Quint Studer: 3 steps to get your professional development off the ground and running

In my books, articles, training sessions and keynotes I often discuss what I consider one of the primary roles of any person in a supervisory role: Develop and invest in the employees they oversee.

One question I hear often is, "What if my supervisor does not develop me?"

In my book Hardwiring Excellence, I wrote that anyone can tell the values of an organization by merely examining its commitment to development. Research consistently states that employees of all ages appreciate development.

Why? It shows them that both their supervisor and the organization care about them. It also helps them be better on the job. The vast majority of employees want to be better and do good work.

However, despite the evidence on the importance of development, many employees feel it is lacking for a number of reasons like:

  • The supervisor does not have development sessions. Some leaders can learn on their own, but most do not.
  • Development is encouraged, but there are not clear processes set up for development.
  • The supervisor is uncomfortable providing feedback that is not positive.
  • A supervisor could have many talents but teaching is not one of them. It may be that the supervisors have not received training on how to best teach skills.
  • When the supervisor has provided feedback, the employee was defensive or hurt.

In organizations that I either led or coached, leadership development sessions were held for two days every quarter. How to teach skills was vital in all sessions.

Let's say that the organization you work in does not have a system of development in place or you are not receiving the development you would like. What can you do?

First, don't fall into being a victim. This just gives away accountability.

Here is a three-step method that will fill your development cup, improve your skill set and create a better relationship with your supervisor.

1. Clarify expectations. We know ambiguity creates failure. So gain clarity. If your evaluation system is not clear and objective, ask your supervisor this question: "If one year from now we meet, and you share with me that I have done a really good job this year, what will have been accomplished?"

Your boss may need some time, however it will create a better relationship. (By the way, it is a great question when interviewing for a job. There is always that time in an interview when the interviewer asks if you have any questions. Say, "If you offer me this job and I accept, and after one year you feel I have been a great hire, what will have been accomplished?" I can guarantee the interviewer will be impressed.)

2. Request to meet with your supervisor and share that you are committed to your development. Be sure to value their feedback and make an effort to not be sensitive to the feedback you get. That creates a more open channel of communication and development.

3. Ask these four questions.

  • So I can make sure I continue to do what you feel I do well, what areas do you feel I perform well in?
  • Are my priorities correct? (It is important you keep your to-do list in front of your supervisor and make sure their priorities and yours match.)
  • What are my opportunities for improvement?
  • Do you have any particular training I should attend or specific material to study?

These questions create the development that is good for everyone. Which leads to a better company. That, in my view, ultimately leads to a better community.

Mr. Studer founded Studer Group in 2000. In 2015, Chicago-based Huron Consulting Group acquired the company. Mr. Studer retired in early 2016 to pursue community improvement projects in Pensacola, Fla.


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