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Education competencies: Developing others

This competency is one in a set of complete functional and behavioral qualities that, when fully realized, can help lead to professional success. View all competencies.


Is a people builder; provides challenging and stretching tasks and assignments; constructs compelling development plans and executes them; pushes direct reports to accept developmental moves.

Proficiency level

Level 1: Basic Level 2: Intermediate Level 3: Advanced Level 4: Expert
Provides tasks for the purpose of developing others Provides challenging and stretching tasks and assignments Looks for new ways to creatively challenge others and implements them Considers himself or herself in a position of responsibility for the advancement of others; identifies potential and assumes a role in harvesting it
Considers career goals of direct reports and is intentional regarding their development Is aware of each direct report’s career goals and holds frequent development discussions with them Learns each direct report’s career goals and watches for development opportunities to explore Creates an environment of positive feedback, encouraging others to reach farther and higher and to press on toward their goals
Suggests development plans Works jointly with others in helping them construct development plans Regularly initiates discussions with others and holds them accountable for their development plans Holds frequent development discussions with others, discusses progress, and encourages others to adjust development plans as needed to ensure attainment of current career goals
Allows others to accept developmental tasks Encourages others to accept developmental tasks or projects Pushes others to accept developmental projects or job moves Creates opportunities for enrichment, as well as development programs for others, and motivates them to participate

Overdoing developing others

  • May concentrate on the development of a few at the expense of the team
  • May create work inequities as challenging assignments are parceled out
  • May be overly optimistic about how far people can grow

Essential questions

To improve your proficiency, ask yourself the following questions on a regular basis:
  • Have I met recently with someone to discuss and set his or her development plan?
  • What specific, positive feedback can I direct to someone today?
  • What program(s) can I bring to the workplace to enrich and edify our people?
  • Whom can I mentor?
  • What task(s) can I direct others to do that they have not done before?
  • What unpopular change can I coach others through?
To avoid overdoing developing others, ask yourself:
  • Am I spending too much time on a few people and not enough time developing everyone?
  • Am I unrealistically optimistic about the success of another?
  • Am I too easy on someone in an attempt to guarantee his or her success?

Interview questions

  • Give me an example of how you’ve provided developmental tasks and assignments that linked directly to a person’s development needs. How did you select the tasks? Which tasks or assignments did you proactively identify for the purpose of development?
  • Share an example of how you have identified the career goals of a direct report and then intentionally and proactively encouraged and supported that person’s development. What actions did you take? What was the result of your efforts?
  • Explain how you have used a formal development-planning process to help one or more direct reports attain their career goals. What specific role did you play in creating the development plan? In what ways did you follow up?
  • Provide an example of when you proactively motivated someone to accept developmental tasks or projects for the purpose of professional development. How did you do it? What was the result?

