An Example of Leadership Success: Investing in New Talent

Why do companies hire smart people and then set them up to fail by not investing in their development? The fourth blog in this series highlights one leader’s investment in a new employee to help develop their skills quickly.

Pat’s organization hired a new leader into the company.  Pat’s industry requires leaders to be client-facing and manage all aspects of client relationships, from direct service delivery to client management.  Getting this leader up to speed and calibrated on service delivery quickly is a necessity in Pat’s organization.  This allows for the new leader to be a productive member of the company, taking on client projects and delivering services consistent with the organization’s mission, vision, and standards. 

Pat was tasked with this new leader’s onboarding and training.  Having worked with ADI previously, Pat knew that, while this was a large undertaking, the new leader could be brought up to speed fast using the strategies and tactics they learned about applying the science of behavior. While Pat knew this would not be an overnight process, ensuring proper training would set the new leader up for success, which benefited both the new leader and the organization.  To help bring this leader up to speed quickly, Pat displayed some critical leader behaviors:

Planning.  Pat started with the development of a training plan. To develop this plan, Pat utilized two key aspects of behavior science:  1) Starting small and focusing on a few behaviors at a time and 2) a process called Shaping.  Shaping is a learning process where complex behaviors are broken down into learnable chunks that build on one another.  To utilize shaping to develop a training plan, Pat took this two-step approach:

Developing the core: To do this, Pat pulled together key books and materials to give the new leader a common understanding of core principles and  the organization’s philosophies and approach to working.  Pat put together weekly readings and review calls to discuss the information and talk about how the organization used it. 

Building client service expertise: Once the new leader had sufficient base knowledge, Pat put together a plan to build the leader’s expertise in delivering work.  This included breaking down project management activities and presentations into easily practice-able modules that built up from the easiest to the most complex.

Coaching. Pat built deliberate practice and feedback of the modules into the weekly schedule. The new hire would run mock meetings and present materials for an hour at a time and then receive feedback on their performance.  The goal in shaping is to identify and then positively reinforce small improvements. By utilizing a shaping approach in the coaching, Pat and other leaders were able to build the expertise of the new person quickly.  Once they were sufficient in delivering these skills inside the organization, the new leader was tasked with co-facilitating client engagements to further build their skills and expertise, again getting feedback on their performance after every repetition.   

The combination of these behaviors was helpful for several reasons.  The planning allowed for the breaking down of necessary skills into learnable chunks. This made teaching and learning easier and faster.  The focus on a shaping approach ensured there was ample positive reinforcement, which increases motivation to learn.  The deliberate coaching gave the new employee ample learning opportunities, and the feedback allowed them to hone their skills quickly in delivering quality client service.   

These critical behaviors created a powerful investment in a new hire.  The new leader flourished in their role quickly and was able to deliver quality client service much faster than taking a more traditional sink-or-swim type approach. Any leader tasked with developing new employees or developing the skills as people develop in their career should consider emulating these critical behaviors. 

Posted by Bryan Shelton

Bryan applies his knowledge and expertise in strategic planning to help organizations align employee performance with company goals. Bryan helps clients create improvement across a variety of business metrics including company growth, profitability, customer service, vision alignment, leadership development, and culture change. He also helps clients implement process improvement initiatives, improve sales results and using performance-pay systems to help drive company results. His behavior-based approaches and applications have supported clients’ improvement initiatives, leadership development, and the design and implementation of performance pay systems.