A friend of mine was lamenting the current economic environment. He bemoaned budget cuts at his company and the lack of opportunities for professional development. He also said something truly alarming:
“Our management team is so focused on just making the numbers that they’re not investing in developing their people.” (Incidentally, I think making the numbers can be stupid). He added “But it’s really not a huge deal because in this economy, no one is going to quit over lack of training or development, y’know?”
After I reattached my head to my body, I thought about this painful comment. I think we might have actually reached the point of myopic leadership destruction where leaders get so focused on the short term that they forget the future. They become so narrow in their view they miss the point that their people will have choices before them after this crisis. Sure you can skimp on your people today and they’ll sit there and take it. But as soon as the economy turns, they’ll be bugging out on you and heading to a better job faster than you can say “leadership FAIL.”
So all this got me thinking. Tight budgets. Lack of training dollars. Yearning for professional development. As I noodled on these ideas, I fortuitously had a great conversation with Jack Windsor and genius struck. He handed me a solution to these problems on a silver platter. I would love to hear what you think about this…
Imagine being able to get together with a small group of professionals from other organizations. They’d be of similar level of responsibility as you (e.g., managers/directors with other managers/directors, etc.). You’d meet with your group face to face every month and cover new critical business topics (like the ones we cover on this blog). This group would become your peer mentors. Your professional sounding board. Along with your group facilitator, this group will help you build your skills, your network, and your career.
And you’d interact beyond the monthly group meetings (think virtual classroom, webinars, etc.). Your facilitator? How about someone with deep experience and an understanding of what it takes to get to the next level? A person who can help you tackle just about any problem or opportunity in front of you. Now imagine having access to such a program at a price that would make even the stingiest training department say “Wow! That’s really a good deal!”
There’s no reason you can’t create a networking group like this. Start a peer mentoring program either within the walls of your organization or even expand beyond your company and invite others from non-competitive firms to join the conversation. Have someone more senior from your organization facilitate the conversation (note I didn’t say lead the conversation – let the participants guide the discussion).
Don’t make the biggest mistake of the year by not investing in yourself or your people during tough times. The organizations who ARE investing in their people are just waiting for your talented folks to get frustrated and leave you so they can snatch them up after they quit your team.
I encourage you to sit down and explicitly identify how you’re investing in your people. How are you making them better and demonstrating you value them? How will you ensure that when a competitive job offer comes along, they simply state “no thanks – I’m learning a lot right now and I’m happy where I am.”?
Can you afford not to invest in your people or yourself? I don’t think so…