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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Encourage Career Development Planning?Make Learning Fundamental

Nothing gives a genuine leader more true joy than developing people by helping them gain new skills, acquire new knowledge and grow toward significant personal and professional goals. For such a person, seeing people develop and blossom in their work can become a defining experience for a leader?a great source of personal satisfaction.

True leaders are passionate about guiding and coaching their people to reach for continuously higher objectives without unrealistic expectations that can otherwise demotivate and frustrate. Encouraging performance should be done in a consistent manner, using mistakes and misfires as learning experiences that allow people to grow through the process. Properly exercised, holding people accountable is in itself, a source of motivation, partly because your people do not want to let you down.

Start by getting to know each member of your staff or team in order to understand the forces that drive their lives. Are there goals that they?ve repressed because of continuous discouragement? With your support, are they likely to take risks and make commitments that previously were considered totally impossible? By so doing, your people will come to see you as the possibility coach, the person who causes them to more fully trust themselves. The mutual trust that develops will become a major force of empowerment and determination that will result in a happy and productive workplace.

If your organization supports individual initiatives to attain job-related skills or provides reimbursement for academic credit, make encouraging their participation a priority. If some are required to leave early or come in late in order to attend a class, be supportive. Their gratitude will likely cause them to make up the lost time. Your leadership will create an atmosphere of excitement when people see that you are truly committed to their personal and professional development; indeed, that you genuinely care about them as people and that you are committed to their success, which, after all is you own.

If your organization does not support academic learning or formal skill development, you can find ways to help your people learn through your own efforts and by sharing the knowledge, experiences and sources of inspiration that have helped you achieve your personal goals. Every leader is a role model and strives to set an example. You can bring valuable material into staff meetings that will be sources of knowledge about the success of others, perhaps in business environments similar to your own. Learning about people like Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard will give a team or staff an example of people who persevered during times of failure and disappointment to ultimately achieve incredible success while maintaining their honor and humility.

For a leader, succession planning is a work in progress. Because you are a leader who is likely to be promoted, it should be your goal to prepare those who can in the natural order of things progress to higher levels of responsibility. True, only one can become your successor; however, those who also are well prepared for promotion can find other roles within or outside the organization. When Jack Welch chose a successor at G.E., those who weren?t selected became highly attractive as CEOs of other companies because they were known to have been groomed for success. While this analogy may be a bit sophisticated by comparison, the concept is applicable at any level.

As a leader, your first consideration should be the extent to which your people believe in your vision and their abilities to be a successful part of it. In this context, work becomes to source of great satisfaction because your people are engaged in a process that focuses on success for everyone and at every level of the organization. When people are treated with respect and consideration they respond in ways that will always exceed your expectations. If you are a person of character and competence and you select people first for the quality of their character, their competence will very likely follow. If they fail to develop the skills, abilities and attitudes that you expect, they will leave, under some circumstance, because the quality of their character will cause them to do so.

The idea of lifelong learning is directly applicable in this world of rapidly changing technology and the skills that must be developed for a person to maintain employment viability. This challenge is increased by the transitory nature of the workforce that will cause many people to experience short-term employment relationships. It is the leader?s role to keep that message in the minds of employees and to encourage them to constantly monitor their skills and knowledge and to seek avenues of improvement, formally or informally.


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