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Help them to fly TEXT & PHOTO: STEVE FLINDERS
First of all, two true stories (though I have changed the names). Mike is a talented young architect who worked for a commercial firm while preparing for his professional qualification. He gained valuable experience guiding projects through the planning process but this was not what he wanted to spend his life doing. So when he was offered a job by a small firm with a great reputation for innovative design, he took it. His boss reacted with incredulity, anger and childish petulance. He could not understand why Mike wanted to leave. The parting was an unhappy one. Sarah was a waitress in a busy café-restaurant for four years. She was efficient, hard-working and popular with customers. She dreamt that one day she would have her own place, and, as a step towards this goal, she got the job of managing another café. Her boss’s reaction was the same as Mike’s. To add insult to injury, he offered her a 40 per cent pay rise to stay. Her new café is doing really well. 64 | Issue 48 | December 2017
Both these managers took the resignations personally. Neither were interested in or even knew about their employees’ ambitions. Developing your people is a critical management skill but both failed to do this in key respects. Management can be like parenting. Most parents are pleased and proud to see their offspring spreading their wings. Some possessive parents find it hard to let go. Good managers nurture their people, knowing that one day they may well want to move on. They give them encouragement and support. They help them learn from their mistakes. They give them feedback to help them improve. They coach them so they can face new challenges. They encourage them to find a mentor, or failing that, they mentor them themselves. They help their people to fix targets for themselves and to articulate longer-term career goals. Cynics will say that all this is counter-productive because when your young stars leave, it is hard to fill the gap. Managers
committed to developing their people not only delight in seeing their protégés flying up and away; they know that all their people work better when treated like this. The reputation of a good manager spreads as well. One team member may be leaving, but new candidates will be queuing at the door, ready to give their best in exchange for this kind of leadership. Steve Flinders is a freelance trainer, writer and coach, based in Malta, who helps people develop their communication and leadership skills for working internationally: firstname.lastname@example.org.