I recently had a career discussion with a sharp and ambitious young family friend who has been working for five years for a large multinational company. In his late twenties, he’s now finishing up his MBA and looking for more growth and development than his company is currently providing. High potential young professionals like him have been keeping their heads down as his company’s industry went through tough times in 2009/10 and he was happy to just hang on to his job.

Growing and developing - Jim Clemmer's Leader LetterBut that’s shifting very quickly. Surveys are showing that, like our young friend, many more people are looking for new opportunities in 2011. The large corporation he works for is back in growth mode. But having done some training, facilitating, and consulting in his company, it’s very conservative, slow moving, and filled with strong technical managers who are quite weak in people development.

As economies pick up steam and revenues grow, key elements of leadership such as engagement and involvement, reward and recognition, coaching, and performance management are rapidly shifting from important to critical. An excellent Harvard Business Review blog entitled When to Reward Employees with More Responsibility and Money provides excellent tips and techniques for this vital leadership skill. As Susan David, Director of the Harvard/McLean Institute of Coaching and Founding Director of Evidence Based Psychology points out, “many organizations lose some of their best operational people because of creating single pathways to organizational success. Organizations who create multiple, flexible pathways to success will keep their best people, keep them engaged, and keep them for longer.”

When to Reward Employees provides good advice, two case studies, and these practical tips:


  • Make sure your people are working at the edge of their abilities
  • Create an assignment that helps you assess whether the employee will excel in a new role
  • Find other ways to motivate your people — beyond raises and promotions


  • Say no to a request for a raise or promotion without a clear explanation
  • Rely solely on your assessment of the employee’s performance — ask others for input
  • Assume that a promotion will make the employee happy — look for a fit with the person’s interests and abilities


Our young friend’s boss isn’t staying on top of the changing job landscape and paying attention to increasingly critical leadership approaches like these. That ripples right up through that company; the boss isn’t being nurtured and developed by his senior managers. Knowing some of those players, they’d say now that they’re out of the crunch and getting really busy, and that they don’t have the time for leadership development. But somehow they’ll find the time to replace and retrain a new employee when our young friend leaves.

Further Reading:

A selection of articles on Leading Others: Growing and Developing