The later part of Jeff’s e-mail provides an excellent example of coaching and career development. As Jeff reports, this is the kind of activity that high performing people find very valuable and increases their engagement with the coach and the organization he or she is leading.

In his third paragraph, Jeff asks for more resources around building on strengths. From my own web site library of articles I recommend browsing through Reward and Recognition and Growing and Developing (especially the articles on growing others). If you have any other books, articles, or websites you’d recommend, please respond with your suggestions.


“While I am technically here to start the marketing department, half my goals are around shepherding the change process as the organization goes through major growth pains. The organization is fairly young. It has, and is, growing rapidly. The challenge is to grow in a sustainable way.

One of the things that doesn’t look sustainable to me is the ‘over-centralization’ of decision making. As the company grows and management has broader responsibilities, the people doing the front line work have less decision making authority. A symptom is what I have read from your work as ‘the blame game.’ With so many new people and rapid growth, some mistakes are going to happen. While we need to make sure we have the right people, I am focused on trying to turn these errors from expensive problems to hold people responsible for, to at least an investment in development of those people if we actually learn from the issue.

Today, we have way more employee grievances and looking to assign blame when problems arise that we do what Ken Blanchard calls ‘catching people doing things right’. I have reviewed some of my notes from your books, but could you point me in the direction of any of your particular articles in this area? Anything by other authors you would particularly recommend?

The team I lead is a technical one and the members have lots of outside opportunities for other jobs. There was major strife between a couple of team members that by stage of career and life were quite different, but actually could be quite complementary. I had the team complete Gallup’s StrengthsFinder profile as one way of learning about them, but more importantly taking the focus off gaps and putting it on strengths. I shared my philosophy of leadership, and that the more I could help their careers the more valuable they are here.

As the inevitable opportunities for great performers arise outside and if I truly have their best interest at heart, then I should help them be prepared for those. Thus, I had them go beyond the resume and had them build a portfolio that highlighted their skills and career best accomplishments. As work is only part of their lives, I asked them to share as much personal passion as they were comfortable doing. I had major resistance to this initially, but it was a powerful activity.

When it comes to ‘annual goals’ the development section too often turns to an offhand ‘Oh, I thought I would take this class or go to that conference.’ When they completed their portfolios and shared them with me, I learned a bunch about them that will help me better support them while focusing some hidden interests and abilities on meaningful work at the office. The question that really changed their perception was, ‘If you went into an interview for another job (or even this one!) tomorrow, what would you like to have in this portfolio that you don’t have today?’

That question led to great discussions that went way beyond a list of activities to more a sense of professional accomplishment…and more meaningful goals. I believe we are building skills to go with the talent they already have. More importantly, it has changed our relationship in that they see I am doing things for them, not just too them. While job offers still come for them from outside, I haven’t lost any of them yet as I believe they have a renewed sense of what is possible and meaningful for them here. This isn’t just ‘touchy feel’ as we have some major projects that will drive our company growth.