Developing Your People to Support Your Strategy

Your people will always be the key to your success, and you want the best people you can find or train to help you reach your strategic goals. Where do you find them? By paying attention to developing your people, I think you will find them right where you need them! Most will need some help to become the leaders and contributors you need to succeed.
And while many will require training, all will require your input to succeed.

There are some things that you must decide before you begin training, and it will come as no surprise to readers of this column that you must decide where on a continuum you wish to operate in several external, operational, and developmental areas. All will impact the kind of culture you are establishing for your employees to develop in.

Latitude, organizational space, and breadth of responsibility all need your complete understanding so that you can communicate to your people with clarity. By latitude, I refer to the strength of the processes that empower your people, especially as they relate to your customers and supply chain. How much of your authority will you delegate to those whose jobs relate to the outside world? Do your people know what to do if their judgment in helping a customer is different than the boss’s?

These questions also relate to the organizational space. Do you have a narrow or a broad scope of responsibility for your people? Is it broader only at the top of your organization or does the breadth vary with the level of training rather than mere hierarchy?

Is responsibility an individual issue or a team issue: is a given employee responsible for peers or not, for customer care decisions or not? You can set the parameters anywhere you like, but to succeed in aligning your company, you will have to be able to communicate these limits and give your employees whatever training and guidelines will help them accomplish your objectives.

People need to know where you stand on these factors so they can decide if you’re creating the kind of environment in which they can thrive.

Similarly, in your daily operations, you must decide and then broadcast how you will measure success for individuals as well as the company as a whole, whether rewards will be direct (money, usually) or indirect (acknowledgment at team meetings, verbal and written praise of specific actions). The same goes for advancement. Are there clear paths? Can people succeed at what they are doing without having to advance? Remember, not everyone wants to advance, even among those who want to do more!

Decide if you are a General Lee, who liked to give very loose objectives to his generals, especially Stonewall Jackson, or if you prefer to be like a General Eisenhower before D-Day, with detailed dispositions, instructions, and timelines. Either approach is OK. And both approaches have worked very well in the past when the people in the organization understood the general’s expectations.

A final word on expectations. Does your organization focus on potential or performance? Do you expect, or need, to have employees up to speed immediately? Do new employees or recently trained employees have time to understand and get used to their new positions and tools? Again, you are at some point along a continuum. It doesn’t matter where you are, only that you communicate to all others where you are and where you want to be. If you want a learning organization, one composed of people who are constantly training and learning, you’ll be at a different point than someone who wants to be in constant “Charge!” mode, someone who expects speed and audacity to carry the day. Worked for both Patton and Napoleon, after all.
The good news is that you get to decide. The bad news is that you have to be very clear on your message, you cannot waver from your chosen road without telling everyone about the change, and you must walk the talk – relentlessly, forever.