Finding The Perfect Gifts For Your Team: A Development Exercise

Jack gets very excited this time of year. He stumbles on a perfect gift that he knows EVERYONE on his list must have. It’s clever, and he finds it useful. Convinced his friends and family can no longer live without it, he buys a dozen or so.

Watching the excitement in his eyes, I know it’s not laziness. He’s convinced. The sad part comes when the reaction is not as he hoped. He begins “selling” to inspire excitement. As leaders it’s tempting to take such an approach to employee development. We offer the development that comes naturally.

“People with great gifts are easy to find, but symmetrical and balanced ones never.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Development is most meaningful when we leverage our unique gifts with the areas the employee is looking to develop. We won’t be able to fulfill their entire developmental wishlist. That’s okay. Great leaders are developmental matchmakers.

Just the Right Gifts – An Exercise

An easy exercise helps match your gifts with your employee’s needs:


  • Step 1 – Consider your best leadership gifts. What are you in the best position to give this team member? Write them in the left hand column.
  • Step 2 – What’s on your team member’s developmental wish list? What do they want (or need) to work on most?
  • Step 3 – Identify where your strengths and their needs best align.

Interpreting The Results

  • Green a direct match you can coach (e.g. you’re great at speaking, they want to be a better speaker).
  • Yellow a nice synergy to partner> (e.g. your a good listener, they want to be a better speaker). Share how you use effective listening in speech preparation, delivery, and in Q&A)
  • Red, areas to look for additional support. They’ve got a need that you’re not in the best position to support. Work together to brainstorm and identify co-workers, mentors, or coaches who can help.

Call for Submissions: December Frontline Festival, is all about Gifts (widely interpreted).

Submissions due December 13th, post goes live December 20th.

People with great gifts are easy to find, but symmetrical and balanced ones never.

Graphic by Joy & Tom Guthrie, Vizwerx

Posted in Career & Learning and tagged , , , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was recently named on Inc's list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association's 50 Leaders to Watch. She’s the author of 3 books: Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, and Glowstone Peak.


  1. Thanks for sharing approach to employee development I found it to be incredibly helpful. Coach, Partner or look for additional support. Good stuff.

    Many Thanks!

  2. Excellent post, Karin. Thanks so much for giving us such a great “gift” to draw and for including it in your post. Love the exercise you’ve developed. Believe it is well suited to find the best way to help team members. Find the intersection of your skills and what your team member needs = excellent idea.

  3. Karin- you are a gifted thinker. There is always the risk of giving what others don’t wish. It happened to me. I invited somebody for lunch at home. We had fish for him. It turned out that he was allergic to fish.
    What I like most about this post is your drawing of sort of “Risk Map”. The red risk I suffered from with my invitation. Yes, what you propose is matching needs with desires while eliminating the risk of mismatching.
    I don’t want to run the risk of writing more.

  4. Great post, Karin! I loved your chart and especially the part where a leader needs to recognize where they may need more support in order to help a team member. We can’t be great at everything and the true talented leader knows to ask for help.

    Great job!

  5. Simple and powerful! Love it! What I really love about it is that both the leader and the employee are responsible and accountable. The employee needs to know what they want to work on and the leader needs to take an honest view of how they can help. Thanks for sharing!

  6. What a wonderful and constructive exercise! It allows team members to identify with specificity the areas they need to improve and provide specific feedback on how to do it.

    Thank you for sharing!

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