4 P’s of People Development

If you are a manager who is interested in knowing how to help facilitate growth in your people, then the 4 P’s of People Development is for you.

Taking a business from ordinary to extraordinary means understanding and embracing the difference between management and leadership. Management is largely about doing things right, such as ensuring all business systems and processes are in order. Leadership, on the other hand, is more about inspiring people to want to be the best versions of themselves so they can be actively engaged in the creative processes that help the business transcend far above performance expectations. In other words, where management might be about tasks, systems and processes, leadership is more about people.

Good managers have an excellent grasp of the tasks, systems and processes within the organization, as where great managers have an excellent grasp of perfectly blending being task oriented as well as being people oriented.

Interestingly, a 2011 study conducted by PDI Ninth House showed that even though leaders unanimously agree on the critical necessity of people development, as leaders climb the corporate ladder, their people development focus and skills tend to decline. What this shows is that many of our C-suite executives today likely spend more time being task, process, and systems oriented, their area of comfort, than being people development oriented.

In my work coaching senior level executives over the years, I’ve had many conversations about the necessary balance between being both task and people oriented. One consensus is that tasks, systems, and processes are quantifiable, and thus can be easily managed in spreadsheets and share-holder reports. On the other hand, people behaviour is more difficult to quantify, thus often taking a backseat in business management. For that reason, it’s likely that a company may prefer hiring managers who are biased toward being task, process, and systems oriented rather than being people oriented.

Even so, many of my senior managers do express a desire to be more people oriented, knowing all to well how valuable people development is, but simply don’t have the skill-set to be equally people oriented as they are task, process, and systems oriented, nor are their companies prepared yet to invest heavily in an area (their people) that cannot be justified using traditional ROI models.

As a result of this, many companies adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to developing their talent by simply offering a laundry list of trainings, often leaving employees to carving out their own development path. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review shared 7 Ways to Improve Employee Development Programs with driving manager support as the first point showing how critical the role of the manager is in driving the development of their people. However, Dr. Edie Goldberg from Goldberg and Associates says that managers today still have not fully realized the critical role they play in the development of their people simply because they, themselves, or so inundated with day to day tasks.

Leaving people to their own resources when carving out their development may work for some people who are independent learning, but not for others. An independent learner might interpret the freedom as autonomy, as where someone else who might need more direction may interpret that space as abandonment.

For every manager, being involved in their people’s learning and development is essential in retaining, building, and inspiring staff and should therefore not only be the purview of learning and development professionals. The effectiveness of a learning and development department is only as successful as the support from the manager.

Luckily, supporting staff in their development does not have to be too time consuming. With a little planning and a small investment in time and energy managers can build a strong development system within their departments that will not only support the effectiveness of the Learning and Development departments, but will also drive engagement and productivity to unprecedented heights.

To better help my executives manage the learning and development of their people, with or without the presence of a learning and development manager, I have developed the 4 P’s of People Development.

The 4 P’s of People Development is a 4-stage model that a manager can use for themselves, but also for each of their staff members to help guide them through their development from the day they start to the day they leave.

I would like to share this model with you today with the hope it may help you support the development of your people.

A serious challenge that many business managers struggle with is how to develop such a strong team.

The 4-Stage Strategy

The 4 P’s of People Development is a 4-stage strategy that will help you mould your team members into the self-reliant leaders you need them to be to ensure they are able to inspire greatness in each other and other staff members for years to come. The way to do this, is to develop different leadership and management styles for each level of the 4-stage model so it appeals to each one of your staff members as they develop. This is often referred to as “Situational-Leadership”,

Stage 1: Procedure-Based Management:

High Programming – No Autonomy

Starting at the bottom of this development ladder is “Procedure-Based Management”. Procedure-Based Management is suitable for employees with no experience or employees with experience by who might be new on your team.

Research shows that at this level, employees tend to be quite happy being told what to do and how to do it until they become comfortable with the procedures. A Stage 1 employees are 100% supervised, all of the time, until they demonstrate sufficient levels of mastery, after which greater levels of autonomy can be given.

With regards to people development, at this level, employees will more likely appreciate undergo mandatory training and learning as well as on-the-job guidance from a mentor.

