The World of Work Podcast | Lorna Leach | Developing People


Managers should be guides, mentors, and supporters for their people because they play a critical role in fostering an environment where employees grow and reach their full potential. Although that role is critical in organizations, not every manager is an effective developer. That is what we will address in today’s conversation. In this episode, Lorna Leach shares her insights about developing people in the organization. She also talks about what managers should understand and know to make the right choices to develop people. Listen to Lorna’s advice to guide you into managing your people in the organization. Tune in to this episode so you won’t miss Lorna’s wealth of experience in non-profit management.

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Management Challenges: Developing People With Lorna Leach

We are recording one of our favorite types of episodes here at the World of Work Project. We’re recording an episode about a management challenge you shared with us. We are going to be talking all about learning and development for managers. We’ve got a special guest joining us. I’m incredibly excited about this because this person has been on the World of Work Project journey since the beginning and has been a friend to the show and the organization for a long time. We’re excited to have her here. Lorna, welcome to the show. Would you like to introduce yourself to the audience?

I lead a place-based team in a leading health charity in the UK.

You are welcome to join us. I know you’ve got a huge amount of experience in management and leadership in the nonprofit sector. I knew you in one of your previous roles when you were always flying the flag for how to create better workplaces and make it better for the teams that you were leading and that you were around. I’m excited. You are as passionate about people having a good time at work as James and I are. It’s lovely to have you here.

The scenario that we are going to be sharing is based on a couple of different submissions we had from listeners, and we’ve merged them. The scenario is that we are thinking about a manager of a team of six that’s been in the role for several months. Their department head has said they’re positive about people prioritizing their own development. They want people to take control of their own development, but it’s a small organization, and there are limited resources.

The question is, in this scenario, what can this manager be doing to enable their development and the development of their team members? That’s what we’re going to be exploring. I’m going to start with personal experiences. Lorna, is that something you’ve experienced? Is this something you’ve seen elsewhere, either in organizations you’ve worked in or in your networks?


The World of Work Podcast | Lorna Leach | Developing People


I’m in an organization now where that isn’t the case. Until several months ago, I worked in small organizations and charities that didn’t necessarily have a big budget for earning and development. They didn’t necessarily have that process embedded into how they work. It was a bit of a muddle to try and work through how you would put that into practice with your team.

I look back on my time in smaller organizations. I flip-flopped between bigger and smaller organizations a couple of times in my career as I moved through it. When I joined a small organization, it was such a shock to me that this wasn’t going to happen unless I did it. What was even more interesting was that if I had someone who was early in their career on my team, I realized I had to make sure they were at least thinking about that stuff. Is that something you saw?

Learning And Development

I’ve noticed that you have to control people regardless of how experienced or not they are in terms of the years they’ve been in the workforce. It’s almost an uncomfortable and awkward conversation with learning and development. In one of my teams, I had staff that was older than me and had been through many organizations.

You should control people regardless of how experienced or not they are in terms of the years they’ve been in the workforce.

Having a conversation with them is weird to start off with. Turn around and say, “Have you thought about your professional development and what training or skills you might want to sharpen?” For them, it was like, “We’re going to have a proper conversation about this.” That’s unusual. Once you get into a pattern, everyone benefits from it, both people who can share what they know but also people who can and want to learn new things.

You mentioned the benefits. We pick topics that are important and useful. Why do you think we should talk about this more? What happens when managers get it right? What happens when they don’t?

When I started paying attention to it, it was not something I had when I started my career and not the first couple of times I was a manager. I didn’t twig. Once I started to properly use it and start bringing out the skills that my team had got and help them think about how they could be the best at what they are but also what they want to be in the future, what it does is help with a better distribution of resource.

You start to delegate better because you know there are members of your team who have a real passion for something or want to end up doing that work. You can make sharper decisions about delegation. It also opens up more trust between a team because it’s not me as the manager saying here’s the best advice for what you want to do or here’s how to work through something.

