What about it… is your company designed to support its employees’ development? Before you answer the question let me guess… your answer is going to be some variation on one of the following two themes; “Of course it is!” Or, “What the heck are you talking about? This is a business, not a summer camp, we are designed to make a profit.”
OK, so maybe you might not have used those exact words but before we get an argument started take a look at the following, excerpted from an extended white paper titled ‘The Deliberatively Developmental Organization’ authored by Robert Kegan, Lisa Lahey and others…
“If we walked up to a random member of your organization—whether a leader, a manager, a support-staff member—would he or she say, “yes” to any of the following questions?
- Does your organization help you identify a personal challenge that you can work on in order to grow?
- Are there others who are aware of this “growing edge,” and who care that you transcend it?
- Are you given supports to overcome your limitations?
- Do you experience yourself actively working on transcending this growing edge on a daily or at least weekly basis?
- More particularly, after you perform the essence of your work—whether running a meeting, securing a set of buildings during your shift, or landing a big client account— is there any process in place by which you are helped to see how you could have done any of these things better?”
From reading this maybe you can see that there is a gap between the way you answered the original question and what the authors of this paper seem to be pointing to, and you would be correct.
If there is truly any connection between the Kegan et al’s assertion that employees have a strong desire to grow and the current levels of engaged employees in any workplace, currently hovering around 30% nationally, maybe there is something to consider here.
What do you think most employees’ experience with development is? For that matter what has your own been?
Does any of this sound familiar?
- moments outside the flow of day-to-day work, an hour here and there
- stand- apart trainings
- high-potential leadership- development programs
- executive coaching
- corporate universities
- once-a-year retreats
This of course includes that the training or programming available has likely been cancelled at least once for budgetary reasons without any commitment to reschedule.
Yikes! Development as a discretionary expense, that sounds strategic. No it doesn’t; and that’s because the prevailing mindset in most organizations is that employees are both expense and expendable. We want the best from our employees but we see “their best” more as a matter of natural talent, effort and the right incentives, rather than development.
Most business owners would not think of sending new employees out on any job requiring knowledge proficiency without some form of competency testing or skill training. This is not just a good idea, it is a practical imperative. Customers would not stand for cable installers who could not install or plumbers who could not plumb. Employers need programmers who can program. That kind of training makes sense to us, it is tactical, practical and necessary. As business owners we accept this type of training or purchase of skills as a cost of doing business. But this type of expenditure does not convey to the employee any sense of caring about them. They know this type of training is in the best interest of the business.
Think about this. How might you be different, as a manager or a business owner, if someone had shown an interest in you developing to the fullest extent of your capabilities? How would your working career have been different both in terms of outcomes and experience? Do you think your attitude towards your reports or employees might be different in some way?
Here’s what there is for you to know, contrary to the mythology of many a work place, very few employees are interested in competing with each other. They are looking for an opportunity to do good work and develop to their full capability. Let that sink in. Let it sink all the way in to your own experience and notice how you feel? Isn’t there somewhere in there a sense of an old desire to belong someplace, to do work that is worth your life with people you both appreciate and are appreciated by?
Responding to this deep desire that I think truly does reside inside many of us is what heading in the direction of being deliberatively developmental is all about. Maybe you don’t go as far as the organizations in the article but surely there is room for movement from where your organization is now. Why would you wait?