A Simple System for People Development


Effective leaders care deeply about developing people. They understand the truth in the cliché that an organization’s greatest asset is its people. As a result, effective leaders invest heavily in developing those assets. Most organizations don’t allocate nearly enough funding to people development, but effective leaders make a commitment of their own time to this need. They make it a daily priority to help team members grow personally and professionally. For this to be possible, leaders need a simple and effective strategy.

I’ve found that many leaders don’t put time into people development for two reasons:

  1. They don’t know how to develop people.
  2. They don’t have a simple system for tracking people development.

The how of people development is something I’ll be addressing on an occasional basis throughout 2016—it’s a theme I’ve chosen for the year. In this article, I describe a simple system for tracking basic information. I also show you a simple strategy for putting that information to use.

Information to Track

A key part of your people-development strategy is to build an information profile for each person. The information described below should be recorded in your favorite note taking tool. I recommend Evernote because it is easy to use, works on and syncs to every digital device you own, and it’s free!

Don’t be overwhelmed by all the information I describe here. The key is to just start with what you know. Over time you will build a full profile of each person on the team.

Basic Personal Data—Most corporate HR systems make it frustratingly difficult to quickly look up basic data such as date of hire, history of promotions, current pay grade, etc. So keep track of this data in an easily accessible location (e.g. Evernote) for each person on your team.

You should also record things like birth date and wedding anniversary date (although I put those in my calendar) as well as kids’ names, college alma mater, and other tidbits that are handy to remember. Whenever you hear some personal trivia (“I love dark chocolate!” or “My favorite author is …”) open your note taking tool and enter the information. When March Madness rolls around you’ll be able to find out quickly which of your employees has a team in the tournament.

Personal Assets—You also need to record very important information about what makes each person unique and the value they bring to the organization. I recommend that you keep notes in the following four categories:

  • Psychometrics—This includes the results of various assessments such as Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), EQ-i, DiSC, Big Five, FIRO-B Element B, and so on. Note basic information only. Keep the full profile, if it’s available to you, in a separate note in Evernote.
  • Strengths—What is the person really good at? What are the natural talents and knacks they have? You might include a StrengthsFinder profile here. Or you might simply make your own observations.
  • Special skills—These skills are typically more technical in nature than the strengths noted above. For example, you would want to note training in negotiation, conflict resolution, agile methodology, TQM, etc.
  • Key knowledge sets—This is often specific to the organization and job history. Take note of special knowledge this person has such as the organization’s history in Latin American manufacturing operations, having worked on the development and launch of a particular product, etc.

Developmental Opportunities—Most people think of “developmental opportunities” as weaknesses that need to be improved upon. I mean something very different. Leaders are always aware of peoples’ weaknesses (we all have ’em). The most effective leaders think more strategically about this. Developmental opportunities are those experiences, skills, and challenges that will help the employee grow closer to their full potential. Developmental opportunities are growth needs and untapped potential that, if leveraged, can make a lasting difference in that person’s career.

This information is much less concrete than the topics noted above. It will take time to develop insight regarding developmental opportunities for each person. Be patient. As you work this people-development system and get to know your team better, the insights will come.

Developmental Journal—This should be the last part of your note file for each person because it will also be the longest and, practically speaking, it’s easy to jump to the end of the file and add new data at the bottom as needed. In the developmental journal you will keep a log of significant conversations (e.g. 1:1 meetings), performance reviews, feedback and reflections following significant presentations, thoughts about challenges with coworkers…anything that provides insight about how that person is growing (or not) personally and professionally.

Operationalizing The System

As you can see, that suite of information, over time, becomes a comprehensive profile of that person and their personal and professional growth. How do you use it? How do you develop it?

You need to do four simple things:

  1. On a regular basis, do a careful and thoughtful review of each person’s file in the context of the organization’s mission, vision, and strategy. This context is critical so that you can maximize each person’s growth toward organizational needs. (Alternatively, you may also counsel them out of the organization if you discover there isn’t a good fit.)
  2. Be disciplined in reviewing each person’s notes on at least a weekly basis.
  3. Be disciplined in keeping the journal up to date, sometimes daily, depending on the situation.
  4. Recruit other leaders, your HR department, and other resources to help with your development strategy. As you fill each person’s profile out and discover those developmental opportunities, you’ll see the need to find partners to help you.

I said the system is simple. It is. You need to track four kinds of information and you need to do four things on a regular basis. It will take some work, though.

Start small. Begin a note document for each person and record that basic personal data. Make a commitment to review it regularly, at least weekly, and you’ll see that the system almost builds itself as your mind naturally focuses on the system.

Soon, you’ll have a simple, but comprehensive system for tracking people development.

Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo. Photo available at Unsplash under CC0 license. Image modified for size and space.

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