Essentially this article is about continuous improvement. Whether the leader is developing people, resources, systems or anything else, the focus is on being better tomorrow than we were yesterday. Some of this continuous improvement – for example, that which relates to systems and processes - may be about finding incremental improvements in the way we do things. However, there may come a time when small increments do not do the trick. In some instances, the most innovative thing you can do is eliminate the system – or a particular stage in the process. The mind-set that looks for small increments is unlikely to notice that a process is quite useless – unless some bright person has a blinding flash of inspiration and asks “Why are we doing this?” That can be a telling question.
When it comes to developing people, that is also, to some extent about “continuous improvement”. As people develop, their ability to make a contribution grows. Furthermore, they have more options in terms of how they apply their abilities. As a consequence, they become more engaged and do better work. Managers who do not spend time developing their people are not serious about being managers! Any manager who is not willing (or claims to be unable) to invest time in developing team members does not deserve to have that role. Becoming a manager is not a reward for good work. It confers on the manager total responsibility for the performance of the team – and that means that a good proportion of your working hours must be spent developing your people: clarifying expectations; coaching them; giving them projects that stretch them; reviewing their work and spending time supporting them in their work. It takes time – and that means you need to allocate this time. It is not an interruption to your work. It IS your work.
How do you foster development in your team? What disciplines or routines do you have in place that create opportunities to critically evaluate your systems and processes? Do you have a team member who asks “Why are we doing this?” How do you take advantage of this point of view in the interests of improving how you do things? Or do you dismiss these questions? Not a good idea. Rather give this person the opportunity to critically evaluate your systems and processes and make recommendations for improvements. How much of your own time do you spend deliberately developing your people? Do you treat this as an irritation and an interruption? Rather schedule time for this into your calendar, and give it your full attention at those times.
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