10 Powerful Ways to Develop Your Employees

Climbing a corporate ladder
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Investing in the development of employees is the most important and rewarding thing a manager can do. Yet for some reason, it’s often the last thing on a manager’s “to do” list.

From a purely selfish perspective, when you develop employees, they become smarter, more productive, they perform on a higher level, and ultimately, make you look like a rock star. Developing employee skills also helps with recruiting and retaining the best employees, and it allows you to delegate so you can focus on what you’re being paid to do.

Most importantly, it’s rewarding because it’s what leadership is all about; making a difference in the lives of others.

If you're unsure what steps to take to be a mentoring and motivating manager, these ten steps will help you. 

1. Start with yourself.

Before you can credibly and effectively develop others, you should develop yourself first. Otherwise, you may come across as hypocritical, instead of mentoring. Shaping good behavior starts with role modeling and will also help sharpen your development skills.  

2. Establish a foundation of trust and mutual respect.

Employees need to know that a development discussion isn’t just a sneaky way to get an employee to admit their weaknesses. To know the right way to go about this, see 12 Ways for Leaders to Build a Solid Foundation of Trust with Their Employees.

3. Turn your weekly meetings into learning opportunities.

Development isn’t a once or twice a year occurrence or something you send your employees to HR for.

Beth Armknecht Miller's guidepost Talent Obsession Weekly has some excellent instructions for tackling this.

4. Ask questions.

Coaching questions force an employee to think and figure things out for themselves. Questions can also be revisited after an assignment is completed as a way to reflect back on lessons learned and a way to cement the new knowledge or skill.

See 70 Awesome Coaching Questions Using the GROW Model for a plethora of examples.

5. Learn how to delegate.

A lot of managers will spend time on work that comfortable, but do not need to be doing. Letting go of the responsibilities you enjoy will help you develop your employee's skills and frees up your time so it's a win-win. But, don’t expect your employee to do things exactly the same way you would do them. Your employee may fall at first and need additional instructions, but that’s how people learn.

6. Give stretch assignments.

Other than a job change, stretch assignments are hands down the best way to learn and develop. As a manager, you’re in a position to look for opportunities for your employees that are aligned with their development needs and career aspirations. Don't think about picking the most qualified person for the assignment. Instead, think about picking the right developmental assignment for the person.

7. Make networking introductions.

Managers are often in the enviable position of being able to make introductions, open doors, and connect employees to role models, subject matter experts, and mentors. Most likely someone helped open doors for you so pay it forward whenever you can.

8. Feedback.

We all have behavioral blind spots. A manager is often the person who can tactfully help an employee see a weakness that’s getting in the way of his or her effectiveness or advancement. Use A Proactive Approach to Tough Feedback as a useful guide to help with this sticky issue.

9. Help navigate organizational politics and culture.

While “politics” is often viewed as a dirty word, it’s the way things get done in organizations and your staff needs to know this. Job shadowing and role playing are two ways to educate employees about the ins and outs of being politically savvy.

10. Be willing to spend real money.

Lastly, whenever possible, enrich your employee’s developmental goals with training, conferences, coaches, and other tangible resources. A good training program, while not a substitute for what you can accomplish as a manager, will enhance your efforts.