When Development Works and When to Let them Go

Sincere leaders stress over developing people. But people are responsible for their own development. You provide development opportunities and encouragement.

Level of experience and competence determines your level of involvement. Coaches approach professional athletes differently than T-Ball coaches approach little kids. Incompetence requires more instruction. When little kids join T-Ball, coaches tell them where to stand in the batter’s box and how to hold the bat. Do the same thing with people on your team.

Stretch goals enable development. Achievable goals enable mastery. Image of a duckling flapping tiny wings.

Unnecessary stress:

Low-aspiration people drive high-aspiration leaders nuts. Ask yourself, “Do they want to grow?” before you stress over team members who aren’t growing. Maybe they’re happy where they are. When people don’t want to develop ask, “Are they meeting expectations?” If they’re doing a good job, relax.

Think of leadership development as setting angels free. Image of a sculpture with hammer and chisel.

Timing and development:

It’s frustrating when you want to say it once and have them get it. What’s easy for you is often hard for others. How much time should you allow for people to develop skills?

#1. Do they aspire to improve?

Ask, “On a scale of 1:10, how important is your development in this area to you?”

#2. Do you have time for them to develop?

Intervene quickly and frequently when time is short but take the long-view when possible. The long-view says, “Development now pays off later.”

#3. Is their rate of progress acceptable?

They might aspire to develop new skills, but progress is going slowly. Set deadlines for development. Make a list of key skills that need to improve. Set a deadline for achievement. Provide resources and encouragement. Evaluate when deadlines arrive.

Growth begins when you release the illusion of effortless development. Image of a plant growing out of sand.


Big hearted leaders tend to wait too long and stress too much over poor performers. Kindness makes you beautiful. Enabling incompetence in others is destructive.

How do you determine when to invest in people or when to let them go?

Still curious:

5 Answers for Resistance to Development

A Free 10-Minute Plan to Include Leadership Development in Team Meetings

Strategies for Learning New Skills