You can learn a lot about a manager by the debris he or she leaves in his or her wake.  Some managers leave a trail of broken and disillusioned people behind them that never recover from getting run over by the manager.  Other managers leave behind high-performing leaders that go on to do great things.

People working for the best managers perform better when they work for that manager – and after they are done working for him or her.  Why? 

Because those managers are more ADEPT at building people and teams.  ADEPT is an acronym for the five components of talent development: Acquire, Develop, Encourage, Plan, Transition:

Acquire is the starting point.  Can't build a team if you don't have the right people.  Great managers and leaders seem to have a gift for identifying, recruiting, selecting, attracting, and onboarding people. While I'm not suggesting that wake debris is all about garbage-in, garbage-out, acquiring the right people is a critical first step.

In acquiring people,

  • Scope the roles
  • Identify prospects
  • Recruit and select the right people for the right roles
  • Attract those people
  • Onboard them so they can deliver better results faster

Develop is next.  Once you've got the right people you must help them reach their potential.  This involves assessing what's important to their performance and then helping them develop the skills and knowledge they will need to be successful.

Remember the Gallup model of strengths: talent + knowledge + skills.  Talent is innate.  You're born with it.  Knowledge is gained through study.  Skills are gained through practice.  You need all three for something to be a strength.

So, as you're developing people, focus on helping them learn knowledge and practice skills so they can build real strengths.  In many ways, it's the strengths that you help others build that will be your legacy, that help "your" people perform well after you're gone.  Make sure you're helping them build strengths and not just compensate for gaps.

  • Assess performance drivers
  • Develop skills and knowledge for current and future roles

Encourage is where day-to-day management comes in.  I'm personally a big believer in "Please" and "Thank You" management – essentially the A and C in Michael Brown's ABC management theory: Antecedents – Behaviors – Consequences. 

Make the please or antecedent clear so people understand the direction they are supposed to go in, objectives they are supposed to achieve, and how success will be measured.

Get out of their way beyond providing them with the resources and time they need to be successful.

Then deliver appropriate consequences (positive or negative) based on their results.

  • Say “please’ by providing clear direction, objectives, measures, etc.
  • Support with the resources and time require for success
  • Say “thank you’ with recognition and rewards

Plan for the future.  Good wakes don't happen by accident.  Managing the day-to-day is not good enough.  You need to be continually assessing and adjusting and helping your people assess and adjust.  Monitor how they are doing.  Look hard at where they are and where they could be.  Have conversations with them and other stakeholders around where they should be moving to and when.

There is, of course, a loop back to Develop.  Make sure you are helping them build the strengths they will need not just to be successful in their current jobs, but throughout their careers. 

  • Monitor peoples’ performance over time
  • Assess their situation and potential
  • Plan career moves/succession planning over time

Transition is an active verb. This is about proactively moving people into new roles that advance their career.  Game theory comes to play here.  You want to do what's right for the individual and the team.  The #1 thing experienced leaders regret is not moving faster on their people – both in terms of moving people up that deserve it and moving people out that need it.  The #1 thing high performers want is for someone to get the poor performers out of their way.     

  • Migrate people to different roles to fit their needs/life stage and company needs

Manage your wake

It's a wonderful feeling to plow through time occassionally looking back at the high performing people smiling in your wake.  It doesn't happen by accident.  You have to decide it's important to you.  You have to invest the time and energy to make it happen.  Make those choices.  A lot of people with thank you.