Learning on the job

Learning on your own: These self-development remedies will help you build your skill(s).
  • Invest some time: Allocate time to help others develop in areas of strengths, weaknesses, and competencies. Help them plan to improve or develop these areas.
  • Fairly and accurately appraise others: Suggest competency development based upon honest assessment of their strengths and weaknesses. Human resources departments offer good tools.
  • Offer feedback: Advise people to get regular feedback from multiple sources. Advise them to attempt new tasks that will stretch them and to get immediate feedback.
  • Put together a development plan: Challenge others with uncomfortable tasks or assignments. Draw attention to useful behavior, keeping a written summary of what does and doesn’t work. Encourage a blend of activity that involves tasks and assignments, interaction with people, and course work or reading.
  • Mentor others with limited or disadvantage backgrounds: Take on an intern or apprentice, providing information on how things operate in your environment and giving this person support.
  • Delegate for development: Suggest tasks to others that helped you develop. Propose varied assignments and switching tasks with others.
  • Remember that meaningful development is not the stress-reduction business: Real development involves work someone has not done before; it is rewarding, but it can also be scary.
  • Help others learn: Ask them what they learned in skills and understanding that they didn’t have before. Reinforce and encourage this learning.
  • Sell development: Convince others that tough, new, challenging, and different assignments are good for them. Convince them to break out of their comfort zone, even if they don’t view a task as useful.
  • Build perspective: Suggest tasks that take others outside your work environment. Expand their perspective; volunteer them for cross-boundary task forces.
Learning from develop-in-place assignments: These part-time develop-in-place assignments will help you build your skill(s).
  • Manage, teach, or coach a temporary group of inexperienced people.
  • Manage a temporary group of low-competence people in a task they couldn’t do themselves.
  • Assign a project to a group with a tight deadline.
  • Manage a temporary group of resisting people through an unpopular project.
  • Manage a temporary group of older or more experienced people to accomplish a task.
Learning more from your plan: These additional remedies will help make this development plan more effective for you.
  • Learning to learn better:
    • Use objective data when judging others. Practice studying others without judging or evaluating them. Predict how they may act in various situations, and follow up to see how accurate you are.
    • Examine why you judge people the way you do. List the people you like or dislike and why. Discern what you have in common with them.
    • Be a student again of how people learn. Refresh yourself on how the brain learns. Study new teaching techniques, and share them with others.
  • Learning from experience, feedback, and other people:
    • Use multiple models. Select role models of towering strengths (or glaring weaknesses). Learn from characteristics rather than from the whole person.
    • Learn by observing others. Objectively study what they do.
    • Give feedback to others.
    • Learn from limited staff. Look for ways to bring out the best in others who may lack skills or experience. Motivate by being a positive force, even in negative situations, and by giving feedback. Recognize when to stop trying something and start over.
  • Learning from courses:
    • Take a supervisory course. Review the common practices of effective supervision.
    • Encourage others to take refresher or preparatory courses. Communicate and be supportive.

Recommended readings

  • Ahlrichs, Nancy S.Manager of Choice.Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black Publishing, 2003.
  • Bell, Chip R.Managers As Mentors – Building Partnerships for Learning.San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2002.
  • Bishop, Charles H.Making Change Happen One Person at a Time: Assessing Change Capacity Within Your Organization.New York: AMACOM, 2000.
  • Charan, Ram, James L. Noel, and Steve Drotter.The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership Powered Company.New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2000.
  • Fulmer, Robert M., and Jay A. Conger.Growing Your Company’s Leaders.New York: AMACOM, 2004.
  • Holliday, Micki.Coaching, Mentoring, and Managing: Breakthrough Strategies to Solve Performance Problems and Build Winning Teams.Franklin Lakes, NJ: Career Press, 2001.
  • Honold, Linda.Developing Employees Who Love to Learn.Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black Publishing, 2001.
  • Johnson, Harold.Mentoring Greatness: How to Build a Great Business.Irvine, CA: Griffin Trade Paperback, 2002.
  • Levin, Robert A., and Joseph G. Rosse.Talent Flow: A Strategic Approach to Keeping Good Employees, Helping Them Grow, and Letting Them Go.New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2001.
  • Lombardo, Michael M., and Robert W. Eichinger.The Leadership Machine.Minneapolis, MN: Lominger Limited, Inc., 2004.
  • Manzoni, Jean-Francois, and Jean-Louis Barsoux.The Set-Up-To-Fail Syndrome.Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2002.
  • Matejka, Ken.Why This Horse Won’t Drink.New York: AMACOM, 1991.
  • Raelin, Joseph A.Creating Leaderful Organizations: How to Bring Out Leadership in Everyone.San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2003.
  • Reck, Ross R.The X-Factor: Getting Extraordinary Results From Ordinary People.New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2001.
  • Stone, Florence M.Coaching, Counseling and Mentoring.New York: AMACOM, 1999.
  • Zachary, Lois J.The Mentor’s Guide: Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships.San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc., 2000.
  • Zenger, John H., and Joseph Folkman.The Extraordinary Leader: Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders.New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 2002.

Next steps

Copyright © 1992, 1996, 2001-2003 by Robert W. Eichinger and Michael M. Lombardo. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This work is derived from the LEADERSHIP ARCHITECT® Competency Library developed and copyrighted by Robert W. Eichinger and Michael M. Lombardo for Lominger Limited, Inc.

This competency is one in a set of complete functional and behavioral qualities that, when fully realized, can help lead to professional success.