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Helen Green

Quest Leadership

Leadership Collaborator

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Growing business? Grow your people


As a leader, what are you doing to grow your people?

No, we’re not talking here about sticking them out in a field and hoping that with the right soil and the right water they will suddenly become more proactive, more innovative or more engaged. 

Having said that, with the Glastonbury festival on at the time of writing any alien monitoring our airwaves will see plenty of photos of people plastered in mud standing in the rain and wonder…

That aside, business leaders could learn a lot from the farming community about developing their people. Good farmers understand that you can’t just throw a random mix of animals and crops into a field and hope that they will survive.

They know that success requires an understanding of the environment, choosing crops carefully and creating the right conditions for them to thrive. That means keeping an ongoing eye on the climate, providing water or nutrients if required and anticipating and overcoming threats to success.

Isn’t that exactly what the best leaders are doing, albeit that they are developing their people in order to benefit the long-term growth of the organisation. For a start, the best leaders create a culture in which people can develop and deliver outstanding results. Then they select their people carefully, ensuring that each new entrant is chosen for cultural fit, as someone who can assimilate the aims and values of the organisation and bring something special to aid in its growth.

Finally, great leaders create the conditions which enable their people to grow and flourish, to learn and develop their own talents for the overall good of the organisation. And along the way they never lose sight of the culture, keeping it under review and keeping it strong in order that people can be strong within it. As Bill Walsh, the legendary coach of the San Francisco 49ers said:

The culture precedes positive results. It doesn’t get tacked on as an afterthought on the way to the victory stand.”

Developing success

So given the right culture, given the right people, how do great leaders develop success? While there are no quick fixes when it comes to talent development there are a few key areas which can make the difference. These include:

  • establishing a clear purpose for the work of each individual
  • providing people with the opportunity to develop and practice new skills
  • helping people to take responsibility for their own development and performance as well as building a sense of autonomy at work
  • regularly reviewing performance against agreed goals and standards

When building a strong talent development programme it is worth bearing in mind what Michael’s calls the employee value proposition (EVP); in other words, the sum of everything people experience and receive while they are part of the company. Organisations with a strong EVP will engage people not only to give their best for the organisation but also to be strong advocates for the business. Paying attention to areas such as encouraging regular two-way feedback and growing internal support networks can help to boost employee perceptions and EVP.

The best leaders are like the best farmers. They have a mindset which understands the importance of careful selection and talent development. More importantly, they have a fundamental belief in the potential of people to learn and grow and are prepared to create the conditions which will enable others to flourish.

What are you doing to develop the talent of your people?  If you don’t nurture them then how do you expect your business to grow!

2 Responses

  1. “Train people well enough so
    “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” RICHARD BRANSON

  2. For evidence of this, look no
    For evidence of this, look no further than Leicester City. They won the Premier League with a team of journeyman players, but once they were in the right atmosphere and treated well by management, they excelled.

Author Profile Picture
Helen Green

Leadership Collaborator

Read more from Helen Green

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