How do you value improving others?

I was talking a while back with the very wise Stefan Stern about the notion of talent and where we place value. One of the things I think we genuinely undervalue is the ability to build or realise capacity/capability in others. The ability to support the development of colleagues or your team to be better. This post is about me not being smart enough to solve something.

Throughout my career I’ve known a top tier within this group – a group of leaders that other people tend to find out by repute. People that folk would move organisation or team to work for them – at times even taking a salary hit compared to what they could get on the open market. Despite the fact these people stand out I often think we fail to recognise their value, all too often focusing on the individual contribution. A person’s performance – for me – should be the net amount the business benefits from their presence. That includes the uplift in the performance of colleagues.

So my half baked idea is to try and create a market for these skills by giving that recognition a market value. I’ve been intrigued by an organisation called Satalia recently that have allowed individuals to set their own salaries. I’m wondering how this would work for choice of manager. I have a few ideas – all flawed – but I’d like to hear better ones (I’m using manager and leader interchangeably below – I’m sure some of you will struggle with that and I’m sorry for your struggles. Stay strong)

i) give people a set amount (similar to benefits) that allows them to bid to work for a manager issues: it takes more funds and there’s no guarantee of an uplift in performance

ii) use a pretend currency to allow people to vote who they would like to work for and then reward the managers accordingly issues: votes might well be cast on popularity rather than capability

iii) give managers a cash bonus for successful promotions from their area issues: it could incentivise the wrong type of behaviour and there is quite often a significant lag in terms of working out if a promotion has worked out and causes of success/failure can be varied

iv) ask people to rate their manager based on how well they support their development issues: it falls foul of the popular vs good issue again

It’s clear that I’m coming up short – well short – but finding a way to value something that is undervalued would be quite a trick. We simply undervalue the importance of managers who are localised talent factories (or finishing schools or any term you prefer). Any ideas? Let me know.

We are moving towards letting people take more control of their development – but the biggest influence on most people’s careers is still the people they get the fortune or misfortune to work for…

4 thoughts on “How do you value improving others?

  1. Having spent a lot of time talking to managers and the people who work for them, my observation was that organisations really have no idea which are their good managers and which are not. Perhaps half are improving performance & engagement and half are not. Given the significant investment that organisations make in management, and the impact that these people have on working lives, it seemed like a problem worth tackling. Intrigued by data, and specifically by FitBit, we built an app that tracks how good a manager is, on a daily basis. We assumed that the ‘product’ of good management is engagement, and that the Gallup questions were a robust measure. Then we automated the whole thing. This meant that leaders could see how well they are doing in the way that, say, athletes could, and break this down into its component variables One’s track record would be interesting to prospective employers and team-members, I imagine. As far as I know, that app is still in use today. In summary, I think you are right to wonder about this problem – and I think it raises many interesting questions – since the almost complete absence of meaningful data about how managers manage is a real problem.


  2. The ‘flaw’ seems to be quite basic – the wisdom is this: as iron sharpens iron, so do the wits of one another. Yes, even leaders need the wits of others – via books, conversation, interaction, mentoring. Anything we value in life has always, always involved sacrifice and/or pain. Life was created through such, living thirsts for it in order to grow. The manifestation of your idea is in groups, not individuals…


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