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‘Why’ development is important

By Ian Miller - Posted on 28 November 2013

Ian Miller, Head of Group Talent & OD, Standard Life looks at the importance of talent development…

I'm not a great reader of books but sometimes one comes along that strikes a real chord. And so it was with ‘Start With Why' by Simon Sinek. It helped me to join up some ideas and thoughts around leadership and engagement in organisations, from both a people and customer point of view.

It raised for me a fundamental question - why do you do what you do? Why do you get out of bed in the morning to work where you work? The answer to this matters whether you're reading this as a leader and/or talent developer. True engagement (and sustained performance) comes from feeling connected at work with our passions and beliefs. Whilst employee surveys help us to understand and improve engagement, you can't beat a sense of shared purpose and values to generate true commitment. People go the extra mile because they believe in what they’re doing, and feel inspired by it, not just because it pays the bills.

I've worked in leadership and organisation development for over 25 years. It may sound cliched but my own ‘why' comes from helping people to grow and develop. I've always got my biggest thrill from this, whether it be through coaching, counselling or leading teams. ‘Maturation’ is a rich and rewarding process to experience and witness - becoming more of who we are, and the best we can be, whatever our aspirations and goals.

Earlier this year we had our annual celebration for our flagship talent programmes in Standard Life, one of which we run with Strathclyde Business School. As always it was a moving event, hearing people share their personal insights, learnings and commitments. It takes a high degree of courage and humility to talk about ourselves in this way, and it always touches me to see people really engage with their development. There is something deeply human about it.

So what's the ‘so what' in all of this? In any human capital business, how well you attract, retain and develop talented people is key to success. In turn this has big implications for an organisation’s culture and leadership (why else would you want to work there or give it your all?). You can't easily copy or replicate this, but equally you can get knocked off course and lose it. Hardly a day goes by where the trust in organisations and public bodies isn't called into doubt. It can seem to the casual observer they’ve forgotten why they exist.

Secondly as leaders, our ability to inspire others depends on making an emotional connection. So to build engagement with our people and customers – and to stay true to our passions and beliefs - it’s worth reminding ourselves why are we here? why do we do what we do? and to then commit to being the best we can be at this – with the development this involves.

What's your experience of talent development? How best can we equip our future leaders with the skills they'll need? Let us know in the comments below.

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