A Deeper Dive into Developing Your People

When I ask managers where they regret not spending enough time, unequivocally, the number one answer is “Not spending enough time developing my people.” There never seems to be enough time, or resources, or support from above, or fill in your favorite blank here _______. And yet when I ask managers to identify one thing they KNOW would improve their results, you guessed it… the same answer, “If only I had more time to develop my people.”

Perhaps you’ve felt that way. Trust your instinct.

I will never forget the year that I shifted my approach to spending 30% of my time developing people–within three months results had taken a hockey stick turn for the better and engagement was way up.

Sure, it’s scary.

Yes, it takes serious effort.

But no matter how competent you are, you are one person.

No matter how hard you work, developing a team of A players will blow anything you can do on your own.

Spending 10% of your time developing your people is standard. For three months, try investing 30% and see what happens…

A Metaphor From the Deep

As I was doing a lot of underwater photography while scuba diving in Bonaire over the Christmas holidays, my mind kept moving to what a wonderful metaphor underwater photography is for employee development. So here’s a bit of deep-dive reflection for you as you begin your 2016 developmental planning process.

Be Still and Observe


Sometimes the biggest developmental needs are the least obvious. Invest the time to observe behaviors across a variety of contexts and situations. Where do they feel most confident? What scares them? How are others responding to their style? Where do they need to be challenged? In which areas do they need some additional training?

Anticipate the Future

It’s impossible to get a decent picture of a swimming fish by pointing the camera where the fish is, you’ve got to anticipate where they’re heading. It’s the same with employee development. Great employee developers envision what their employees are capable of becoming and help people see themselves as more than they ever thought possible. Then they build the development plan with that lens in mind.sting ray

Be Patient

lion fishThe hardest part of underwater photography for me is patience. My inclination is to chase the fish, which of course scares them. Sometimes it’s important to move a little slower, to build confidence and incremental improvement.

There’s no greater gift you can give your team then challenging them to become more than they ever thought possible. Go deep.


Posted in Career & Learning, Winning Well.

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. 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.


  1. Such a great metaphor, not only for employee development but also for planning. As I recall in SCUBA training, you plan your dive and dive your plan, same for flying a plane and filing a flight plan. Being aware of the inherent dangers in both areas, the safety and security of those involved is a primary concern. That also means that one has to be able to adapt to change when required, even have a plan for that without anticipating an emergency. But, that can happen too. So, best maxim is “be prepared” and be thoughtful considering all of those others involved in the activity.

  2. Nice weave of the underwater photography.

    I don’t miss living the corporate world. The people who are there are under so much stress. Doing more with less.

    It’s a challenge.

    Be patient and be consistent. I think that’s the winning recipe to attracting, developing, and retaining A players.

    • Steve, so agree that patience and consistency are key. That would have been a great #4 keep diving in.

  3. It can be so hard to be still and observe! In a desire to develop others, I’ve noticed leaders who jump in with fixes before really seeing the gaps (or strengths). Love your photography and can see the parallels!

    ~ Alli

    • Thanks, Alli. For me scuba diving (with a camera) is a wonderful mediation and way to concentrate on just staying still and watching.

  4. First of all, I love, love your pictures, Karin! That must have been an amazing experience to be up and close to the fish. Perhaps the same goes for all of us in our work worlds. We need to get up and close to really understand other people’s styles and choices. I find that when I work more deeply with someone we can get into rhythms and create fantastic outcomes together.

    Thanks Karin!

    • Thanks, Terri. This is the scuba trip where I’m pretty sure I got addicted. Nothing beats going below the surface and as you say “watching the rhythms”

  5. Great use of personal experience to underscore the importance of taking the time to develop other team members!

    My favorite was “anticipating the future.” This is truly a skill set that takes time to perfect. Looking ahead to anticipate where the “target” or employee is going to be in the future, not now, is not easy…either with clay pigeons on a shooting course or working with people down the hall….

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