You are able to buddy people up and share experiences. They get more confident speaking up and saying, “I’ve got some experience. I can help you with that. I’ve done this before. I can lend you my stuff to work through it.” Equally, being brave enough to go, “I don’t know how to do this. I want to learn who can help me.” It strengthens the relationships and capabilities of your team.

On quite a transactional basis, when it doesn’t happen, people leave sooner in small organizations because there are less places for them to go. My experience is I will talk about this until I’m blue in the face or whatever the metaphor would be. The small organizations fundamentally have to help people leave. They can’t stay forever because there isn’t a job.

You can keep them longer and get more out of the relationship. They can get more out of their workplace with you if they’re happy by giving them more space to learn and develop. For me, speaking anecdotally from a sample of one, I stayed at least a year longer in two jobs because I felt that the place that I was in was a place where I was still growing. Even if the job itself, I was moved past. Any other thoughts about like what happens when we don’t do it? Aside from that

People leave, and you don’t get the most impactful and successful work if you don’t encourage that development. You get the experience and knowledge of that individual and maybe their manager’s input through their one-to-ones and that challenge in that perspective. If you start thinking about training and development, you start to broaden someone’s ideas and horizons. The more ideas you’ve got going into finalizing a program, the better it is and the more balanced it is in relation to the people who are going to experience the outcome of that piece of work. When you don’t do that stuff and don’t invest in it, you end up with things that aren’t as impactful as they could be.

The World of Work Podcast | Lorna Leach | Developing People

Developing People: The more ideas you’ve got going into finalizing a program, the more balanced the people who will experience the outcome of that piece of work.


I was thinking about what you’re saying. It’s occurred to me that the opposite is true around people leaving. If you don’t expand someone’s horizon and help them grow, they get stuck. We’ve all seen this, particularly in purpose-before-profit organizations. When you care about the subject, you see people stay longer. It is good for them in terms of stretch and satisfaction.

Sometimes, I’ve gone into organizations, and I realize the only reason they haven’t considered it is because they don’t know what else is out there. They don’t understand their skillsets. They’re like, “I’m good at this job.” I’m like, “You could do so much more.” I’ve seen people who are frustrated and stuck. If someone had spent a little bit of time with you, you would’ve grown and moved on. In the short term, they would’ve lost you. You might even have come back in a different role, but you wouldn’t be stuck here feeling resentful. Is that something that you recognize?

I recognize some of my colleagues and past roles that have been in that position. There’s always this idea that if they’re being trained up, they’re gonna leave and take that somewhere else. I’m like, “Yeah, they might.” They will, and in truth, that’s what we want because they’re spreading the message of how we do things and what we do somewhere else. They’re talking positively about working for us as an experience. We get a higher caliber of people applying for jobs because they can see the benefit of that.

I admired the internship that we had at London Sport, where you would have students coming in on a year’s placement. They talked positively about the training and developing support they got over that year instead of potentially some experiences their friends were having as a bit of a dog’s body. That’s not what London Sport was doing. They put time and effort into training. It would pay off the following year because we’d get even more high-caliber students from those universities and other universities going, “This is a good placement, and I want it.” It had a benefit.

For those reading, Lorna and I worked in organizations that crossed paths in a number of ways over my earlier career. When I was at one particular small organization, I left that place several years ago. I am still the proudest thing of everything. The proudest thing I am is where the people who were in our organization went afterward. I’m still prouder of that than anything else because there’s something beautiful about being able to open someone’s horizons and help them find their skills and strengths.

I understand that big corporate organizations have huge workforces. There are lots of places you can move people. They’re thinking about that, but even if this scenario is about small corporations. If you’re in a big corporation, you can still help a person find their next job in the organization somewhere else. I don’t want to go cliche, but if you love them, set them free. Be part of their success story. Don’t be the reason that they’re still there doing the job they were doing several years ago because you didn’t give them the skills they needed.

If you love them, set them free. Be part of their success story. Don’t be the reason that they’re still there doing the job they were doing four years ago because you didn’t give them the skills they needed.

