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Swimming Upstream

What if we train them and they leave?  What if we don’t and they stay?

This nugget of wisdom was passed down to a seasoned leader from one of his mentors as a lesson in the importance of investing in people development.

As a leadership development professional it’s always encouraging to hear a commitment to the long view.  How do you maintain that view when the pressure is on to achieve quick results in the short term?

You have to be willing to swim upstream and persuade other leaders to do the same.  Consider these techniques:

  • Highlight the ROI of development efforts – retention, promotion and increased productivity
  • Have leaders nominate high potential participants for development programs and identify measureable goals for each person, then tie those goals to ROI
  • Conduct exit interviews to understand perceptions of the company’s investment in people and how that affects recruitment and retention
  • Ensure that your development programs don’t assume a “one and done” approach — build on a foundation over time

If you train them and they leave you would ask them what they’re gaining.  If you don’t and they stay – ask yourself what you’re gaining.

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Stay in Your Lane

I had a conversation recently with a woman who was chastised by her boss for venturing too far outside her job description. Since she thrives on creativity, she was very discouraged and demotivated.   As she talked more about it, she realized that this attitude is pervasive in her company.  It didn’t take long before she was questioning whether this was the right place for her.

Rules Are Necessary Too

What message are you sending to your team members about staying in their lane?  Of course, in some functions following the rules is required and valued.  Does that mean you don’t want people thinking creatively and trying to come up with better ways of doing things?

It’s a Judgement Call

It could be that you are more comfortable staying in your lane, so it might feel a little threatening for someone on your team to get too far from the norm.  It might be more challenging to motivate people who don’t like to stay in their lane.  At the end of the day, you have to decide what is most valuable to your organization.

Unpopularity

People who stray outside their lane often challenge the status quo, which isn’t always a popular position.  Politics aside, think of the impact of those who did:  Martin Luther King, Jr., Steve Jobs, Gloria Steinem, and more recently, Ted Cruz.  Can you afford not to have some nonconformists in your company?