Best Practices in Employee Development

Developing each and every one of the stakeholders around you is crucial to every organization.

“Leaders relentlessly upgrade their team using every encounter as an opportunity to evaluate, coach, and build self confidence.”- Jack Welch

Mr. Welch nailed it.  It is all about seeing your team continuously ascend.

Priority number one is to ensure that you have the right people on your team.  See my previous article on the Three Types of Employees Model.

The next priority is to always keep your expectations of each member of your team appropriately high.  See my previous article on the Pygmalion Effect

“Trust men and they will be true to you.  Treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson

You should delegate for the purpose of developing those around you.  Choose the right assignments to stretch your team members consistently.  See my previous article on Effective Delegation.


Being able to hold people accountable is an aid to their growth.  To that end, make sure that all of your expectations are crystal clear.  

“Begin with the end in mind.”- Stephen Covey

Set clear goals using the SMART goal format;

  • Specific– What is your clear / vivid vision of wild success?
  • Measurable– If you show the results to any reasonable person, can they look at them and see if they achieved them or not?  If the goal is measurable, that should be easy.
  • Achievable– In their estimation, and not necessarily yours, is this goal within their power to achieve? Feel free to push them / inspire them to chin up to more, but it only meets this test if they agree that they can do it.  “If you believe you can do a thing, or cannot do a thing, you are right.”- Henry Ford 
  • Relevant to the aims of the company, but, just as important, to the career aspirations of the person claiming the goal 
  • Time bound– A clear date that it must be completed on or before, including a time where necessary.


Give continual feedback about how they are doing versus the expectations developed above.

“The modern American workplace is a feedback desert.”- Dan Pink

The youth of our country exit college having been given continual feedback on their performance in school.  They expect it in their workplace.

Ensure that they get clear feedback in your one to ones with them.

Follow the sound advice to praise employees in public; give any constructive criticism in private, out of earshot of any prying ears.

Make certain that your feedback is ongoing and consistent.  Telling someone about a deficiency once is not enough.  You must give ongoing feedback so that they fully understand what the scorecard looks like until the performance meets expectations.

Give radical candor.  That means:  First, you must show them that you care for them personally, Then, you must challenge them directly and clearly.  The order is incredibly important.  Constructive criticism is nearly impossible to use productively if you do not feel that it is coming from a place of caring.

Catch them doing it right.  Watch for employees to do positive things and give them immediate feedback about it.  Mind your ratio of positive feedback to negative feedback somewhere between 3:1 and 6:1 is the sweet spot.

“When you appreciate the good; the good appreciates.”- Tal Ben Shahar

Other Recognition Best Practices

  • Give your recognition as soon as possible after the event worthy of praise.
  • Be as specific as possible.  Instead of saying “great job”  try asking:
    • What inspired you to do that?
    • How is this different from what you did in the past?
    • What do you need in order to do more of this?


Training is a solution when the problem is a deficiency in knowledge.  If that is true, be generous in getting them the training needed / desired.

A wise CEO was asked by a reporter after spending a large sum for training: “What if you have trained them and they all leave?”  The CEO responded, “What if I do not train them and they all stay?”  Of course, the CEO knew the worse of the two fates.

Training is not a solution for when someone knows something but does not do it.  Use the other techniques listed in that instance.

There is no better way to learn than to teach.  Consider having them learn a topic or skill well enough to teach it to their colleagues.


You should be coaching your team continuously.  Some coaching best practices to keep in mind:

  • Focus on the person and not the problem / topic.  They are what you are trying to develop.  The problems will naturally get solved with their growth.
  • Ask powerful questions.  All development is self development, so a great question guides their development.
  • Resist the temptation to provide answers for them, so that they can grow by arriving at the answer.
  • Seek first to understand, before you attempt to give any advice.
  • Find ways to tap into their internal values to create the intrinsic motivation to change.


Choose wise mentors for your employees.  When is a mentor important:  

  • When you are not the expert on the topic / skill, 
  • When your power dynamic makes the topics difficult / impossible to discuss, 
  • When they need to work on their relationship with you.

Developing each and every one of the stakeholders around you is crucial to every organization.  Use the best practices that we have reviewed and you will find a new level of success.

Just my opinion.  What do you think?  Let me know in the comments.

If you find value in this article, please share it with others that may also find 

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#EmployeeDevelopment #Delegation #Coaching #Mentoring #Training #Feedback #Candor

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