Leadership – Staff Development – How can you help your staff change?

In the previous article, we explored the ideas of Steve and Stephanie Barlow’s book People Get Ready, about a model of readiness to change. We discussed the “signals” in the behaviour of staff indicating their personal readiness to change. But as we have identified barriers in the development of your staff, is there anything you can do about it? The answer is, I don’t know, but these are some the steps (guided by the “Character” development steps discussed by Tristan White) that we are taking in our organization to hopefully help the process.

Ready to Change – Signal 1 – Do they have a compelling reason to change?

You can’t make someone want to change, but you can sit down with your staff member and find out what they really want to do with their life and their career. They don’t have to have the answer straight away, but they really should think about it and talk to you about it. If you know and they know, together you can start to build their career in the direction they desire.

A few years ago, we had a staff member who was very talented, but was unsure of the direction of her career. She was passionate about the work she was doing with us, but also passionate about pursuing a career in neurological physiotherapy. On many occasions we sat down and discussed what she should work on based on where she wanted to take her life. In the end, she decided her long term passion was definitely in the neurological field, so we worked on a transition plan that allowed her to move into her area of passion over time and set an end date for her time with us. It was a great outcome, because for the time that she was with us, she learnt the most she could and we had a great staff member. When it was time to finish, we both left on great terms and were able to move on well

Have an honest conversation with your staff member about where they want to be in 3 years. It is not right or wrong, it is their plan. Then work on what they need to do in the next 3 months to take 1 step towards that direction

Ready to Change – Signal 2 – Do they believe that they can make change and shown, through their actions they can do it

Agency and the demonstration that they can make the change they desire through action. This is a tough one and one you can not do for them. Once you set the first step, they have to take the next step in their career development, not you.

In the past, we have had a staff member who wanted to take a leadership role and desired more “kudos” and accolades. Unfortunately, they rarely followed through on their desires with actions.

We would discuss progress in performance evaluations and other coaching meetings, set an action plan and goals. However, a couple of weeks in, sometimes even a week in, the excuses started coming in. “It’s too hard…”, “I don’t have the resources…”, “I don’t have the time…” and another change of direction and different goal. After a while I lost track of what we were working on and the direction we were meant to be taking.

At the end of the day, I realized I wasn’t helping the situation by allowing them to continue to reset and pick another “goal of the week…”. Unless they were actually prepared to put the work in, step out of their comfort zone and finish the task, we were both wasting each other’s time.

As a result, I stopped. And, started spending more time and energy on other staff members who were interested and willing to put the effort into their growth and development. As a result, we have raised real leaders, who go on and build careers, train and develop others, a positive growth cycle.

What tasks have you set together in the next step in the staff member’s development. Have you stepped away and given them the space to learn/fail/grow on their own?

Ready to Change – Signal 3 – Do they have enough trust in others to ask for help?

One of the most important steps I now take with developing staff members is to help them build a professional network outside our organization. Although we aim to provide a lot of support, the networks and ideas we can develop within the organization alone will always be limited.

Ideas and outside perspective from other people and organizations are great so see life and challenges from another view.

A few years ago, I strongly encouraged one of our branch managers to join a local networking organization. It was partly to help bring in more business to the company, but mostly to improve his networking skills. He is generally quite introverted and this was a stretch out of his comfort zone.

He hasn’t loved all the aspects of the experience, but at the end of the day, he has learnt how to build outside relationships with other professionals. He has learned the importance of having a network of people you can call and discuss ideas when you need to. And he now has the courage to join other networking groups and organizations, building new connections and relationships beyond the original networking group. This has made him a broader, well rounded professional himself.

Don’t be afraid to let your staff members build trusted advisors and networking groups outside your organization. It will mean their personal growth and the growth of your organization.

Again, these are not all the readiness for change aspects to work on, but they are my top 3. I work on these aspects with our staff members to take the next step in their career AND allow them a greater chance of thriving and growing in their role..

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