Are Great Employees Born or Made? 5 Ways to Develop Great Workers

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On October 20, 2014

Are-great-employees-born-or-made-5-ways-to-develop-great-workersChances are you’ve heard me talk (or read previous posts) about the importance of getting the right people in the right position within your company. It’s one of the basic tenets of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits (and of Verne Harnish’s new book, Scaling Up).

But just where do these “right” employees come from? Some of them may be “diamonds-in-the-rough” who are already employees. Others will be new hires with the right stuff—who need a little coaching to bring out their potential. The point is that great employees are almost never “born” that way—they have to be developed. As a business leader, it’s your job to make that happen. Here are five things to keep in mind as you work to get the right players in the right position in your company.

  1. You Can’t Do It All: Too many business leaders try to bear the burden of all aspects of development. But are you really the best at everything in your company? Share the burden. If you have someone on your team who’s better at marketing than you are, tap him or her to bring a new person up to speed in that area. Not only will you burn yourself out if you try to do it all yourself—but you’ll pass on your weaknesses! It really does “take a village” to develop a great employee.
  1. Scuttle the Silos: We want employees who are really skilled in their particular area of expertise. But your business isn’t one-dimensional. Too many companies have “silos” of information and expertise. You need to provide a broader understanding of your business to employees. Help them understand how what they do affects other aspects of the business.
  1. Train Your Way Out of a Job: What if you train someone so well that he or she is capable of taking over your responsibilities? That’s not a bad thing. It can free you up to explore new avenues and opportunities. Businesses today constantly have to reinvent themselves. By training your replacement, you could be freeing yourself up to focus on what comes next.
  1. Model Learning Rather Than Just Talking About It: It’s fairly easy to talk about how important it is to keep learning. Are you doing that or are you just giving the idea lip service? Consider having a lunchtime book club where you discuss new business ideas. But engage as a participant—not as the leader who knows it all. Let employees see you learning. Talk about what you’re learning—not as an expert, but as someone who is challenged by new ideas.
  1. Have a Little Faith: One of the hardest things a leader can do (and one of the most powerful) is to give people the freedom to fail. It’s one thing to tell someone you trust them—or that you have faith in them. It’s something else to give someone the freedom to try—and even to fail. That means not running in and “rescuing” employees when they struggle. It’s fine if they come to you for counsel or advice, but trust them to own the solution (and the victory or defeat).

What other ideas do you have about how to develop the kind of employees who will led your company to success?