We have staff development all wrong – we need stretchy staff to build more successful companies

I believe we have staff development all wrong…

We spend far too much time on staff development to alter staff so they are more flexible, change their attitudes and give them new skills. But we are often disappointed at the poor results from staff conferences, training seminars and on-line programs. That’s because we are not considering what holds back staff, why they don’t do things and how we can alter that.

I belive we need our staff to embrace a new stretchy mindset, it will help them at work and at home, heck go on leaders and managers maybe you could be more stretchy too. To develop a more enterprising workforce I find we need staff to be stretchy.

What are “stretchy staff”

Staff are so important to the success of an orgasnaition. Their willingness to develop themselves and the organisation they work for often comes down to goodwill, personal motivation and an understanding of how to spot opportunities and make change happen. For far too long we have asked staff members to be flexible. But for me flexibility is about slightly flexing or shifting from the current position, not making those larger changes we now need to make to keep up to date with current increasing demands. To ensure organisations have exponential growth needed to survive we need more than the previous small gains produced by enabling flexibility in your workforce. If your organisation needs more than a small shift then you are going to need to ask your staff to not be flexible but be stretchy.

Think about it, flexibility is about altering your working hours, or being willing to take on a slightly different way of working that’s flexibility. I believe that to embrace change and develop a more enterprising way of working staff need to look at things from a different perspective, step outside their comfort zone and consider things in a way they may have never done before.

Stretchy staff will take on new tasks knowing that in order to do so they will have to learn new skills which they don’t currently posses. They will have to take on challenges they don’t feel comfortable with, but doing so knowing that you accept when we stretch ourselves there is a need to grow and develop and this can take effort and needs support and that sometimes things won’t go to plan and adjustments need to be made and retried. We need to embrace an acceptance of trying and not being afraid of failing but accepting it as part of the process to develop.

Developing stretchy staff

Encouraging your team members to be stretchy in the way they think about themselves and their skills can be the difference between them saying “I’m not enterprising” to saying “I think I could be enterprising”.

Lets think of it like this. If a staff member believes that just because they haven’t done something, before in exactly the same way as you are asking them to, that they don’t have the skills and abilities that’s not considering skills in a stretchy way. For example if you ask a staff member to organise an event to promote a new project at work. They might at first think “I haven’t done that before I don’t know if I can”. However if they start to think in a stretchy way they can consider things like “I have organised birthday parties before” or “I have some great social media skills I could use”. You can then encourage them by thinking of similar things they have done and link those in. Then they will have to accept that other areas they have no experience of might be harder, however, they just need to give them a try and stretch themselves. It’s likely they will surprise themselves with new skills they develop along the way.

How much stretchiness do we need to have an enterprise mind-set?

When you take on any new way of doing things, you can either do so reluctantly, believing it is likely to fail and that you don’t have the skills, experience, or ability. Or you can accept that it will require you to stretch yourself in a way you may never have done before.

Often, in order to develop an enterprising mind-set, you will need to stretch yourself to think about things in a different way and carry out activities in a different way. If you are asking staff to consider being enterprising for the first time, then you need to be aware that for some this is only a small stretch. However, others may feel stretched so far out of their comfort zone that they become uncomfortable and wish to return to where they feel at ease. It may take some people a lot of support and encouragement to achieve this new way of thinking and working.

Think of it just like an elastic band. Some elastic bands stretch really easily but can easily break or need to be used in conjunction with other elastic bands. Others are harder to stretch, but once stretched can be really strong and able to do a great job. Just like elastic bands, some staff will stretch easily and others not so easily, some will be great at stretching themselves while others are not so, and some will need to be stretched as part of a team.

Your role as the leader is to understand that everyone is different and some people are more willing to stretch than others, some will find it easier than others, and when staff seem difficult or resistant to change, it may just be that they not have seen the benefits in stretching yet.

This blog is an extract from my new book “Enterprise Within” which can be purchased from Amazon or here on my web site and forms part of my talk “Developing stretchy people in the workplace”

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