People past their use-by date?

Last week I ran a public People Management workshop and was once more reminded that people are the make or break element in a business. As I listened to the people “issues” that make up the average manager’s typical day (not counting the myriad that may fly under the radar) I was reminded of the hidden cost where the people you have are not the people you want.

Part of the message of the course is the T.O.P. concept – people need all three skill types to be of real value: TECHNICAL (relating exclusively to their role), OPERATIONAL (referring to how they deliver the outcomes from their role including time management, planning, problem solving and so on) and PEOPLE (including all aspects of interpersonal contact – customers, peers and leaders.)

Many of the issues with people seem to come about when we as leaders do not perpetually stretch them in a deliberate direction. If we leave their development to chance, after five years they will only have one year of experience – the same year repeated five times.

The best way to keep people valuable to the business is to keep them closely plugged in with their customers (who could be internal) and their customers’ customers. Work out how far downstream you need to go with this approach and then make sure they are in contact with the issues at that part of the supply chain. Without their being in meaningful contact with the issues that their services are designed to resolve, they will gradually skew the role in favour of their own needs. This is a survival reaction to the disjointed way we structure organisations. We make it difficult for people to remain relevant. As they repeat actions that are determined by their own thoughts in isolation, these will eventually drive their thoughts and actions each day – they will become hard-wired to being irrelevant.

They may even become quite indignant when challenged as to the use of their time and other resources – especially if they have been doing things a certain way for a long time, with no coaching input.

As a manager, I took my people development responsibilities really seriously. While it is true that as I teach this stuff and therefore I had to, I believe I was fulfilling my role as manager to ensure that my staff were constantly adding value in their roles and constantly improving. Each month they were given a developmental task that grew a skill in a pre-agreed area. I would plan these out 6 months at a time. While some would be replaced as other needs emerged, I generally only did the planning once every 6 months and then drip feed the developmental activities each month. It really worked – when I subsequently left the organisation, my 2IC was ready for the step-up.

Call it Kaizen, call it Continuous Improvement – there are numerous terms for the process of constant change, but in a competitive environment it is a matter of survival.

There is enough evidence now to suggest that our brain is designed to evolve and grow, and when we fail to make this happen in the workplace, we are not only working against nature but robbing our businesses of their best competitive weapon – the brilliance of the human brain.

Expect more from people, ensure they stay plugged in to those who receive value from their services (either directly, indirectly or both) and challenge them to keep improving themselves. Not only will you enjoy your role more; not only will you be giving the business the best chance of success; you will also be giving people a gift that keeps on giving throughout their careers.


About Cherri Holland

Fascinated with business, brains and how to use the brains on the payroll to make business buzz.
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