Leadership: Development of Others – Cultivating Individual Talents

Cultivating Individual Talents requires these four mature leadership skill capabilities:

  • patient, helpful, effective coaching skills;
  • give your people access to training for skill development, professional growth;
  • provide your people objective feedback on their strengths, and their needs to grow;
  • maintain a timely schedule for progress reviews and follow-up activities

Few managers realize the importance of cultivating individual talents of their people, and even fewer develop their capacity to do it. Managers who are successful in this area are usually those who cultivate their own individual talents. Developing talents of others requires perceptiveness of those talents, coaching skills, structure, and patience. Managers need to get to know their direct reports and to develop a sense of their potential, interests, and goals. By knowing the employee in this way managers are able to discuss options for continuing growth. Some of the needs for growth and development can be addressed by training. Effective managers have a proactive plan for developing their people.

Patience is a necessity for an effective coach, but patience is hard to measure. Some managers feel they are very impatient with others but are perceived as models of patience. Others see themselves as extremely patient, but they’re perceived as very short on patience. Why the disparity? There are two primary reasons for the disparity in perceptions of patience: People define patience in different ways, and they vary in their ability to recognize the ways they impact others. Some managers see patience as simply giving someone a quantity of time and attention, but unfortunately, they may not understand that quality is as important as quantity. In coaching the manager must manifest a very mature and highly developed level of patience with the direct report’s speed of learning and other needs. The catalyst for patience is two-fold: empathy for the person being coached, and a commitment to the outcomes of successful coaching. Empathy is a broad term, but it helps to sensitize managers to the needs of their direct report for professional and personal development. To be truly patient requires one’s undivided attention. In addition, it requires sensitivity and care to send positive signals via one’s body language. Fortunately or unfortunately, body language seldom lies! If you don’t want to be spending time and attention with a person, your body language will probably send that message! They will know.

Since coaching skills will be addressed at length in trainings and in later e-booklets, this will be brief summary. Coaching consists of four stages of interaction between a manager (or peer in some cases) and a learner. The manager is committed to lead the learner through four stages of learning and achievement, attending to the needs of the learner for direction and support. The 4 stages are (1.) Directing or Orienting; (2.) Hands-on Coaching; (3.) Arm’s Length Supporting; and (4) Hands-Off Delegating. (Derived from Blanchard, Situational Leadership).

Providing objective feedback is an essential skill for day-to-day supervision and for coaching.

Setting clear expectation of the learner’s efforts and results includes setting up a structure for accountability and continued feedback and coaching. Maintaining a timely schedule for progress reviews and follow-up activities strengthens the learner’s motivation.

For additional growth in cultivating individual talents:

  • Read pages 292-298, The Leadership Challenge, by Kouzes and Posner;
  • Read pages 1-11, Coaching for Improved Work Performance, by F.F. Fournies.
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