Becoming a Builder (of People)

I just have a couple of short stories for you this month, which illustrate some of what it takes to successfully develop the people around you. (Why do you care about this? Because, your success is impacted by the performance of the people you lead.)

Both of these stories come from conversations I’ve had – one with a Marine Corps colonel, and a second with a manager leading a team of 30.

First the colonel. As a casual inquiry, I asked, “Do you have any kids?” His answer (which I’m sure was his standard reply) was, “I had 175,000.”

Now the manager. As we were discussing business and leadership, he lowered his voice, and confided in me, saying, “I hate my team … every one of them … I’m just putting in my time until I’m gone.”

Are these statements in stark contrast with one another, or what? From my point of view, only one of these two was fit for leadership. Not enough people have the colonel’s mindset.

You see, if you’re going to be successful in developing others, you first of all need a fundamental fondness, admiration, respect, and caring for the people you are leading. If you don’t have it, they know it, and you’re not fooling anybody but yourself – to your detriment.

Developing your workforce is as much about creating a positive environment, which communicates important beliefs, values, behaviors and attitudes, as it is about teaching some kind of ‘information,’ or head knowledge. You’re responsible for setting the tone of this environment.

Don’t try to duplicate yourself

Even though it’s important to ‘lead by example,’ don’t get caught up in trying to develop others in a way that makes them ‘just like you.’ Yes, you need to set an example, but don’t think you are the ‘epitome.’

Bring out the best of every individual. Help them understand and capitalize on their strengths. Challenge them. Give them opportunities to practice what they are learning, and make some mistakes. Walk alongside, while giving them latitude to think, decide, and act. Listen to their ideas, help them develop their judgment, and take some risks with them.

Bottom line … trust them. Put your faith in them. Give them a role that maximizes their ability to contribute, while thanking and acknowledging them for their efforts.

The ‘Leadership Ladder’

Build a ‘Leadership Ladder’ throughout your organization that encourages people to keep stepping up – and where those above are expected to take the time and the responsibility to train, influence, coach, and model performance to those below.

– Jerry Strom

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This article is based on *‘The High Points Survey: What Managers Most Want to Know about Leadership,’ copyright 2012, by Jerry Strom & Company, Inc. Download the White Paper at:

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