Why Your Employees Need to Be Responsible For Their Own Development

How did Michael Jordan become the best basketball player of all time? Sure, for the majority of his career, he had Phil Jackson, arguably the greatest coach of all time. Jackson refined Jordan’s skills, but it was the hours of jump shots, free throws and conditioning that Michael worked on when Phil wasn’t around that made him the greatest player of all time.

Employee development is no different.

You may have heard the old adage,

“You don’t grow businesses, you grow people.”

Which remains true. However, your employees can’t simply rely on their manager to develop them to their full potential.

I read this quote the other day that really resonated with me,

“Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.”

I still remember the day in 2007 when I committed to understanding customer experience management and how it grows businesses. While working at 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, a company that grew from a $1000 investment in 1989 to an organization that earns a quarter billion in sales per year, I was provided with all the support in the world that contributed to my development but I don’t believe I would have been able to become an entrepreneur, advisor or keynote speaker if I didn’t invest in my own education.

How did I invest in my own education?

I read books on customer experience, I set up a Feedly account and read dozens of articles every day on the subject. I reached out to customer experience professionals on Linkedin and asked many questions. To take it one step further, I selected five companies – Zappos, Southwest Airlines, Apple, Amazon and Westjet – and studied them intensely. I was flown out to visit Zappos before it was a cool thing to do and spoke to key people at each organization to ask even more questions.

This was all done on my own time, no pay cheque, no “employee of the month” award to recognize my efforts. I was in my mid-twenties when I was working throughout the night on Friday and Saturday nights because I knew it was contributing to my long-term success. It’s not enough to simply work and develop yourself Monday to Friday, 9-5. I don’t know if it’s my South American blood but I take pride in my work ethic.

I’m very thankful when anyone wants to work with me or hear me speak but I will never rest on my laurels. I still study every day (actually) so that I can share my education with my clients and audiences. When I first started out I was studying the aforementioned companies. A coupls years ago, I was studying Uber and Airbnb. Today, I’m researching companies like Warby Parker. To continue to advance my knowledge in customer experience and hospitality, I learn from people like Chip Conley and Danny Meyer.

“I will never stop learning because I’m scared I will become obsolete or irrelevant.”

I recently spoke with someone who I can only assume was in their 50’s or 60’s; “I’m too old to be studying” he proclaimed. This person is dying, maybe not physically, but professionally, they are dead. Educating yourself doesn’t end after university or when you’re in your early years of your career. Regardless of age, you must continue growing and developing yourself.

Individuals who spend time studying and expediting their development are the ones who get promoted. They are the ones who are sitting in on strategic planning meetings with forward thinking ideas. They are the ones who are heavily recruited.

If you genuinely want to be the best at what you do, regardless of what your expertise is, you need to work hard to develop yourself independently. The saying, “work smarter, not harder” has never resonated with me; you need to do both.

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Here’s what I’m doing to help my team members invest in their own education:

  • I connect them with my friends who have a skill set that they want to acquire. For example, Jordan, our Marketing Coordinator, wanted to learn how to manage his time better. While I could teach him how to do this myself I don’t want him only learning from me so I have my friend, Rhys Green, coaching him monthly on this topic. It’s a win, win. Rhys likes doing it and Jordan appreciates the education.
  • We host Goal Setting & Review (GS&R) weekly meetings where we evaluate both of our performances, mine as a leader and theirs as a team member. During this time we also review our company’s five core values to hold each other accountable to them.
  • Purchase affordable online courses
  • Buy relevant books

I use the term culture of learning a lot as it’s something I constantly as it’s something I believe a company needs to grow their team and become an admired employer. I recommend you bring this language into your business and watch how your team, if you’ve hired correctly, rallies behind the philosophy.

Leave a comment below. What is the ‘culture of learning’ like in your company? Do you facilitate learning outside of the office? What would it mean to your business if your team was the most educated in your industry?

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