Are You THIS Committed to Growing Your People?

In working with hundreds of organizations, a recurring theme is that greatleaders develop other leaders.

On paper, that’s an easy concept to grasp: it’s pretty obvious.

However, the challenge in the real world–the too much to do, not enough time to do it real world– is that developing other leaders gets pushed aside for other priorities.Important makes way for the urgent.

The speed and complexity of today’s business landscape will test any leader’s resolve. We’re more easily distracted than ever because there are more distractions than ever. The sense of overwhelm prompts  us to come with a (seemingly valid) list of reasons as to why we “can’t” spend the time we’d like to developing our people.Other projects can always take top billing.  But where does that leave those around you?

How fiercely committed are you to helping your people to grow?

I once had a leadership mentor who told me:If you want to know what a person values, look at their bank statement: see what they spend their money on.  If you want to know what a leader values, look at their calendar:  see where they spend their time.

Consider the story of Dave.Dave is the CEO of a food-service company.  He’s been CEO for over twenty years. Dave’s company owns and manages over 700 restaurants, separated into 100 Districts around the USA.   Each district has between 5-8 stores.  Each store has its own manager, and every District has a District Manager.During his tenure, Dave has created a District Manager (DM) ritual:  the District Review.

Once a year, each District Manager (along with the DM’s boss, the regional VP) meets with Dave.  To prepare for the meeting (the District Review), the DM creates a report on the state of their business:  how their stores have performed against all the company metrics, what things that have gone well, future market opportunities, areas for improvement, etc.

The reports are lengthy and comprehensive:  a few DMs told me they spend close to 40 hours getting their reports ready for the District Review.

The DM, their VP, and Dave all meet to discuss that DM’s business.  Using the report as a guide to the conversation,  every Review looks different.  Dave can stop the process at any moment.  Depending on the issue on the table, Dave will then:

  • Inquire/Probe Deeper

  • Coach

  • Mentor

  • Congratulate

  • Give feedback

According to the DMs, the District Review with Dave is both the most challenging and the most rewarding part of their year.  Some of the DMs told me:

Nothing gets by Dave.  If you don’t know what’s going on  in your business, he’ll find out you don’t know. You can’t fake your way through the review. If you try,  you’ll crash and burn.

He’s a genius.  His operational wisdom is do deep, every time I walk out of there, I know I’m a better leader.Dave is this incredible combination of tough business savvy and warm supportive coach.  I don’t know what this company would be like without him.

Each District Review with Dave lasts between 2-3 hours.

You read that right: 2-3 hours per DM.  Dave meets with every single of of them–all 100–every year.Do the math: if you average it out to 2.5 hours per DM, that’s over 250 hours in reviews. More than 6 weeks of Dave’s year is spent on this ritual. Talk about investment and commitment!

Here is the CEO of a company (who probably has a lot of other things clamoring for his attention) who decides to spend this much time with his regional operational leaders. This is developing other leaders in action.

Dave is in the leadership game for the long-haul: he knows that by building capacity in his people, not only will they hit their numbers, but they’ll bring the same commitment to coach and mentor the leaders they lead.  (More than half of the DMs have been with the company for over 15 years.)

From my experience, Dave and his District Review is highly unusual.

What’s your experience of performance reviews?  Is your experience like Dave and his DMs?

Many of my clients hate them–both the giving and receiving parts of the review. Myra, a regional VP for a large retailer shard her experience of performance reviews this way:

In its worst years, the review has been an exercise of of every horrible political power play in the book: totally demoralizing and soul-crushing.  At its best, (if you can call it that) it’s been a mindless “just check the box” exercise.  Either way, our performance management process has nothing to do with the actual managing of performance.

As a leader, your calendar is a measure of what you value.  What can you do to make sure that you spend time on the things that matter the most?

What systems have you put in place to prioritize the developing of the people you lead?  Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

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