Leading Blog






09.26.07

Lord Sharman on Helping People Grow

Leading By Example
Leading By Example is a concise little book of interviews with top leaders from various fields. Each interview in this new Harvard Business School series is followed by a list of takeaways. Here is an excerpt by Lord Sharman, chairman of the Aegis Group, on investing in people by understanding their strengths and nurturing them like a gardener with prized plants.
I’m very fond of gardening myself, and I’m fond of gardening examples. To some degree, developing people in an organization is impossible. You can’t develop them; they develop themselves, and so your job is like that of a head gardener. You figure out what the various microclimates are around the place, and then you figure out the qualities of the plants that you need to go into those microclimates. Similarly, you select the people based on their strengths and place them in those jobs. I’ve seen notes of appraisal interviews, which say that two-thirds of the interview is spent talking about what the guy’s not good at. Now, that’s great—I can’t imagine anybody coming out of an interview like that feeling anything other than very depressed.

What you want to do is spend time talking about what the person is good at and how he’s going to develop that. Sure, see whether you can do something about the weaknesses, but to my way of thinking, appraisal interviews should be two-thirds about what the person is good at and how those great assets can be used within the organization. If you look at good coaches in the sports field—and I’ve always been fascinated about how good coaches work—they don’t actually coach technique very often. The really good coaches are the ones that coach the mind and the attitude.

You’ll always have people that find it much easier to be critical than to be encouraging. The tome at the top has to be right. If you start criticizing your colleagues about what they’re bad at all the time rather than encouraging them, that’s sure as hell going to get down through the organization very quickly.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:15 PM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Leadership , Personal Development



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