I like it when I hear back from previous team members that I’ve line-managed. They’re telling me about what their next career step is or what they’re doing now. There’s an element of being like, “I knew you were going to be that awesome. I could sense it. I’m glad I managed to give you the confidence to move into those things.”

I’m not the only part of that, but it makes me feel vindicated for having faith in them, particularly when I was maybe giving them something challenging because I knew where they wanted to go eventually. There was more resistance from the rest of the organization about me handing that particular piece of work over to them and feeling like it was the right thing. They did get the level of support they needed from me to benefit from that. They’ve gone on to amazing things off the back of it.

Let’s look at this scenario in more detail. We’ve got this person. They’re managing a team of six. They haven’t been in the role that long. They are in the first several months of the role. They’ve got an organization that’s positive about development but with limited resources. What would you do or what have you done in that situation in the past that you would say, “That’s the way to do this, or approach this?”

Working With Limited Resources

It’s about working out what we mean by limited resources. People think that training and development are about having a budget that means you can pay for a course. That’s the bit that we are light on resources for. There are ways to deal with that. The previous organizations I’ve worked for have gone out for funding. I’ve applied for funding. When you are looking at full-cost recovery, you put in the things to do with the program itself, including training and development for the recipients. Training and development for your staff to deliver that work is justified.

Looking for smart things like that where you can increase your budget for the things where you need to pay for a course, but the other side of it that I prefer to look at and find most useful is starting to think about the assets you’ve got within the organization in terms of what have people been doing previously and are those skills useful to somebody else within the organization?

How do you set up some of that mentoring? How do you do some of those shared learning events? Try to set up some of that understanding that we have a duty to each other to share what we’ve got. With that resource question, if you start breaking it down into different ways people might learn and develop, you can start thinking about what we have available. Have we got a couple of new programs about to start, and do they need to be project-managed?

There are a couple of people who would like to develop their project management skills. Can we help them by having them supported by somebody who’s experienced in that, but they’re responsible for sorting out that project and making the decisions? This person is there to mentor them and coach them, but they’re going to do it. That’s a huge skill development for them, but it hasn’t cost the organization anything. We were going to run this program anyway. It has cost the organization, but it’s cost a bit of time for somebody who would’ve ended up project managing that themselves if they hadn’t given it and delegated it. There are things like that we can be smart.

I’m always surprised, and this is coming from being in a small organization where we all sat in the same room. I’m always surprised by how little work shadowing we see and how little attendance we see at meetings or note-taking. I never forget one of my bosses. Any excuse he could find to have an extra couple of people at the board meeting for organizing the papers or taking notes because he was like, “I don’t need this. It’s nice to have this, but I don’t need it.”

What we need is for you to be exposed to this environment because it’s great for us as a team. If you understand what goes on in there, you’re much more likely to understand why I’m telling you what to prioritize. The next time you go to an interview, you can talk about the fact that you were on board, and not many people at that level can.

For me, what I learned was in the social interactions after meetings where I’d gone along with someone, whether it was the head of IT. I’d go to something, and he’d be like, “I want you to come with me. I want you to understand what these people think.” He’d take me for a cup of coffee afterward, and he’d be like, “Tell me what you saw.” I was like, “I was surprised you said that. Why did you say that?” He’s like, “Let me explain my tactics.” That narration of someone better at it, I feel like I see less of that. Hybrid and remote contribute to it. I do get that, but all it costs is the organization is a little bit of that person’s time. Even a couple of chances to attend things that you’ve never attended before can skew your view of an organization.

Follow-up matters. We run events at the moment for the wider workforce and bond our organization. One of the important things is that after the event, we have a debrief. It’s not saying, “Do we put the event good?” Although that’s a part of it. It’s the practicalities. What would we do differently next time? What maybe didn’t go the way we wanted it to?

All of those things are learning experiences. Taking that five minutes after a meeting to go, “What did you think about it?” We invite the team to come to senior leadership meetings. Sometimes, they’re involved in discussions, but largely, they’re coming to observe. I’m always like, “If you come along following that meeting, we can have a chat about it. You can ask about what went on or some of the decisions made.”

