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09 Dec. 2013 | Comments (0)

You might be surprised to learn how enthusiastic executives are about their own professional development. I always am. And I’m not referring to people at the outset of their careers; from them, I expect enormous passion. I’m talking about seasoned professionals well into their careers. In the past, I wrongly assumed that with time we come to believe we are who we are, that we largely know what we need to know and from a developmental standpoint we’re just Kool and the Gang—but really, nothing could be further from the truth.

I co-teach a leadership development program called The Leadership Room. In that program I continually see seasoned executives who are hungry to learn about their strengths and weaknesses, men and women who are dedicated to becoming better managers, coworkers and leaders.

The best moments for me are when I hear executives speak proudly about the discoveries they’ve made—they are genuinely excited to recognize their own areas for improvement, proud of the guts and determination they are able to marshal in the process and always amazed by the payoff.

But it’s not all good. The worst moments are when I ask participants to tell me if they discussed their progress with their managers and then watch the light go out as they tell me no. Kind of like the kid who sings a solo in the school musical but her parents don’t turn up for the show. Heartbreaking.

But I know why participants don’t commonly request their manager’s involvement. And I know because I’ve asked them. The answer is because they don’t think their managers care. Wow, what a buzz kill, huh? But, here’s the rub—I actually do think most managers care.  So why don’t they check in? They follow up religiously on things that are critical to the bottom line, right? But not on the subtler and softer aspects of executive development.

So if managers do care and they do value development, why don’t they get more involved?

Perhaps it’s that managers don’t believe their executives really care if they care. Read that once more please. If there’s one thing I’ve learned and can relay with absolute certainty, it’s that people need approval—especially from their bosses. All they want is a simple morsel of interest in what they’re doing. Not coaching or counsel or follow up, not that any of that would hurt, but simply an interest in what they are working on and how it’s going. With that interest people are able to develop far more than without it—and that’s just good business.

When it comes to recognition, affirmation and attentiveness we never get too old. So I guess this is a pretty simple message. It only takes a minute to show interest in what your people are doing to improve themselves and it’s incredibly impactful if you do. Not a single one of us is too senior to desire interest and approval and we never stop hoping that someone we admire shows up for our solo.


This blog first appeared on The Leadership Room blog on 5/20/2013.
View our complete listing of  Leadership Development blogs.
  • About the Author:Gary Rich

    Gary Rich

    As principal of Rich Leadership since 2006, Gary has worked with senior executives to improve their individual performance and the performance of the businesses they manage. His background combines ha…

    Full Bio | More from Gary Rich


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