Adsum Insights Blog


Creating the Environment for Each Person on Your Team to Develop

leadership: developing others/building teams

The last few Using the Tools Beyond the First 100 Days emails/posts have been focused on my Building a High Performance Team roadmap, outlined again here:

  1. Start with the Blank Piece of Paper exercise to define your "Dream Team," one that if you had that exact number of people, skills, and structure you know you would crush your goals…don’t take your current team/structure as a given!!!
  2. Conduct the Famous “Silicon Valley” Thought Experiment with the people you do have...know what your gut judgment is for each person on your team
  3. Evaluate each person along Key Sub Dimensions and Get Aligned with your Boss/HR on your Assessment, the Development Plan (including moving them to a new job or out of the org), and Timing for each person on the team
  4. Once the Evaluations have been communicated, apply my Five Levers to Help the People on Your Team Grow
  5. Make sure you understand the difference between a group and a team, and build the right level of coordination and cohesion amongst your directs. A “group" can get by with relatively independent actions and still produce the needed outcomes...think gymnastics, wrestling, track and field athletes. A team is not the same as a group because a team has to work closely together to accomplish tasks and achieve goals...think basketball, hockey, and soccer athletes. A leader can frustrate his/her team by not seeing this difference and doing either too much or too little coordination and team building.

The last three emails/posts covered #1, #2, and #3. The first two rely heavily on gut level judgments: your sense of what a Dream Team would look like and what you guess your gut reaction would be if someone on your team told you they were leaving.  #3 forced you to be break your gut level judgment down to more tangible and specific assessments and development plans and to subject those assessments to peer review with your boss and HR.

This post addresses what you can do as a leader to grow and develop your team (#4 in the Building High Performance Team Roadmap).  I won’t go into a ton of detail here because it is covered in the article linked previously.

I think the article is one of the best “how to lead more effectively” posts I have ever written.  It was written in response to a client who said to me “I have been leading in this Valley (Silicon Valley) for 20 years and I can’t point to anyone who has gone on to do great work after working for me.  I want to get better at growing my people.”  That article was an outgrowth of our work together.

Briefly, the Five Growth Levers are:

1.     Force your people to be intentional: They develop themselves, so make them get clear on and declare where/how they want to grow.

2.     Describe Good-Better-Best for eachjob:  People need targets, not just numerical ones.  What are the dimensions of aFP&A, PM, Product Marketing, etc job?  What does Good-Better-Best actions/behaviors/results like on each dimension (having this makes the performance review a snap)

3.     Run your Op Reviews like Dojos imbued with Co-opetition:  Make people stand up and present to each other…subject everything to peer review!!!...wins, progress, where they whiffed, what theyare worried about, what their plans are, what the trade-offs and cost/benefits are where they need help.  Force the rest of the team to ask questions, challenge their thinking, find ways to lend their shoulders to the wheel. An employee sometimes might be recalcitrant or make excuses with you. They will rarely do that in front of their peers, especially if those same peers are taken full accountability for their actions/choices/results.

4.     Tell them Your Truth: You’re their leader, for better orworse.  You have your experience, standards, biases, etc.  Just share your truth about what you see in them…what are three things they are ridiculously awesome at and three things they need to improve.  A past manager might have assessed them differently and their next manager surely will.  So what?  It’s just your truth, not the capital-T Truth as there probably is no such thing.

  1. And remember this:  Ten years from now, they won’t remember one word of what you said to them.  They will only remember if they felt you really saw them.  Really cared about them. Really wanted to help them grow.  In other words, they will remember the feeling, not the feedback.  And if the feeling is      right, they will regard you as one of the best leaders they ever worked for.
  3. After you get done giving them your honest assessment and have a great conversation, don’t fumble the ball at the 1-yard line. Ask them to 1) summarize what they heard, 2) share their plan for what they intend to do about it, and 3) outline what specifically you can do to help them.

5.     The Job develops them, not You. Make sure the job is providing enough stretch:  While the feedback and guardrails you provide are helpful, face it, it’s the job that develops people. Think about your own career and you will realize how obvious that is: You get tossed in over your head and you either figure it out and learn from that.  Or you get your butt handed to you on a few things and you learn from that.  Yes, bosses provide feedback.  Yes, bosses can be role models you learn from.  But mostly it’s you confronting problem after problem that you have no idea how to solve and working with your team to figure it out. Therefore, ask yourself if they are in enough over their heads.  Everyone’s busy, but not everyone is being stretched with new challenges, new problems, new situations to navigate.  

That’s my mental model for how to muscle-build your team.  If you have a different approach that is working for you and your team, great.  Continue to use that.  But if your approach is not as effective as you want it to be, and you want to be the kind of leader who grows others, you first need a mental model for how to do it.  Otherwise you’re just sprayin’ and prayin’.  Mine is as good as any until you can develop and be confident in one of your own.

An offer to do targeted training on how to develop others for the people leaders in your organization: Some of you have people reporting to you who have teams of their own.  If you are looking to get more development work happening throughout your organization, and you believe this topic and content have merit, I have a very interactive, discussion-rich introductory presentation about these five levers.  Sixty minutes is a good amount of time to allow for the exercises, presentation and discussion. If you want to force people to “do the work,” e.g., come up with Good-Better-Bests for key jobs or write out their “Truths” for each employee, we might want a half day.

If you think the audience is broader or there is an upcoming offsite and you want me to connect with someone in your HR organization, I would be happy to meet with them as well.  Don’t worry, I tone my language, metaphors, and stories down for more public events!!!