Improve Giving Feedback

It’s putting that effort in to go, “You can ask me the bits you weren’t certain of.” Those are the bits that, as managers, if we are serious about the development of our teams, need to be built into how we behave. I’ve been trying hard, and it’s an area I’m weak at. Something I’m trying to improve on is giving feedback. We’re good at doing negative feedback. This was bad, but I’m trying to give positive feedback.

I’m trying to see something and go, “That was good. This is why I felt it was good and why I thought it was useful. Would you like to talk about it more?” Lots of time, people need encouragement that the thing they’ve done, the way they’ve presented, and the way they’ve talked through something was well received and understood at a senior level and do more of that. That’s great. I do think that follow-up is important to development.

I’m going to be a bit controversial here. I love coaching-based questions and skills. Managers should have coaching skills. Sometimes, managers are afraid to give their way, like, “Here’s why I did it this way. Here’s I would’ve done it.” There’s a balance. You want to give people a chance to share their views and perspectives first.

The times when someone looked me in the eye and said, “It is not how I would’ve done it. Here’s why.” It wouldn’t have been any better, but if nothing else or you’ve got a second option, you know you’ve got a second option in the future. Taking the time to explain why you’ve gone about things a certain way and are letting people think about it’s that the follow-up is everything.

The World of Work Podcast | Lorna Leach | Developing People

Developing People: The follow-up matters.


I wonder if that’s why things like work shadowing and training don’t deliver quite what people want them to. It’s the same with training. There are a number of times I’ve seen people go into training. Because the manager doesn’t know what’s in it, there’s no follow-up of how it’s going to be applied, and it drifts. It’s the knowledge they have, but it doesn’t necessarily get applied.

I’ve tried before with usually project teams where someone needed to go on a bit of training or development to explore the topic or the theme that’s going on. I’ve always been, and I try to do it to all my staff, like when you go, either before you’re going along with this thing, work out. If there’s some stuff other people might want to learn from this, they’re not going. Can you find that stuff out for them? When they’re going to things conferences, you’re going to hear lots of things that will be useful to other people. Jot them down and share that information. That’s helpful.

I always try and say afterward, “How is this going to change what we do?” If the answer is everything I heard gave me confidence that what we’re doing is the right thing, that’s great. That’s still something useful. It’s backed up our decisions. You’ll usually learn something. If we added that to what we’re doing or changed how we’re doing it, this would be even more impactful. That’s what you’re trying to encourage.

The experience of being there on the day is great, but how does this instinct back? I try to build that into my one-to-ones with staff. There’s an element of learning and development. We discuss what’s going on. If they’ve been to something, I want to understand how that has changed their opinion about the work they’re doing or could change their opinion of the work we are doing.

You and I both know there are many ways that we can develop people. There are many topics. It’s overwhelming sometimes. Is it training or shadowing? You’ve got the topics. Is it about confidence, feedback, or technical skills? What do you think is important for a manager to know or understand about the person? Either about themselves or if they’re thinking about the development of someone on more of their team, what do you think is important that they should know, ask, or explore to try and figure out the right thing for them?

I have a structured system that I used when I first started having this conversation. I ask staff members ahead of the meeting to think about it from two perspectives. One is what I need to do to be the best version of whatever I am right now. It’s that this job requires X. Where do I think I potentially could be stronger? The other one I asked them to do was to do the classic primary school teacher. What do you want to be when you grow up? I say, “Think about where you want to be in the future. Let’s understand those two things.”

For some of my staff in the past, it’s that future version. They’re not ready for that yet. They’ve openly said to me, “I thought about it. I’m not ready to think about what I want to do next. I want to get this right. That’s great. That helps me focus on that side of things.” For others, it’s a balance between the two. They might not know where they want to be in the future, but they want to help unpick that.

