hunkered down to wait out the downturn.

Now that downturn may last much longer than expected. And you may lose your best client for screwing up this order. But that’s ok because you were able to wring out all of those excess costs that don’t really add to the bottom line.

Great leaders understand the difference between unnecessary costs and the costs of keeping your managers and staff excited, motivated, and most importantly, on your team. Great leaders understand that developing people is not an unnecessary cost, but an investment in the business itself. Staff development can have the very same payoff and ROI that an investment in new equipment can have. And an investment in your staff has the added incentive of making your team more valuable over time.

And that can get you through a lot of tough times.

I hope this article has inspired you to think about additional ways that you can offer development opportunities to your team. We’d love to hear some of your thoughts on development and any unique development opportunities that you may have tried or are considering.

At ECI Learning Systems LLC we are dedicated to improving productivity and profitability by creating engaged organizations. Our unique combination of training and personalized coaching, combined with our expertise in assessments allow us to create a development plan tailored for your success.

Until next time….

Laurie Valaer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

1 comment:

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