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How Do You Really Help People Develop?

Start by seeing clearly who they really are

  • How many people at work know who you really are?
  • How many people do you see clearly for who they are?

I was thinking about the things an executive coach really does–or should be doing. One of the most important is this: Seeing people for who they are, realizing what they can be, and helping to take them there.

Person growing If that doesn’t sound very “business-like,” it may not be in the traditional sense of “business-like.”

And therein lies the issue. Organizations of all kinds hire the best people they can find. Those folks look at the “people are our most important asset” blurbs in the corporate recruiting brochures. Then, they sign on with high hopes.

What happens later on that causes discontent, retention issues, and the need to search for “talent?” Weren’t they talented when they were hired?

Here’s what I see

I see highly motivated people getting performance appraisals that are designed to force rankings on a curve so they never accurately portray an individual’s contribution and worth. I see employees at all levels  getting feedback on the gaps in their performance–and then receiving direction to “close the gaps.” I see the same people then coming to workshops and seminars, hearing theoretical–but good–teaching, only to go back to work and say “what do I actually do with that?”

In nearly 30 years of managing, consulting, and coaching, I can count on one hand the number of people I’ve seen fired for technical incompetence. They get released for issues of character,  the inability to relate well with other people, or not being able to “close the gap.”

Here are my thoughts as a result:

1. The character issue
 can be discerned during the hiring process. Discernment should be a highly valued talent possessed by those interviewing.  If not, get a coach to help with that element. Someone who sees others clearly and quickly for who they are.

2. Relating well with other people. You can send people to class to learn some skills. My question is this: does the day-to-day interaction at work model, support, and reward good relationships? A coach can impact that issue–or help the individual see that another role–maybe even in another organization–would be a better match. It’s the coach’s job to see those things clearly and to help the other person gain the same clarity.

3. Workshops and Education. Two things I enjoy with a passion. None has ever changed my own behavior very much. But I have learned a lot that has helped me think differently and more clearly. When do they work? When a manager or coach shows someone how to actually do what was taught–in the context of the organization’s strategies and culture.

Manager As Coach

Before you get the idea that this is a treatise on why you should hire me, let me propose this: Managers can coach if they choose to see their people clearly by building relationships that let them know who their folks really are. If they don’t have the time or inclination, then get some help to build the talent that seems, at times, to be hiding. It’s probably not hiding. It might just be invisible to the naked eye.

And that brings us back to the opening:

If you want your talent to be valued, you’ve got to let people around you know who you really are. Make it impossible for them not to see you clearly.

If you are a manager, start thinking about intentionally “seeing clearly.” And if it’s tough, then get some help.

You and I wouldn’t build a house in the dark. We need light to see in order to build. And unless your a truffle, you need a lot of light in order to grow and use your talent to perform.


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