Are You Consuming Your People or Developing Them?

The importance of developing your people in their thinking

Why is the area of thinking such an important one to consider in developing others? It shapes everything. We find that most leader-development seminars target one's behavior or to lead a better meeting, how to form a team, how to make better decisions, etc.

All of these are important and very helpful. We do a number of them ourselves in our our seminars.

Yet, to become a different kind of leader requires a deeper focus. What is it that shapes our actions and reactions? It's our values and motives. The things we find important and essential.

Yet, what is it that shapes our values? Our thinking and beliefs. Everything flows from here. Our thinking and beliefs are the paradigm filters through which we see the world around us. They are the glasses we wear. They are how we see things.

Focusing on behaviors and actions alone lead to conformation. "Do what I do." Again, this may be very helpful in many situations. Ultimately, though, becoming a better leader requires transformation. And this takes place at the thinking level.

Becoming a better leader requires transformation… This takes place at the thinking level.

Let’s Think About This a Moment

I find that in my coaching of leaders one of my most often used comments is, "Let's think about this a moment." I want us to reflect not only on what took place but what was the reasoning behind it.

One leader was thinking of firing one of his direct reports. I asked this leader to fill me in on what was causing his consternation about this individual. And I have to say I could see why this leader was frustrated. Yet, I asked questions to get at this leader's thinking.

Consumer Leadership vs. Developer Leadership

Specifically, I asked him if he viewed his leadership role more as a consumer or as a developer?

He asked what I meant. I shared that most leaders have a consumer mindset toward those they lead. They "purchase" them for what value they can bring. They keep them as long as that contribution is forthcoming. When it stops, they toss them out and get another one. It's like buying a bucket of paint and then painting a room and tossing out the empty bucket when it's used up.

To think like a developer is what we call "leading with a developmental mindset." You have to get the job done, of course, but also view the process of getting the task completed as an opportunity for the growth and development of those involved.

Thinking like a developer rather than as a consumer enabled this leader to see that his direct report was worth the development effort. Much had already gone into his employment with the company. There was investment that was worth continuing. That while his actions had cost the company, those same actions provided an excellent laboratory for learning and improving. But it all depended upon how this leader thought.

As we processed his thinking, he was surprised how unaware he was of his own paradigm. He reflected with some regret that he had let some others go when their production didn't match his expectation. He had missed some great development opportunities because of his thinking.

(Let me add as a caveat that there are times to let people go. They just don't fit. They won't change. They are a constant drag on the team without any hope for improvement.)

How about you? Are you more interested in conformation of those you lead or their genuine transformation? Are you thinking like a consumer or like a developer? How you answer will determine how well you lead. Actions need to be addressed. Thinking must be addressed.

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