A New York Times article discussed the various ways companies can grow. The list included:

  • Get new customers
  • Do business faster
  • Sell more things
  • Hire a team

Do you see what’s missing from this plan? Aside from the last item of hiring a team, there is nothing that recommends growing your people. Arguably, the author may have been focusing on very small businesses but those need to grow their people, even more, to grow with the business. The best growth strategies will fall flat without the involvement of those people who can actually help implement them. Conversely, the worst strategies will still get some legs with a great team trying to get them over the finish line.

What is the leader’s job? Grow your company AND grow your people.

It’s not an either/or. This is even more important in today’s economy when so much of the actual product or talent leaves the building every night – professional service businesses have nothing to show if those people don’t return in the morning. So, growing the company without first working on growing your people will be an exercise in frustration.

Some leaders have challenged me on this, saying that the team they have won’t get them to where they want to go, and they need to replace them. That may be true; not everyone can grow to meet your expectations. However, regardless of the team you end up with, you will still need to devote time, money and energy to help them grow. Strategies and people can’t be separated unless you have figured out a way to have a completely human-free workplace!

What does growing your people actually look like?

It starts with having career conversations with individuals about where they want to be in two, five, 10, or even 20 years from now. How can you help them get there? Even if you have them for a very short period of time, you can be one leg of their professional journey to their destination. When you are invested in your people, your people will be invested in you. It doesn’t mean you have to pay for their education or even have a formal mentoring program, although both of those will help. It does mean you need to know what you and your company can do at this stage of their career to help them get to the next rung of their ladder – not your ladder.

Every person is willing to help you if you are also helping them. You need help growing your company and that means great sales strategies, operational efficiency, acquisition, marketing strategies, and many more. Your people are the ones to know the best routes for each of these and will happily help you out if you ask. However, if you haven’t asked them what you can do for them first, they are not likely to volunteer.

Why should your team care to help you build the best company and create a winning strategy?

It takes more than a paycheck. If you can also help them create the best strategy for their career, then your relationship with them will be reciprocal which is the most engaging and motivating connection. The plans and the people can never be separated–give each equal weight and you’ll find that your team is eager to help you grow your business beyond what you thought was possible.

Hi, I’m Mary Marshall.

My career has taken me from running a small business to coaching dozens of CEOs to now, doing what I love most: working with entrepreneurs to help them achieve their dreams. I believe that the people I coach know the answers to the challenges they face, and I’ve found the best results come when I ask the hard questions to help them clarify their own perspectives. To learn more about my work as an executive coach, visit my bio.