That helps me with my starting point in terms of that question. I’m trying to get the balance of what I’m doing with them to match those two things. They are doing some stuff that helps them be brilliant at what they’re doing right now, but they’re also doing some things that help them be the future version of themselves.

The other part that I bring into the questions is I start to ask them things about how they like to learn and what it is that they find most comfortable. The idea of shadowing somebody isn’t going to work for everybody. They’re not going to be comfortable with that. Some people love going on a virtual online course. They’re happy with that. Others hate it because they feel like the interaction isn’t there in the way that they would want it to be. Until you sit down and think about it, you don’t start to understand whether you are a person who likes to read articles and take notes or not. I try to understand the individual’s preferences so that I can start to think smarter and align better with their needs.

What about you? When you’ve been in this position, and there have been limited resources, you talked earlier about self-awareness and being in touch with that. It’s a bit meta. I’m thinking about me thinking about what I need at the moment. Do you have go-to’s that you’ve always known worked for you in terms of learning? Do you have a list that you keep? In what way do you decide what would help and serve you in your role or situation?

Eye-opening for me was when somebody turned around and said, “Why should your learning development be tied to the organization you’re working for in the job you’re doing now?” That was a light bulb moment where I went, “Yeah, I’m in control of this.” I have a personal development plan that spans five years. It does that balance of what I need to be brilliant at this, what I need to be, where I am trying to go for the future, and my go-to. When I haven’t been able to work out, what do I think the future should look like? I’m not planning ahead. I know I’m going to be here at this point.

What I tend to do is look at job roles that are out and go, “What does it say on the list of job descriptions? Where are the ones where I’ve never had experience with that? My experience with that is limited. If I wanted this job, I’d have to have that.” That’s when I started having not so much a list of it, but I’m more aware of it. There was a period in time when I hadn’t done anything around risk management. I was like, “I’m going to need that. It comes up all the time. How am I going to get that experience?”

I sat down with the person in our organization who handled and built our risk register. I said, “Explain it to me. Talk me through it.” The next time I planned a program, I tried to apply what he’d built to that program. I sat down with him again and said, “I’ve tried to apply it. Can we talk through what I’ve done?” He was brilliant. He gave me 45 minutes the first time round and half an hour the second time round. I’d got more confident at it. I’d started to go opportunities of where I was doing it.

I look broader than work. There’s that big jump between never being a line manager and suddenly being a line manager. It seems to be the line that takes forever to cross because they’re like, “You haven’t got that experience. We don’t want you for this job.” It’s a hurdle for career progression. I started looking at it more broadly. Where have I got experiences akin to being a line manager that I can start talking about when I’m saying that I could do this job and start thinking broader than my actual core role? What it said made it easier for me to find opportunities to do it and talk about it when I was trying to career progress.

It’s interesting because, on the one hand, I’m passionate about organizations having and supporting learning and development. Autonomy and control have to sit with the person because, fundamentally, we know what motivates them. Without sounding like a real cliche, you have to take control of your own life, and you don’t want to be on someone else’s plan. Several years ago, that was a good idea because there was a high chance you could stay in the same organization or two organizations. It’s not like that anymore. Having this much broader perspective of your life and work is valuable.

On the flip side, if you are a manager, you are trying to help both your team and the individuals in your team. You want the team to perform and do what the organization is seeking from you as a team. What do you think is helpful to think or know about the organization that you’re in as a manager to be able to make good choices for the development of people?

Leadership’s Commitment In Development

The first part is the leadership’s commitment to laying in development and their view on it. If they’re positive and proactive about it, it makes having some of those conversations a lot easier. If they are more dubious about whether it does have an impact or feel that doing it means staff will leave, it’s a much more difficult conversation. I’ve experienced both of those. I’ve had to justify some of the things I’ve done, which have been about staff development, when faced with a bunch of people who were like, “We don’t think you should be developing the staff. We’re quite happy that they should do what they’re supposed to do, and that’s it. That’s the first thing to understand.

