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Grow Your Team and the Business Will Follow

by John Zettler

August 25, 2015

I’ll never dispute the notion that “Cash is King” in business and, to be successful, ultimately businesses need to make money. Where I’ve always had a problem is what we’re willing to compromise in order to achieve this success. In a world where our metrics generally focus on dollars and growth, it was refreshing to recently hear a Senior Leader talk about developing their people as the key to ultimate success. To put this into perspective, we’re not talking about a Leader at a small business, what I’m referring to is a discussion I recently sat in on with a large, multi-national professional services firm.

“If you build it, he will come.” – Field of Dreams (1989). This is what immediately came to mind as this Leader was speaking. Only, in my head I changed it marginally to say, “If you build them, the business will come.” – Let me explain.

During the session we were facilitating a discussion on how to deepen business conversations with clients (could be internal or external) using our Essential Business Conversation model. The model helps understand what’s important to people, what their goals are, what their challenges are, etc. The Partner that we were talking with had a lofty revenue vision but here’s where it went in a direction I didn’t expect.

He started talking about how success for him will be building a great team with diverse skill-sets who work collaboratively towards a goal. He talked about a team that would want to, and enjoy, coming to work each and every day. He talked about a supportive development strategy which included: coaching, mentoring, and training. And his final comment was – “I know that if we build the right team we’ll achieve our revenue target.” Wow, how powerful.Question Mark

So the question you’re likely pondering is – “How do I do this?”

Create a Culture of Feedback

Recently I had a senior leader ask me if they should address an issue in the moment or wait for performance evaluation time. My ultimate answer is both, but the most important is to provide in the moment feedback. As a leader, there’s no doubt this takes effort on your part, but providing meaningful feedback, in the moment, is extremely important to developing your team.

Develop a Structured Mentoring Program

One of the impending, if not already here, challenges in today’s organizations is too many people leaving the organization without a strategic plan to replace them – or their knowledge. The risk to companies is the loss of tacit knowledge. Let me share a story to highlight this:

For 4 years, I worked at a law firm in Halifax and during that time I had the opportunity to work with some great people. One in particular, our COO at the time, had been with the firm for over 25 years and not only knew the firm inside and out but also knew the industry inside and out. I remember after being at the firm for about a year, speaking to my CEO and he asked me a great question “John, you’ve been here for a year now and I want to know, what still keeps you up at night?” My response was easy. “John, I said. What keeps me up at night is the thought that Steve could leave the organization tomorrow, and we would lose the 25 years of knowledge he’s compiled without transferring it to one or more of our future leaders.”

It was the next day I started working on developing a succession planning strategy, one element of which was a formal mentoring program. The program is simple. Take your Leaders and High-Potentials who have had development areas identified for them, deliberately match them with current Leaders who can support their development, provide some rigor around the frequency and duration of their meetings, and let them grow.

Provide Formal Training Opportunities to Support Development

I definitely subscribe to the fact that on-the-job training will always be the largest component of growing and building people, however, without some specific formal training, the development will not be complete.

Whether it be the performance gap; the employee simply doesn’t have the skills to be fully competent in their role, or the development gap; the employee needs to build their competency even further to move to the next level, identifying needs through coaching, mentoring, evaluation, and providing training is important to an employee’s overall development.

Develop Leadership Performance Coaching Capability

Earlier, I explained what a Mentoring program is. Essentially the seasoned Leaders are passing on their knowledge to more junior people. The difference between this and coaching is that in coaching you’re asking questions that help the employee come up with their own answers. Stretching their mind beyond what they might think is possible.

Many years ago I thought I was a coach, I was not, I was a mentor. Coaching is a skill. Asking the right questions opposed to answering those questions yourself takes time to learn, and takes commitment to developing people, but the payoffs are huge. If you develop this skill as a Leader you’ll never be in that position, we’ve all been here before, where you just do the task because it won’t take as long when you have to teach someone else to do it.

My encouragement to you is to build a few key coaching questions and get really comfortable with them, and then build on your list over time. Questions MUST be open-ended, and you need to be okay with silence that comes when the other person is thinking. You also need to stay true to the process when you get the inevitable response of “I don’t know.” Here are a couple of my favourite questions to get you going – for more please feel free to contact me:

• What’s important about this for you?
• What has worked well in the past that you could do again?
• What else do you need to take into consideration?
• What are your next steps? By when?
• As your coach, how will I know when you’ve completed XXX?
• What kind of plan do you need to create?

Let Them Do Their Job and Make it Safe to Fail

In a recent article on empowerment, I talked to you about why my wife loves her job so much. The root of it was that her Leaders give her tasks, provide support, and get out of her way as she completes the tasks.

Note, the important word here is to provide support. I don’t promote the notion that you should use an absent Leader or a management by exception Leadership style. You need to support your team, but you need to let them make decisions about how to get work done, you need to do this knowing there is a possibility they may make mistakes, and you need to support them when they do. Now, you need to also ensure they have a learning orientation and that if they make mistakes they won’t make the same ones again, but you need to let them experience what good, and sometimes not so good, looks like.

It will again become important, as a Leadership coach, to ask questions as to why they chose to do things a certain way, and did they consider other options, etc. This is where the really great learning and development occurs.

Highly Empowered and Developed Employees = Business Success

At the end of the day, we all want our companies to be successful. We also want our people to be successful. I think what the Senior Leader I referred to earlier was saying, is that when we focus on developing our people, they will naturally become more engaged, empowered, and autonomous, and the residual effect on our business will be a positive one that will allow us to reach our monetary goals.


I leave you with these questions:

  • Have you effectively developed your employees for the now and the future?
  • Do you have a culture that promotes coaching and mentoring?
  • Do you see what’s possible for your business if you had a highly engaged, empowered, and developed workforce?

If you answered no to any of these questions and see it as important, I’d love to speak with you about how Dale Carnegie might be able to help.

Best Success!

John Zettler, Director, Talent Strategy
& Development, Dale Carnegie Training®
Contact me at 905-826-7300 x 235 or jzettler@dalecarnegie.ca


We are pleased to welcome John Zettler to the Dale Carnegie team as Director, Talent Strategy & Development. “John’s commitment and passion to the growth and development of individuals, teams and organizations is evident,” says Kevin Crone, President and Managing Partner, Dale Carnegie Business Group. “His engaging and collaborative approach along with his strong business acumen and focus on results make him a great fit for our team. We are thrilled he has decided to join us.”  Read more.

John Zettler brings almost 20 years of human resource experience to the challenge of better leadership we all share. He has invested his skills and energies and debated leadership with some of our country’s best leaders. Through this, he has refined a style of management that focuses on leadership conviction, authenticity and caring as the cornerstones of a more nuanced set of management skills we can all benefit from.

Instead of balance in our life, he challenges us to a new style of work life blending that both gives us:

  1. The rush of seeing our people grow and prosper in a company that truly cares about them and their dreams.
  2. The time and focus to also contribute the same level of passion to the needs of our families.

To hear the insights we captured in three minutes of his own words, click here.


Best Practices in Talent Development are rapidly evolving and becoming increasingly critical to bottom line performance. If you would like to benchmark your performance in this area, and learn the tools and insights of Canada’s top talent development practitioners, please sign up for our Bi-monthly newsletter on Accelerating Talent Development.

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performance_coaching_iconHelp Your Employees Improve Their Performance: BE THEIR COACH!Today’s leader needs to develop skills that motivate teams to excel – and key among these skills is coaching. Learn the seven steps of effective coaching discussed in the Performance Coaching Process Guidebook 
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