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The Most Important and Most Overlooked Part of Your Job

By Deb Calvert (1119 words)
Posted in Management on November 24, 2014

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Senior Managers prepare strategic plans, grow market share, increase profits, innovate, execute, acquire, consolidate and expand in order to build the business.


Shareholders reward senior managers who are successful business builders, as measured by quarterly and annual performance. C-Suite executives (and those who aspire to fill those seats) focus intensely on the bottom line and make decisions to improve short-term profitability. 


Building the business all too often becomes an exercise in chasing numbers. It isn’t about building for tomorrow so much as it’s about backsides getting covered today. 


That’s not an indictment of the individuals in those jobs. What choice do they have? It would be career suicide to ignore those numbers and the expectations attached to them.


At the same time, it’s also negligent in the present and fatal in the future to ignore the implied (even if not incentivized or measured) responsibilities of building the business in the ways that matter for the long term. 


That’s why, for the business, the most important part of a senior manager’s job is to be People Builder. 


Unfortunately, this vague responsibility doesn’t come automatically with an MBA. For many companies, it isn’t the central focus at Board meetings. Even when succession planning initiatives, 9-box models identifying high performers (hi-per) and high potentials (hi-po), and formal leadership development programs are in place, senior managers are frequently not involved as People Builders.


Instead, the work of people building gets compartmentalized. A typical scenario is HR enlisting executive and senior manager input on who the hi-per and hi-po people will be. The list is usually top secret (except it’s not… people know, and if they aren’t hi-per/hi-po, they are usually feel po-po – that’s passed over and pissed off). The ones who make the cut are given some additional responsibilities and development opportunities. 


The HR department administers this process, tracks these activities for development and pats itself on the back when one of the hi-per/hi-po people gets promoted. (Which is hardly noteworthy if you think about it… aren’t these the very same people who were already on a career track for promotion? How did naming them really change anything?)


The problem isn’t just the artifice of these systems and the entitlement of a few. The lost opportunities are staggering and come from two inherent flaws in a system like this.


First, it is absurd to delegate people building to HR. It’s impossible to build people in a vacuum or in a classroom. People grow when challenged in their day-to-day work. They grow through experience. They need real-world experiences that test their character and their ability to deal with ambiguity and chaos. Case studies, role plays and theoretical teaching doesn’t build people.


Second, allocating all your development resources to a select few is risky. What if they leave? What if you didn’t pick the right ones? And what about the domino effect? If you promote one person, who’s ready to step into the role they left and the one that’s then vacated and so on? If you only develop at the top few layers, you soon reach a point where development has been lacking. 


That’s why every senior manager needs to be actively and directly and continually involved in people building. Developing every member of the team to his or her own capacity is the only way to stay strong. It’s the only way to keep your people fully engaged and optimally challenged. It has to happen on the job and in the everyday moments that give people a chance to stretch. 


Senior managers must embrace people building as one of their key responsibilities. They have to give more than lip service to developing every member of their team. It’s imperative that they set expectations for ongoing learning and development. And, they must model development, too, challenging themselves and embracing learning opportunities. 


If you are a senior manager, ask yourself these three questions to determine if you are a genuine People Builder.


Three Questions Senior Managers Should be Asking


  1. Do you know, for each member of your team (not just direct reports), what his or her strengths are and what it would take for that individual to step into a next-level role?   


  2. Do you dedicate time to coaching and mentoring your people (regardless of performance and potential)? Do the people who report to you know you expect them to do the same for others?


  3. Do you take risks that expand your base of experience? Do you read books, attend workshops and stretch yourself on a regular basis? 


Remember, this isn’t about your intentions. It only counts if you do the work of people building. Booking time to develop yourself or others doesn’t count if you end up getting called away for emergencies related to short-term business performance.  


The long-term implications of overlooking your people building responsibilities are no less severe than neglecting the short-term expectations related to business building. The most successful senior managers are the ones who build the business by building the people, covering all the bases and attending to both the short-term and the long-term. 



{#/pub/images/DebCalvertNew.jpg}Written by Deb Calvert, President, People First Productivity Solutions-Author of the DISCOVER Questions book series, Deb has worked as a sales productivity specialist and sales researcher since 2000. She is certified as a Master Sales Coach, Master Trainer, and host of CONNECT! an online radio show for selling professionals where listeners ignite their selling power in just an hour. Deb helps companies to boost productivity through people development. This work includes leadership program design and facilitation, strategic planning with executive teams, team effectiveness work, and performance management program design. 


Do you have a sales question for Deb?  Please visit our Sales Community, she will be happy to help: Ask an Expert


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