Stage 1 employees often lack the experience, skills, or confidence to “figure things out” and too much autonomy could be perceived as a sign of abandonment. Instead, having a conversation with them about how they prefer to be managed through this first stage will help you develop a relationship of trust with this person. From there, they will need a lot of guidance being lead in the right direction of their development. The time and energy this takes is a very worthy investment as it create that foundation of trust necessary for their long-term growth and productivity.

Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) for Stage 1 Employees to progress to Stage 2 (Productivity-Based) should be based on HOW they perform, and report, their daily duties. This level focuses on work quality not quantity.

Stage 2: Production-Based Management:

Moderate Programming – Minimal Autonomy

Moving up one level, a Stage 2 employee has mastered their daily functions and has now earned a minimal amount of autonomy. With this level employee, the leadership style shifts from a more authoritative, “do as I suggest”, to a more subtle, coaching approach: “show me what you can do”

This approach is more participative. For example, instead of just issuing instructions, you also explain the reasons behind the instructions and support them while they are performing these tasks.

To use this style successfully, communicate the reasons why your team must follow your instructions. For instance, explain rules, so that members of your team understand the reasons behind them. When they understand why certain rules or procedures are in place, they’re more likely to follow them. This in turn helps set very healthy boundaries so staff members will inherently know what behaviors are acceptable and which are not.

As your team is working, practice a leadership style called: Coaching Leadership by being present and accessible, so that you’re available to answer questions and provide them with advice and feedback when needed. This visibility and support will help you keep your staff on track and show them that you’re there when they need you.

Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) for Stage 2 Employees to progress to Stage 3 (Performance) should not be based on how they perform their duties, but on WHAT they are doing on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. This stage focuses on quality work at a desired quantity.

Stage 3: Performance-Based Management:

Minimal Programming – Moderate Autonomy

Now that your team has proven to you that they can perform the quality work at the desired quantity, your business will already be performing at an acceptable level. A Stage-3 employee has mastered the previous levels and is showing a great deal of mastery in how he/she performs.

Once this level has been reached, leadership initiatives must be put into place to drive business performance levels beyond acceptable levels and transcend into exceptional levels. At this level, the focus of the Stage-3 employee must shift from their own personal performance and productivity and must move into a direction of team, or departmental, performance

A Stage-3 employee will be the perfect candidate to begin to function as a mentor, or role-model for future employees so he/she can begin to learn how to lead, manage, coach, and inspire future staff members, which will enable you to develop a steady talent development stream in the future.

The leadership style to achieve this is known as the “Democratic Leadership” style, where a moderate amount of autonomy is given to enable the team to develop initiatives, under consultation of the manager, to drive revenue and performance. Management activities such as, brain-storming and team-building are the types of initiatives that may be employed at this level. Rather than using language such as “This is how I want you to do it” (level 1), or “Show me what you’re doing” (level 2), the language is more around “what do you think you should do and what can I (the manager) do to help you achieve it”.

As your team is working on new initiatives that they are developing, practice democratic leadership by being involved in the project from a supportive, cheerleader aspect and begin to give more autonomy as they progress. Gradually, begin to wean them off of your presence by gradually removing yourself from the work-floor. At this level, your absence will likely be seen as a sign of trust from you and too much presence could be interpreted as a sign of mistrust.

Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) for Stage-3 employees to progress to Stage-4 (Permission) should be based on team performance and not on personal productivity anymore.

Stage 4: Permission-Based Management:

No Programming – High Autonomy

The pinnacle of growth for every employee is Stage-4. At this level, your employee has become a true master of running your business and is fully engaged in all revenue building and creative activities.

This is your model employee that others look up to and is a perfect example of an excellent people leader, as well as manager. At this level, your Stage-4 employee is not only able to fully run your business without you being present, but is able to build and manage multiple teams as your General Manager and knows everything there is to know to build a successful empire on your behalf.

The leadership style required for a Stage-4 Maturity employee is known as consensus (permission), or Laissez-Faire where all autonomy is given to the employee. A Stage-4 employee with complete autonomy will tell you how he/she is running your business and will gladly take full responsibility for your company or business unit’s performance.

Key Performance Indicators at this level are slightly different. The Stage-4 employee will gladly develop his or her own KPI’s for the business for your staff, and for him/herself leaving you with plenty of opportunity to work on the vision of your business rather than constantly be engulfed within the processes that make up your business.

