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Karin’s Leadership Articles

Of course, one of the biggest mistakes managers make when developing their people is that they don’t spend enough time doing it. Or, even worse, aren’t spending any time at all. The fact that you’re reading this indicates that you care, and are trying to avoid this common mistake.

Even imperfect development beats what many employees telling me they’re getting–nada.

The only way to achieve exponentially greater results is to get every member of your team functioning on more cylinders, as individuals, and as a team.

Great managers spend at least 10-20% of their time developing their people.

Be sure you’re investing your time well by avoiding these common traps.

5 Mistakes Managers Make When Developing Their People

1. Forget they’re still learning too

There’s a weird imaginary threshold I see too many managers cross. They creep into “I’ve got this, and now my job is to teach it to you” land.  Almost every manager goes there at some point in their career. The only way to be an effective leader is to scurry back to reality as fast as you can. Leadership is never handled. See also, 60 Reasons Leaders Stop Learning and How to Be an (Even Better) Leader.

I’ve learned the hard way that our teams see our flaws and mistakes better than we do. Even if they love you, there are at least 17 reasons they don’t want to lead like you.

Be sure the learning and listening is a two-way street.

2. Invest only in the “high potentials”

“I don’t have time to develop everyone, so I’ll really invest in the top 5%, maybe even 10%,” is the cry I’ve heard many times. I’m all for giving extra effort the box 9s, goodness knows I’m grateful for every ounce of extra effort folks poured into me as I climbed the ladder. BUT, imagine the possibilities when you tap into the majority of your team, building on everyone’s strengths, and helping them to see themselves as more than “also-rans”?

See Also: Your Talent Strategy: Avoid This Huge Mistake

3. Focus on individual development but don’t develop the team

A team of superstars who don’t know how to work as a team, can’t win. The egos get in the way, and conflict sucks the life out of all productivity, and prohibits real creative breakthroughs that involve integrated thinking.

I once worked for an executive who painstaking recruited the very best players in every discipline, and then got us in a room and announced his plan. Our bonuses (a large percentage of our salary, usually stack ranked) would all be exactly the same, based on our performance in his experimental organization. He’d received permission from HR to try it. If we blew it out of the park, he’d get money added to the pool. If we sucked, he’d give it back. Either way, we’d all be paid the same percentage.

We fought like brothers and sisters, but we figured it out. We nailed it. In fact, 20 years later, we’re still amazing friends (I even dated one of the guys a decade later, see also: Never Date the Guy Who Hates HR — just kidding, haven’t written that post… yet;-)

4. Ignore their unique gifts and strengths

It’s easy to develop leaders in our own image, but what if they see the world in an entirely different way? What if they never say a word? Go deeper. Get to know them. In every MBA class I teach, I’m blown away by the not-so-obvious strengths of the men and women who I worried about at the beginning as their hidden talents begin to emerge.

Take some time to dig deeper.

5. Underestimate their capability to grow horizontally as well as vertically

It’s easy to focus on promoting your best and the brightest in your discipline. The truth is, many employees people choose a path early on and it’s often a crapshoot, or overly influenced someone else’s advice. Give people opportunities to draw on new skills, test them in wacky environments, and see how they grow. My career was built on taking on challenges I knew nothing about when I first started the position. Thank goodness someone took a chance on me and gave me the grace to learn. I bet there could be more of us out there if only given the chance.

Developing your people is so important, be sure your work gets the return on investment you deserve.

See Also: A Brilliant Mentoring Match Takes Hearts and Smarts. 

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today?


  1. Terri Klass

    Excellent post, Karin and one that addresses the real challenges of developing future leaders. I use the word “leaders” because when we take the time to expose people to skills and knowledge that they didn’t know before, they are filling their leadership toolbox. I have found that learning often leads to growth and new opportunities.

    I love your story about being on a team that was “dared” to get along. It is fascinating how people can work together even though they initially thought that connection was impossible. This happened with one of my clients who had a new president with an entirely new direction. She literally dared her senior leadership team to come aboard together with a common vision. It was difficult at first, but the leaders rose to the occasion.

    Thanks Karin!

    • Karin Hurt

      Terri, Thanks so much. Love your example of daring! We need more daring going on.

  2. Bruce Harpham

    I appreciate your perspective.

    Here are three ideas:

    1) failing to share resources

    I’m a reader. Yet, I’ve only had one manager recommend a book to me. Needless to say, I’m building a list of titles to recommend (or even give!) to new staff to aid in their growth.

    2) no funding for continuing education

    I have been in departments that did not place a value on finding courses. That’s frustrating. Thankfully, I have also been in more pro-education departments.

    3) not explaining the growth value of new work

    This is all about gettig the big picture!

    • Karin Hurt

      Bruce, Thanks! These are 3 great ones. I’ll have a recommendation for your list this Spring 😉

  3. LaRae Quy

    I always appreciate your perspective, Karin!

    Any and all opportunities for growth are healthy, but growth means change. This can be a frightening thought for managers and leaders allike. As much as we all say we want growth, we are also quite comfortable in our comfort zone.

    Leaders would do well to encourage their folks to experiment and try new things to get accustomed to what change is going to feel and look like. As these experiments become refined, they will lead to growth and development…and hopefully everyone will have learned something in the process!

    • Karin Hurt

      Thanks so much. I’m so with you! Thanks for expanding the conversation.

  4. Zafar Manzoor

    I appreciate the contents of this article. Very true.
    Thanks Karin.
    Only 5 ?

    • Karin Hurt

      Zafar, Thank you. Nah, more than 5, that’s why I gave you a running start and looked for you guys to add to the list 😉


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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

Be More Daring


Get the FREE Courageous Cultures E-Book to learn how

7 Practical Ways to be a Bit More Daring

Be More Daring


Get the FREE Courageous Cultures E-Book to learn how

7 Practical Ways to be a Bit More Daring

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