Hiring “Self Developers” or Investing in Hands-on Management

Posted: March 15, 2011

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Have you ever considered being a day trader? Not me. I personally find it neither thrilling nor rewarding to monitor and tweak an investment that frequently. Early in my management career, I think I held the same opinion in regard to managing people. I recruited candidates that were somewhat “self managers”. I’ve always been attracted to people that invest into their own self awareness and development and loved having them on my teams. But through my years of experience (okay, “decades of experience”), I have realized that the largest steps forward for me personally and for the team around me have come when both factors are present:

  1. Team members are self motivated and inherently reach higher
  2. Management is proactive in developing team members

In reality, even small teams are going to have individuals with varying ability and desire to push themselves and consistently reach for something bigger and better. As a manager, the day to day time requirements of running a business sometimes makes it difficult to follow through on long term planning and execution of personnel development. In collaboration with our senior project manager, we’ve developed a process that has proven to be very effective in leveraging the employee’s motivation to consistently move forward a long term development plan with hands on management involvement. The beauty of this process (beyond the accelerated leaps forward for the employee) is that it allows me to be their one-on-one coach without a huge time commitment. Here’s what our process looks like:

  1. Together establish her short term and long term career goals including defining her ideal future role and responsibilities in detail
  2. Manager provides direct, specific feedback on the gaps between her current abilities and the abilities required in the desired position or role (gap analysis)
  3. Each month, the manager and employee meet for 30-45 minutes to discuss the following:
    • Review of last month’s action plan and what was accomplished and learned. Was the action plan completed?
    • Other than action plan, what else has happened in the previous month?
    • Leveraging her identified strengths and development areas (from gap analysis), what should next month’s action plan be?
    • Celebration – Take the time to list out all the things that have been accomplished and celebrate them.

So far, I’ve seen two of our account services folks accelerate their experience significantly in a very short time with this process. I can easily say that having the opportunity to work with these teammates and see their progress has been one of the best things that I’ve experienced this year! Back to the investment scenario, I’m neither the day trader (micromanaging supervisor) nor am I the ‘invest into a fund and walk away’ manager. Over the years, I’ve evolved into a smart investor who hires talented and engaged employees (the ‘fund managers’ in this analogy) and still stays involved in my investment strategy. The end result is a positive company culture where the employee knows that I care about them and grows quickly and directly toward their ultimate goal.