As a manager, if you ensure you can provide each of your people, no matter their job function, with the opportunities to grow and develop according to this model, you will begin to see a return of investment in employee retention, engagement, innovation, productivity, and yes, in your company’s bottom line.


3 questions that strengthen your leadership brand

A strong leadership brand is characterized by uniform behaviors, across the entire organization, that are in alignment with the company’s brand-message and values. This article shares 3 strategic questions we can ask ourselves, and other stakeholders, that will help strengthen those behaviors.

Meet Frank, a fictional representation of a real-life phenomenon happening in our companies right now. Frank is a newly appointed director at one of many business units in a global IT firm. His company’s organizational structure, like many modern companies, is very horizontal, allowing for greater collaboration and innovation across the many business units.

One challenge, however, is that his company has grown very large, with tens of thousands of employees making up the many business units around the world. The vast geographical spread, and large quantity of business units within the organization raises the challenge to effectively communicate and collaborate across the different business units raising the risk of the right hand not always knowing what the left hand is doing and so on.

Frank’s history as a manager made him an excellent strategist who has a strong track record of exceeding expectations in an environment where he is the decision maker. Historically, Frank has always enjoyed great success leading a single team within his business unit. Motivating and directing his subordinates toward exceeding expectations was something that felt easy to him. His analytical skills and keen sense of business really helped him strategically plan and implement new strategies that enabled his team to rise to every challenge that has come his way in the past.

However, now, with this promotion, he is not just leading one team, but he is in charge of an entire business unit consisting of multiple teams across multiple territories. Frank is discovering that his analytical and strategic skill-set is put to the test on a daily basis within his own business unit as he’s already witnessing communication, trust, and engagement issues within a number of teams.

Adding to the challenge is the discovery that collaborating and innovating with his peers from other business units requires a great deal of attention, time, and energy from him as he needs to build trust and nurture those relationships if he wants his own business unit to meet its targets for the coming year since his business unit’s success relies heavily on the collaboration and support of the many other business units throughout the organization.

Where Frank is struggling, like so many of my clients around the world, is with the amount of time and energy that is required for him to earn, and retain, buy-in from stake-holders of other business units, but also continuous buy-in from his own teams within his own business unit. And of course, having to do all of this with his own tremendous workload.

Frank’s heavy workload combined with continuously earning buy-in from all stake-holders is taking its toll on Frank leaving him often with the feeling that he is drowning under the pressures of his work demands.

Frank also knows that if he wants to enjoy further growth within the company and hopefully rise the ranks over the years to come, he will need to ensure that he becomes visible to his superiors, as an inspirational manager and leader who is capable of earning, and maintaining, buy-in from all stake-holders throughout the organization, while simultaneously exceeding performance expectations. Unfortunately, due to the broad hierarchy of the organizational structure, there are many great and passionate directors at Frank’s level, meaning that he really needs to ensure he is able to shine much brighter than anyone within his company so he can ensure greater visibility when the time comes.

An important realization for Frank will be that he no longer enjoys the luxury of simply moving a team of subordinates who get paid to follow directions, as was in his previous job, but is now in a position where he has to earn every stake-holder’s trust and willingness to collaborate with him on every project. In other words, Frank has to learn a new skill-set of not just appealing to the brains of his people, but also to their hearts, if he wants their continued buy in.

What Frank might not know yet is that inspiring people toward voluntarily buying into your mission, and also shining in the process, does not have to be an energy depleting and time costly task that robs one of serious productivity potential, but instead may be an energy and time-saving investment that greatly improves the organization’s bottom line. The defining factor for Frank will be in how he brands himself as a boss, colleague, and as a leader.

In his book, “Theory and Practice Of Leaderhship”, Roger Gill explains that leaders with a strong leadership brand enjoy much greater commitment from employees and stakeholders, meaning that when we focus on building a strong brand as leaders, we begin to earn the commitment and buy in from others resulting in less effort from the leader over time. A strong Leadership brand is therefore an investment in time and energy, that over time, will yield great returns.

In my work, as an executive coach, I deal with many executives who, like our imaginary Frank, need to juggle many hats, from being a manager, to a team leader, to a motivator, to a relationship counselor, to a sales-person trying to earn buy-in from peers and superiors, just to get stuff done and meet targets. Some of my clients are really successful at this already and are simply looking for ways to shine even brighter as a leader, as where others are feeling their light slowly fade, under the pressures of life and work, and are seeking help to re-ignite their own inspirational torch.

