Creating a Culture of Development Experiences

November 06, 2018 | 2905 Views

Creating a Culture of Development Experiences

Damian Hanft

CHART President | Vice President, Talent Experience | Inspire Brands

A familiar scenario often occurs within organizations. Our team members, with a “check the box” mentality, believe that the path to a promotion is a matter of completing certain subscribed training tasks and programs. In doing so, mission accomplished…or is it?

Let’s use two individuals as examples. The first, Tom, approaches you and shares that he wants to be promoted to an Assistant Manager. Tom has completed all the training and developmental programs you have available for his career level, for which he uses as the justification for being ready to be promoted. Although Tom has completed all of the training programs and knows how to write a schedule, forecast revenue, place and receive orders, conduct manager meetings, and so on, he lacks the ability to motivate the team and clearly communicate. In fact, you often hear complaints from other members of the team on his performance.

Our second individual, Sally, approaches you and shares that she also is interested in becoming an Assistant Manager. Unlike Tom, she has not completed the training and developmental programs that are designed for her level. She has not been taught to write the schedule, place and receive orders, revenue management and other tasks. However, she has a positive influence on the team, communicates clearly, has an upbeat “can do” attitude and is a master at rallying the team together to deliver exceptional guest experiences.

So, which one would you promote? Tom has knowledge of the technical aspects of your business but seems to be lacking some behavioral skills that would make him successful. Sally, on the other hand, seems to have a knack for leading and connecting with people but has not learned several primary technical components of the next position. Obviously, this example is exaggerating their strengths and weaknesses, but situations such as these are all too common. Most of us would choose Sally, since she can be taught the skills needed to be successful in her next role versus Tom needing some critical behavioral development. But how do you get away from the mentality Tom has of using training programs as a check box on the way to another position?

Think about your organization. How often does this scenario play out at every level where someone raises their hand declaring, “I’m ready for this position,” but they don’t see that it’s not simply about having the skills to accomplish the technical components of the job but about the behaviors and experiences that they have learned and grown from. As business leaders, are we at fault for causing team members to think like Tom? Many organizations use linear career pathing, in which you start at one point and theoretically continue to move from position ‘A’ to ‘B,’ ‘B’ to ‘C,’ ‘C’ to ‘D’ and so on. So, do we inherently encourage our team members to be looking at the next position and then focusing their learning and preparation efforts on what they believe will get them into that next position? 

What if, as leaders, we created a culture of developmental experiences in which we showcased and rewarded continual learning and growth? How do we change the mindset of each of our team members to “I should continually develop to be the obvious choice for a position that I do not know exists.” Once we move beyond preparing for what we perceive to be the “next position,” we can truly prepare for the next position. Under our scenario with Tom, Tom had the mindset that by completing the formal learning programs available, he would be the obvious choice to get promoted. In reality, he was likely unaware that he was lacking both skills and experiences beyond the formal training that would set him up for success in another position.

Developmental experiences can be informal or formal. They may involve a project with a clear start and end date or may be continuous. These may be set up with an ulterior motive (such as a project that needs to be completed) with a deep underlying learning component. Think of a time when you asked (whether through delegation or abdication) a subordinate to find a new vendor for something that was new to your organization. Through the process, they were likely focused on the end goal. But what about the learning that occurred as they learned about different vendors, synthesized the information and related it to your business, discovered what your competitors were doing with these types of vendors and then ultimately completed the project? There was a great deal of learning that occurred; but did they think of it as a developmental experience or simply as a project?

If your team members begin to consciously think about what they are learning and view experiences as having two outcomes, one being the goal of the project and the other to learn, they will build skills faster and contribute to a high performing organization. As leaders, we should showcase these development experiences and promote them for what they are, learning experiences that grow individual and organizational capabilities.

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Comments (2)

  1. Michele Lange:
    Nov 07, 2018 at 10:42 AM

    Great blog post Damian. I feel this is a huge shift in training our crew members. We need to start focusing on the power skills to help our people be successful.

  2. Eric Ballance:
    Nov 08, 2018 at 06:42 AM

    Right on Damian! A great reminder for all of us. This is something that I saw in the comments on our recent Engagement Surveys from our team as well. As leaders, we can easily fall into a "check the box" mentality and completely miss the "Obvious Choice" who may be a little green in their knowledge but has all the leadership skills to be effective in the role. Thanks for the reminder to look beyond the surface when promoting new talent.