Develop Me or I’m History

by | Oct 28, 2020 | Leadership, Managing Teams, Professional Development, Uncategorized

Ignore your employees’ development at your peril

Even during this challenging business climate, your best and brightest have options to work elsewhere. If you don’t help your employees grow and develop, they will take their talents to a company that will.

Or they could stay and wreak equal damage by losing interest in moving your company to higher levels of sales, profits and innovation. As Zig Ziglar, sales thought leader and author once said: “The only thing worse than training employees and losing them is . . . not training your employees and keeping them.”

Employees you develop through training sessions, coaching, mentoring, role playing, and stretch projects can boost morale, revenue, productivity, innovation and bottom-line results.

So why do so many leaders resist this path to success? Perhaps the answer lies in myths that leaders and managers tell themselves.

Some paralyzing myths . . . and a few suggestions

1. We don’t have the time

Tom, VP of Sales for an electronics distribution company, saw the need for his over-busy team of leaders and managers to become more sophisticated and effective. His leadership team works with salespeople who are transitioning from transactional sales conversations to conversations that are highly complex, increasingly technical and big picture, and require more decision makers and influencers. Add into the mix the anxiety, confusion and uncertainty his leaders were experiencing about how to lead and work virtually, and Tom knew he needed to provide support. His leadership team resisted because they felt they couldn’t afford the time away from the day-to-day pressures and demands.

Tom insisted they did have time and needed to step up their game. He opened the first session of a one-year virtual training and coaching program by saying:

“We are busy. The orders are coming in fast. You and your people are under a lot of stress. You’re probably thinking, “I don’t have time for this. My people will mess up without me. Our customers are impatient and we’ll lose them if I take time off for training and learning.” “Yet, good companies take the time to hit the “pause” button and learn. And we don’t want to be a good company.”

“We want to be a GREAT company. ALL great companies hit the “pause” button regularly to learn, figure out what is working, talk about what is not working, and get what is not working to work. That’s where we’re going.”

Some managers subsequently departed (a good thing) and those who stayed took advantage of the opportunity. Their division developed their leaders and reps to a place where they are calmer, more skilled, and more strategic. Their customers depend on them more, because they know how to provide deeper and richer value. The outcome is a culture that is healthy and functioning well, even as their business becomes more demanding. They are successfully harvesting more whale-sized deals that were unthinkable before they took the program. They have expanded leadership capacity throughout the division.

They all agree taking time for learning and developing was time well spent.

2. Training is expensive

If you haven’t regularly invested in your employees’ development, you will experience sticker-shock. Good help is not cheap, nor should it be. Instead, think about results. If each of your salespeople made one more sale this year, or grew a small account into a medium or large one, or landed a whale-sized deal, what might that amount to? Certainly more than you invested in training or coaching.

As a rule, consider investing a minimum of $2,500 annually for each employee. In my business, I invest a minimum of $5,000 each year; some years it’s closer to $10,000. My investment includes coaching for myself and others on my team. I also invest heavily in ongoing learning (virtual marketing/sales/leadership/skills based programs, books and magazine articles and ongoing team discussions about them, assessments such as CliftonStrengths, spending time as a team developing and applying our organizational Noble Purpose and Core Values).

A company I work with invests close to $4,000/per person annually for a division of 30 people ($120,000). Using the new knowledge and techniques they have learned, they recently grew an opportunity by $1.5 M annually for at least the next five years ($7.5M).

Lately, I’ve received a number of calls from leaders who want to include something new and interesting in their upcoming virtual, annual sales meeting and aren’t sure what they want (training? lecture? team-building activity? 90 minutes long? Two days long?) Or they want to offer their people ongoing learning.

They are shocked when they find out that good programs cost more than 50 cents, so they back away.

And then they wonder why good people leave and the mediocre stay.

3. My people resist change, so development is a waste of time and money

Be careful about the messages you inadvertently send to your people. If you believe they won’t change, guess what? They won’t change.

And if you’re not reinforcing learning with ongoing practice, discussion, and coaching, you’re making it difficult – if not impossible – for your people to succeed in the struggle of change. Yes, some people resist change more than others. But ongoing learning is THE competitive advantage.

Raise the bar.

4. Development efforts are best concentrated on high potentials, who already do a good job

You can indeed see a significant return on investment in your high potentials. But they make up only about 10% of your workforce. You probably have another 10% of marginal performers. But what about the 80% in between, the “Develop Me or I’m History” middle responsible for doing the bulk of the work? Imagine what even a small investment in their development might yield.

Remember: Growing your team and your business means growing your people. Forget that . . . and the rest is history.