Season Two, Episode Eight
Educate and prepare your people for the future, not the past.
What does it mean to be over-qualified? When I was hiring people, I was always eager to find those who may one day replace me or even surpass me. Why would I want to hire someone that was only capable of meeting the current requirements? If I had the opportunity to hire someone that might mentor me, why wouldn’t I? Am I afraid that I’ll learn something for six months and then they’ll move on? The alternative is that I learn less and spend my time wishing for someone who would challenge me differently.
Mr. Tone was our instructor for Driver’s Education. He wasn’t preparing us for a big weekend in the local unincorporated town, with one stop sign and 5 buildings. We needed to be able to drive in the big city, even though we lived in kind of a small town. He pushed us to be better than we currently needed to be.
Why? Because as students, we were going to be driving for 50 years or more. The conditions in which we were driving that day would not be the only conditions in which we would find ourselves in our lifetimes. He was trying to give us the capability to drive wherever in the world we might someday find ourselves. He was preparing us for a future we were too young to see and too focused on the short-term to care.
Mr. Tone was attempting to achieve excellence, even though mediocrity would have been sufficient.
Capability has become a favorite word of mine. Made up of experience, curiosity, problem-solving and tenacity (along with many other things), you develop capabilities over your lifetime. Some develop the capability to handle what they’ve seen before. And some develop the capability to deal with everything and anything that life throws at them.
Each of us has a responsibility to develop as individuals as we journey through life. Some of us have the responsibility to develop others and provide the opportunities and the tools for individuals to develop. It’s part of every mentoring program. It’s part of the job of every manager, supervisor and executive in every corner of the world. The word Coach comes to mind. It is no longer enough to tell people what to do, you must coach them, help develop them, and provide them with opportunities to prove themselves.
That means, searching for and paying for trainings. Encouraging those who will become mentors. Supporting those who choose to volunteer with organizations that will build their skills. And giving of your time and constructive feedback while exemplifying an atmosphere of trust with your colleagues.
Are you satisfied just staying ahead of your competition or do you seek to constantly excel? Do you accept a passing grade, or do you strive for top marks? Does the annual review process seem like a strategic session or merely another required task and a waste of your time? Do you care about the people around you or are you only expecting them to care about you?
As the leader of a company, you must prepare and equip people for the upcoming journey, if you want them to come along with you. Otherwise, you’ll keep waiting for the people whose skills you’ve been wishing for, instead of partnering with the people whose capabilities you’ve been developing.
John Melbye, DDPP, DDLP, CSCP