My family is in the midst of a relocation. This is nothing really new to us. Since 1996, we’ve lived in 7 cities in three countries on three continents. One of my daughters was born in Chicago, the other in St. Louis. We think this upcoming move will stick, but we said that about St. Louis too…
We are spending a lot more time looking at schools than we ever have. While it’s important to me, I’m much more of the ilk that any experience is a good experience. I also strongly believe (maybe naively) that one’s success in school is more a function of what’s going on at home than it is a function of what’s going on at school. My wife shares these beliefs…to some extent. But she posed an interesting question the other day: “What kinds of kids do we want our kids hanging out with?” Now there are a few you can cross of the list pretty quickly (e.g. kids who spend more time in juvie than they do in school). But when it comes down to whether we’d rather have our kids hanging out with intellects, or artists, athletes, or socio-economically diverse kids…well, that gets a little dicier. After some debate, we settled on this: we want our girls hanging out with kids who are talented at and experienced with things our girls are not. Why? For me, the answer does not lie in what we want our kids to be; rather, it is about giving our kids exposure to lots and lots of things so they will ultimately gravitate toward who they choose to be.
Apply this thinking to the workplace and it’s a bit of the yin and yang. It is about creating an inextricable compliment to and dependence on one another; aligning the skilled with the not-so skilled; filling in the gaps to make the whole stronger than its parts. It is about forcing those who are strong in something to work directly with others who are weak in that same thing. It is about understanding what motivates an employee and then putting them under the tutelage of the manager who motivates that way. It’s about getting comfortable with hiring someone for finite skills even if they clearly suck at everything else…because some other employee(s) will compensate. It’s about resisting the urge to develop your employees strictly toward that Competency Framework which is likely written for someone who doesn’t realistically exist, is thicker than a Norman Mailer novel, and is mostly just fluff fluff fluff.
Performance management, learning and development, coaching and mentoring are not linear propositions. They are dynamic and require the constant adjustment and moving of parts to provide your people with broad exposure to a diverse set of experiences and skills. No, it doesn’t mean they’ll acquire all the skills you want them to. It just means they’ll end up gravitating toward those things they 1) are really good at and 2) really want to do. And that’s the only place I want them to be.
Photo Credit: Luxury Housing Trends