Why Effective Employee Development Always Starts with Leadership

hy Effective Employee Development Always Starts with Leadership

By John Eades 

One of the primary responsibilities of any leader is to elevate others. To find a way to help team members take their mindsets, skillsets, and performance to the next level. As easy as it is to write, applying the assignment is ridiculously challenging.  

It would be a relatively easy task until you layer in just a few complexities, such as people learning differently, being motivated by different things, various talent levels, or a leader’s inability to claim the change for anyone else.

On a recent episode of The John Eades Podcast, talent expert James Wall said it well, “Every professional must work to constantly grow their skills and reject complacency because complacency breeds mediocrity.

Complacency breeds mediocrity.

Wall is correct because complacency doesn’t know an age or experience level. It can come for us, which means it can come for you, me, or any of your team members. But let’s assume for a second that your team members aren’t complacent. In fact, they desire to develop their skills and improve their performance, understanding hard work is the next step.  

Chris Paul, NBA Player and Author of a new book called Sixty-One said something so profound in a recent episode of the Rich Roll Podcast, “Everything you want is on the other side of hard. But you have to fall in love with the work.”

“Everything you want is on the other side of hard. But you have to fall in love with the work.” – Chris Paul.

Show. Teach. Coach.

Developing real skills that allow you or others to perform consistently at high levels requires hard work. It means ignoring the god-given talent you were given and working to enhance your skillset daily. 

If you have gotten his far into this column, I assume you are the kind of leader who doesn’t do the work for your team. You believe in doing it with them so they eventually can do it all on their own. Now is the time to put a sign up on your desk that reads: 

Show them work ethic. Teach them how. Coach the skills. 

Since you are the kind of leader who iterates to solve problems and wants to help team members develop their skills and improve their performance, here are three proven ways to do it.  

1. Instantaneous Coaching

Regardless of role or industry, every job has a common set of fundamental skills required to accelerate performance. For example, to get better at golf, one must develop their mental, long, and short games.  

Each team member might be at a different level of proficiency within those critical fundamental skills. The best way to develop skills to improve performance is to provide instantaneous coaching in the moment of need. There is a Principle from Accelerate Leadership program that I want you to remember:

Someone’s best performance tomorrow requires personalized coaching today. 

Arm yourself with some great coaching questions like:

  • What do you think the next steps would be?
  • What’s your next move?
  • Tell me more.

You can download the 8 coaching question guide for free here

2. Group Skill Building Sessions

My favorite method of developing skills and improving performance is group skill-building sessions. These meetings are designed for team members to demonstrate their skills with and in front of their colleagues.  

If you have never hosted or participated in such a meeting, know it will be awkward. You will be uncomfortable, and your team will as well. This is good because growth is on the other side of acting despite discomfort. 

Growth is on the other side of acting despite discomfort. 

Group skill-building sessions should be judgment-free zones and allow team members to learn from and with each other in a safe space. They are perfect for sales, leadership, or even technical skill training.  

3. Direct Dialogues 

Avoiding someone’s consistent underperformance or lack of developed skills to do their job effectively is leadership negligence. Unfortunately, it happens often because many leaders lack the courage and know-how to have direct dialogues with team members. 

As I wrote in Building the Best, “Direct Dialogues during moments of difficulty can be uncomfortable, but consider the impact of not engaging in the dialogue.

If you withhold feedback in fear of a reaction, you are suppressing employees’ potential by not sharing something that could help them on their journey—ultimately stunting their professional development.”

When leaders withhold feedback in fear of reaction, they stunt professional development.

A meaningful dialogue that shares either subjective or objective truth requires the use of a three-part formula: Standards + Truth + Courage


Developing skills and making meaningful strides in performance can take time. If you see the right work ethic and drive in team members, this is your reminder to be patient with the outcomes and impatience with progress.  

Keep showing, teaching, and coaching because we all need leaders like that in our careers.  

*John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best.

*This article first appeared on the learnloft.com website

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