Managers & Supervisors; Teachers, Coaches, & Mentors – thoughts on Developing Employees

What am I?  Just a teacher – a member of one of the great professions in the world.  
John Wooden, Wooden on Leadership

“For a lot of employees, Starbucks is their first professional experience… So we try to figure out how to give our employees the self-discipline they didn’t learn in high school.”
Quoted in The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

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So, let’s state the problem simply.  Many employees are not equipped to do the actual jobs that they are hired to do.  Even if an employee has the “skills,” or at least the “knowledge” to do some jobs, they have to grow into these jobs in a lot of ways.  (Learning to make the right mixture and temperature of the coffee drink is a different skill than knowing how to successfully interact with a customer the “Starbucks way”).

In other words, developing employees is one of the critical needs of the era.

So, what do we do about it?

My colleague Karl Krayer, in his Team-Building workshops, talks about the two kinds of roles every team member fills.  The first kind is the “official/formal” role.  Captain; secretary; leader; foreman; “member” (every team member is always, officially a “member”).  But there are other roles, the “unofficial/informal” roles that are never officially assigned.  These are roles that people just seem to step into based partly on the power of their personality.  These are roles such as the team “cheerleader;” the team “mother;” the team “counselor.”  People have natural gifts, and tendencies , and they fill these roles just because that is who they are.  These roles are “good,” and helpful to every group.  Encourage folks to fill these roles.  (There are also some “bad” unofficial roles, such as “slacker;” “pain-in-the-rear.”  These are not good roles, and must be guarded against constantly).

Well, in the realm of employee development, I think there is this same official-unofficial (formal-informal) reality at work.  Some people have a job title that represents some form of “leadership.”  Here’s a representative list:

Team Leader
Supervisor
Shift Foreman
Manager
Exeucutive Team
CEO

But for an employee who needs to be developed (and, don’t we all?!), there is also a great need for someone(s) to fill another set of roles; “unofficial” roles, but roles that are critical.  Here’s one list of such roles:

Teacher
Coach
Mentor
Vice Principal (a disciplinarian role).

I think that in this under-managed, under-led era, there is also an under-coached, under-taught, under-mentored problem that must be addressed if we want to develop our employees.

Some of these roles can be filled (should be filled) by the people with the official titles.  But there is also a need for “everyone” to start letting their natural gifts help build others.

Stephen Bishop (playing David Justice), Moneyball

Consider:  in the movie Moneyball, there is a terrific scene when Billy Bean asks David Justice, now in the last days of his playing career, to step up and help the younger players know how to play this game.  He had no title for this role.  But Justice “got it,” and agreed to step up for this challenge.  “Coach; mentor; teacher.”  There is an element to each of these in the challenge that David Justice accepted.

So, here is what a good manager/supervisor needs to spend some time on.  Look carefully at each employee.  Does this particular employee need some teaching, or coaching, or some discipline, or some soft-skills development?  Once the need is clearly identified, then the pairing begins to put the right coach or mentor or teacher with the employee.

Because, when the hiring is done, the employee does not usually arrive fully developed.  With the right management, and the right teaching/coaching/mentoring, that employee just might rise to meet and exceed all of your high expectations.

Without such attention and help, we should not be surprised when employees cease to develop.

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