I am often amazed by what I read or see on the news about the attitudes of people. Borne out of ignorance, people continue to say and do some of the craziest things. In today’s world, the fact that hostile work environments exist, that people are still discriminated against and that leaders (and I use that term very liberally in this context) feel they can operate with impunity is simply amazing to me.
A Damaging Belief System
In my work, there is a far less obvious and perhaps equally damaging belief system in play within a surprising number of organizations. It’s that focusing on leader development or any form of people development is secondary. It’s nice to have and viewed as largely superfluous to the success of the company.
I have had leaders of large organizations and owners of companies ask me, “What happens if I invest in developing people and they leave?” Really? My favorite retort is, “What happens if you don’t invest in them and they stay?” That’s the real issue. This view is just one panel of the beach ball of excuses that organizations make for failing to invest in people development, especially leader development.
In my mind, the tipping point is whether the workgroup, function or entire organization is consistently achieving its goals and these do not necessarily need to be financial, though that is the most common scorecard. When I dig a little deeper, the answer is typically, “No!” In some cases, with smaller, family-owned companies, the owner(s) may be content with the successes associated with revenue and profitability as the only measure. They remain blissfully unaware of the looming challenges associated with competition or marketplace shifts or other factors that could affect their business.
Achieving Your Company Goals
How does a business remain viable and achieve its goals? Hopefully, you have gathered the obvious by now. It’s about the people. Gallup’s 2016 meta-analytic study continues to prove that companies with the highest engagement, globally, outperform the others in all key financial categories. Most notably, the top 25% have 21% higher profitability. Additionally, through their statistically valid Q12 engagement survey instrument, they continue to tie leader effectiveness directly to engagement. Now it doesn’t take “new math” to figure out the connection. Since Frederick Herzberg’s work in the 1960s and 1970s, more and more studies confirm how developing leaders, who develop teams have higher engagement, lower turnover, and higher performance.
Prioritizing People Development
So, why do companies fail to budget for training and development? Why is it one of the first areas to be cut when business conditions become challenging? Certainly, there are times to employ austerity measures in business. But in the overall scheme of time and money, we cannot manufacture more time, but we can create more money. That typically can only be achieved or sustained through people performing at higher levels.
Another question I ask leaders is, “What happens if none of your people show up to work tomorrow? Do your products get made and shipped? Does service happen? Will sales happen?” Naturally, these are obvious and appear a bit obtuse, that is until I ask them, “How many of your people are ROADies?” What are ROADies? Those who are Retired On Active Duty. In organizations large and small, there is the risk of a high percentage of people just going through the motions, actively disengaged and who will leave if given the hint of a better opportunity. Gallup has found that, across the US, more than 30% of the workforce is actively disengaged.
To be fair, for businesses that have not invested much or at all, you have to start somewhere. In fact, I describe it as “doubling down.” You may have to suffer some degree of continued underperformance while you invest in people. This is a journey of vigilance and requires that you stick to it. While you look for the financial rewards of this investment, through their multi-level curricula, the Leadership Pipeline Institute offers thoughts on some of the qualitative and observable impacts so you know that your leader development investment dollars are working:
- Identifies, sets and manages appropriate priorities for self and team
- Leads through questions rather than just providing answers
- Lets go and empowers others to take action
- Sets expectations and holds team members accountable
- Goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant & Time-bound)
- Upward communication of priorities, progress and accountability
- Describes team in terms of development & performance rather than just functional capabilities
These are just a few of the meaningful impacts that can and will drive measurable results in the organization. The question is not whether you can afford to invest in developing your leaders and teams, it is whether you can afford not to.