What to Do With People Who Aren’t Ready to Grow? Ask Madeleine

reluctantgirlDear Madeleine,

I am a fairly experienced manager. I have worked in several different companies and am nicely settled at my current job. I learned Situational Leadership® II at my last company and I have been using it with my ten direct reports.  It is working out well.  

My company has recently instituted a set of manager competencies that I will be held accountable for. I’m running into a problem with one of them—Coaching for Development. 

Here is how it is defined on our HR website:

This is actually my favorite part of the job—except with two people on my team who don’t seem to care at all about developing themselves. I have tried to encourage them but they refuse to engage in conversations about their own growth and careers. 

They are both very good at what they do. I really need them in their roles but I don’t see them doing anything outside their job description any time soon.  I am tired of pushing and prodding them and they are also getting cranky about it. I am frustrated.  –Tired of Pushing 

Dear Tired,

Stop. Just stop. I so appreciate your care and diligence—but seriously, you have led these horses to water and you just cannot make them drink.  People are ready to grow when they are ready and not a moment sooner.

Communicate to your two recalcitrant folks that when they are ready to develop themselves you are at their service for direction and support, and leave it at that.

If the time comes that staying relevant in their jobs requires them to grow, let them know that they will need to change their attitude or risk losing their jobs.  This is usually a powerful motivator, but even then not powerful enough for some. Your employees have an obligation to meet you at least halfway when it comes to development. Until then, relax and expend your energy on those who value it.


About the author

Madeleine Blanchard

Madeleine Homan-Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

5 thoughts on “What to Do With People Who Aren’t Ready to Grow? Ask Madeleine

  1. Madeline – I’m curious. I so appreciate the situation that Tired is in. Yet, some companies require the manager to develop ALL of the direct reports. I know of one company that requires an evaluation of all people in a section or department, and the bottom 10% are terminated. This seems inappropriate, as some people are comfortable with “just doing their job” with no added responsibilities.

    Many years ago, a man that was my mentor told me that managing people was very simple. “Square pegs go in the square holes, round pegs go in the round holes”. That may be a touch crass, but the concept that some people are different and don’t fit all roles makes sense to me.

    It is a fascinating conversation, and I’m interested to hear what you have to say.

    Thanks for the many great posts.

  2. Steve! Ha! you made the point with the 10% to get rid of (or rate “Underperforming”).

    In my opinion there are 2 factors:
    1) people’s willingness to develop, grow
    2) company expectations

    In my corpo, every job deal has information that employee will develop skills and expertise. People should be aware of the company’s expectations – it is to be or not to be honest.

    But one thing is develop skills, and the other thing is to rate employees’ performance. If you include grow in the performance – they are failing. But if not – they should not be rated “underperforming”. Another thing is that companies force the Gaussia curve rating and this is a problem.

    I spoke once with Ken Blanchard. He told me that if the company expects me to be unhonest, act against my values, I simple should change the job, cause it will be hardly possible (or rather impossible) to change the company philosophy.

  3. In a way, the serenity prayer comes into play here. Change what you can, accept what you can’t, have the wisdom to know the difference.

    Sadly, many people feel trapped in their job, not knowing that they can make a change. That they should make a change.

    Which is why I am self-employed and have built a business. I get to influence others, instead of being forced to accept something that goes against my values.

  4. The problem we are facing in management or business society today is that of foundational differences. We all grown in a different background, meaning it will not be an easy task to change people’s character overnight. Dealing with 35 years old requires not less 30 years strategy to change his/her attitude. In my place of work, University of Illinois Springfield, I always jealous two electrical men they work and walk together like twins. Reason for this is that they have similar background. Now for this people who are not ready to grow, give them time, if they resist change, and you discover that their action can tanish company’s image, then let the organization aware. In that, you have bullet proof yourself against any future consequences that might surface. Finally, since they are in your group, never sleep with both eyes closed

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