Either way, our ability to appeal to the hearts and minds of stake-holders and earn their commitment to our causes, as well as followship, is not always a skill that comes naturally to the average manager. For that reason, I would like to share with you 3 simple questions that I use in my coaching to help managers better evaluate their effectiveness in earning commitment from numerous stake-holders when building a stronger leadership brand for themselves.

Leadership Brand Question 1 – What do you want your brand reputation to be as a leader?

According to authors Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood, a strong leadership brand is distinguished by a series of leadership attributes that are aligned with the organization’s mission and values, combined with producing consistent results.

Earning a reputation as a leader is not just about what you are doing as a leader, but more importantly, what people say you are doing based on what they are witnessing with regards to the attributes you are demonstrating and the results you are producing.

When asking yourself the fundamental question, what reputation you want to have, you will need to clearly define for yourself, what leadership attributes you will need to exhibit. When doing this exercise with my clients, I ask my client what leadership attributes they want to be known for, which is often described in the form of an adjective, such as: “I want to be known as a transparent leader” or “I want to be known as a transformational leader”, and so on.

With leadership attributes only being half of the equation, the second step would be to identify what measures need to be in place to measure the results of the attribute. For example, how will you, as a leader, measure your success as a “transparent” or “transformational” leader, if those are the attributes you choose.

Leadership Brand Question 2 – What do you need to do to earn that reputation?

In my coaching of leaders, I have a saying: “Leadership is not about what you do, but about how people see what you do.” People will never be moved by a leader who locks him or herself up in the office, behind closed doors. At the end of the day, leadership must be visible to those stake-holders, from whom we want to earn buy in.

Labelling yourself with an attribute of the type of leader you want to be known for is simply not good enough. Instead, this question addresses what behaviors are fitting for the attribute we choose. For example, in the case of a transparent leader in the previous question, what behaviors would need to shine through every moment of every day to consistently demonstrate you are a transparent leader.

Much like in corporate branding, a brand message is only as strong as the consistent behaviors of that company in accordance to that message. Marketing experts ensure a company’s brand message is consistent by examining every touch point with every consumer and making sure the consumer is consistently exposed to the behaviors fitting to the brand message.

As a leader, it’s important to identify every single touch point that is exposed to you. From e-mails, to phone calls, to meetings, to social gatherings, every touchpoint within your organization needs to receive the same clear message, through your behaviors, what type of leader you are. The more consistent your leadership brand message is, the more clear your message becomes.

In time, that message will begin to earn you trust and loyalty from those stake-holders who buy into what you are offering as a leader.

Leadership Brand Question 3 – What do you need to start doing differently today to earn buy-in?

Saving the toughest question for last. Now that we have identified the type of leader you want to be known for and you have identified what behaviors would be required, the last question is more reflective.

Now is the time to be brutally honest with yourself and ask yourself what behaviors from the previous question you are not demonstrating clearly enough yet and what you will need to start doing differently today to earn that reputation.

Unfortunately, for many people, the ability to constructively critique ourselves requires a deep level of conscious awareness that they simply do not have, or don’t have the energy for. Our ability to be reflective is heavily influenced by our energy and stress levels. When we find ourselves in a state of constant stress and fatigue, it can be tempting to put off this exercise for another day, when things might be more convenient.

The trouble with this approach is that there will never be a convenient moment and life will always get in the way of positive change.

If you struggle with finding the time to be reflective, I recommend seeking feedback from a few of your stake-holders and asking them 3 things you could change to become the leader you want to be. It’s amazing how honest people can be when they have your permission to potentially hurt your feelings.

Once you have identified a number of behaviors you need to change today, I recommend setting a goal to just change 1 at a time. The Centre For Creative Leadership says it best: Leadership is a process, not a position. Building your leadership brand will not happen overnight. It is a journey of positive change, but a journey that is tremendously rewarding and will yield many great rewards when practiced consistently.

Building these 3 questions into your leadership development will greatly improve your effectiveness at building your personal leadership brand and will likely improve greater buy in from all stake-holders within your organization. As a result of this, you will manage to achieve more with less effort, resulting in greater performance markers for you, your team, and everyone connected to you. This, in return, will help you gain much greater visibility across many levels within your organization, no matter how broad, or deep, the organization is.