My dad grew rose bushes. He would prune them in order to promote growth. Sometimes diseased or dead branches needed to be removed. At other times, new buds couldn’t be sustained. He would also prune to give the bush shape.
For dad, beauty emerged in cutting back.
How do you make cutbacks so that what remains is healthier than what was?
I wrote the following earlier this week:
The phrase has evolved in meaning from doubling a bid to taking risks to a passionate commitment to working twice as hard. It’s been declared an official buzzword, the name of a KFC sandwich and the “the most meaningless phrase in tech” (in 2012).
Today, it might be the most meaningful decision you make as a technology leader.
Let’s put the meaning back where it started, in blackjack, where the odds of winning are so good you double your bid.
Of the many hands you are dealt as a leader, there is only one whose odds call for doubling down, especially in a tight economy and among budget cuts.
Your people. They are worth the risk, worth the commitment and worth the hard work.
CIOs double down on their people. But what does it mean to double down on them? What it doesn’t mean is that there are no layoffs. Those cuts must happen at times.
To double down on people is to make sure that you have prioritized development, especially in times of budget cuts. How else will you get more out of less?
What You Are Really Missing
I interviewed seven different executives this week. Each of them suffer from the same deficit when it comes to development, and it’s the reason most employee development efforts go bust.
None of them had in place a leadership farm system.
Major League Baseball understands the importance. Most players are called up to a major league team from that team’s minor league system, their farm system as it’s called. In the farm system, they are being developed in skills, culture, team chemistry, leadership, and special considerations of being a professional athlete.
Each player is a personal project - in the human and dignified sense of the word - and their development is on a very intentional track.
And intentional is the key word here. A couple of the executives I talked to said that most of their development was organic or by osmosis.
You get that. You might have onboarding and training and continual education, but it ends up being more random than aimed. Like supplements, some gets absorbed into the system, but the rest ends up as waste.
As a result, we tend to promote people into positions where they have a lot of learning to do, and we hope they learn and master before they quit and leave.
Leadership Farm Systems
An LFS is based on certain assumptions:
- Healthy leaders and organizations reproduce.
- Leaders are made.
- Leadership development is inward, outward and upward. (Upward is contextual - promotion is not the sole goal, but expansive influence is).
- Learning is hands-on and alongside.
- LFS is the most effective and economic strategy for attraction, engagement, development, retention and promotion.
An LFS is also driven by certain values:
- Leadership development must be intentional not just incidental.
- The goal is transformation not just impartation.
- Training beats trying.
- Culture needs to be worked in and not just adhered to.
- Leadership development must be simple, customizable and reproducible.
Essentially, a leadership farm system is an intentional strategy built around four continuous acts:
- Assessment of an employee’s growth as a professional, leader, executive and expert.
- Coaching that helps them to discern and develop best steps forward in areas of personal, relational and vocational growth.
- Training that is customized and just in time and is tied into their motivation and value.
- Support that is intentional, consistent and available.
The Growth Decision
Dad wouldn’t just prune his rose bushes, he would fertilize and water and stay consistent on a whole growth protocol.
For you, layoffs may be inevitable. Cutting back on development is not. You will save more money spending on a leadership farm system than laying off people, though both may be in order.
Doubling down on development is your safest bet.