You can’t afford not to develop people – but it doesn’t require hours.
Katrina paced back and forth as she described her problems with customer service and employee retention. “I can’t improve either one, but I don’t have time to develop people.”
“I know I should, but it’s a constant crisis. We’re backed up, missing deadlines left and right, and any time I take for development conversations is costing me on our KPIs.”
You’ll never have enough time. It’s a fact of life – you can’t do everything. I’ve never met a manager who has extra time. It will never happen. The number of things you could do today will always exceed the time you have available to do them.
Even so, developing people tops the list of your leadership responsibilities. When leaders claim they don’t have time to develop people, it usually means they’ve misunderstood their responsibility. Here are common errors in thinking:
- I’ve got to take care of the customer now so I can’t take care of the employee.
These aren’t mutually exclusive. Take care of the customer with your team member – not instead of your team member. Investing in your people will help them take care of future situations without your direct help, giving you more time.
- HR can handle staff development.
This is a common mistake. Your Human Resource team can support you and your team, make training available, and coordinate grow opportunities, but as a leader, you are the only one who can help your people to grow right now, where they are. There’s no substitute for your leadership and you can’t outsource your team’s growth to someone who isn’t a direct part of their journey.
- Developing people takes too long.
Many well-intentioned leaders make this mistake. You might feel like you need an hour to have a deep coaching conversation, but you don’t. You may want to take a couple of non-existent hours to put your thoughts together in a rousing motivational speech that will fuel your team’s performance.
But that’s not how the real world works.
Winning teams aren’t built by a stirring halftime speech; they’re built one micro-engagement at a time.
The Secret to Developing People When You Don’t Have Time
It’s true. Your time is limited. So you’ve got to be laser-focused and make the most of every opportunity. It’s amazing what you can achieve in 30 seconds or less when you’re prepared. This is the secret of micro-engagement – consistent short development wins every time.
Start by knowing what your people need. Use the Confidence-Competence Model to identify who needs encouragement, coaching, more challenge, or training. Don’t waste your time or their attention encouraging someone who needs a challenge or coaching someone who needs encouragement.
Once you know what they need, be on the lookout for a chance to share it. Keep it short, keep it focused – that’s the magic of micro-engagement.
When time is tight, encouraging and challenging competent employees are often the first behaviors managers abandon. You get more of what you encourage and celebrate, so take the time to do it. You always have 10 seconds to look someone in the eyes and tell them they did well.
“You had fantastic empathy and patience with that customer. I know it’s not easy when we’re this busy, and you did a great job. Well done.”
“I appreciate the dissenting perspectives you shared – that keeps us thinking and makes sure we don’t make dumb mistakes.”
“You did a masterful job bringing that project in on time. Would you be willing to start our next team meeting with a five-minute overview of how you did it? Some of the newer team members could really benefit from your wisdom.”
“I noticed that you didn’t follow the client’s request on the design specification. What’s going on there?” Assuming it’s not a justified reason: “Okay, rework it to spec and bring it to me by four this afternoon, please.”
“Can I show you a faster way to find that information and solve that problem?”
Effective development conversations happen in the work, not apart from it. Don’t wait for the next retreat, offsite, or performance review to give your people the development feedback they desperately need. Help them grow through the daily interaction you already have.
You don’t have time not to.
Please leave us a comment and share how your favorite way to invest in your people when time is tight.
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