If they’re committed to it, understand what the budget is that already sits there because chances are there is a budget. Because it’s not aligned to specific pieces of work, the person who knows about it is HR. Getting an awareness of if there is a budget, how do you apply for it, how do you access it, and what are the boundaries to that? That gives you a clearer picture of the things that might come up from your team that don’t work.

It’s the ability to go, “Are we in a learning culture as an organization? We’re committed to it. What are the other ways that we are showing people that we are happy to teach, learn, and share that information across the organization? What are the behaviors that need to be seen, leaders from managers that encourage staff to start taking responsibility? It should be the individual’s perspective that helps them decide what they want to learn. Having the confidence to speak up, ask for it, or share what they know has to come from seeing that modeled by senior leaders within the organization. There’s a commitment that has to be made within the organization to encourage that to become a culture.

James and I did a piece of work. They’re not a competitor of yours but a similar-sized nonprofit in a different area of charitable action. We did this piece of research about what influences people’s experiences. We went back to the academic literature, but we didn’t put it in. We kept it. James and I had it in. We had a lot of work and a lot of the work around culture. We’d kept it to the side.

In the meantime, they went out and asked what good personal development looks like. One of the leading organizational themes looks like when leaders advocate and create space for it, they ask about it, show interest in it, demonstrate it, role model it, and give their time to help others. That was one of many themes. It was interesting because I was like, “Everything is we know, we see and experience, but sometimes we forget because we’re busy.”

Sometimes, we’re busy trying to find the money to fund it as leaders and managers. We’re like, “Yeah, found the money. You’ve got it, and off you go.” Sometimes, it’s the question, after how’d you find it, what was it like? What you have taken from it is important to you, and you want to see me move forward.” That’s a great shout.

How do you stay aware or think people should or could be aware of what good stuff is out there for managers in particular? We’ve talked about this before, both in programs that we run and anecdotally. It’s difficult to find your way through some of the management stuff out there. Do you have a particular routine or sources you go to? What do you look at?

On top of looking at your show, which we’ve already been to since the beginning, and the stuff you guys do, if I go back to the comment I made earlier about understanding how different people want to learn things and find things out that if you build on that, you get lots of different avenues. What I mean by that is you can end up with people posting. In my organization, I’ve set up folders to do with areas of interest. Some of it has to do with things like psychological safety, which we started to be interested in but don’t know what to explore. The other stuff is to do specifically with the roles within the organization and the work that we do.

What we are encouraging is people to put links to things in there. If they like listening to podcasts, put the podcasts you listen to in there and nudge people to listen to them. If you like reading stuff, put the articles that you’ve been reading in there. My go-to is if you find something out, share it because you don’t know who else will find that useful or want to learn from it.

I come across loads of things. One of my favorites is the Harvard Business Review’s daily management tip. It covers all kinds of stuff like self-management, leadership, and marketing. I love that tip every day. The amount of times I get a tip through that’s something to do with something a member of staff has talked about. I’m like, “I’ll forward that to them because then there’s a link to an article that backs it up, and we’ll give them further information.”

That’s helpful when you hear about events that are coming up or workshops. If you know what people are interested in, it makes it easy to spot something that you’ve said you’re interested in and send it. By behaving like that, they get the confidence to do the same back, pay that forward, start passing things to other people, and go, “You mentioned you were interested in this. This is useful for your area of work.” Spotting, understanding, and appreciating all those different formats is useful. If you are not the person who goes into podcasts, you might want somebody else to investigate rather than you taking on a task that is arduous to you. Find those resources and share them.

The way we are consuming at the moment, like social media and videos, means that it’s quite an individual experience, especially with algorithms. The joy of having something shoved onto your timeline from someone completely different from what you might have explored is important. When the world is narrowing all the time with the algorithm, it’s constantly telling us, “No, you told us you like this.” If you do that to me, I get this shove of data onto my algorithms. You’re like, “Lorna has recommended this. I’ve never even heard of this person before.”

I’d love us all to fight that by sharing it more, which is a great point. Thinking back to this manager that we’re talking about, this person’s running their team. They’re trying to do this. They haven’t faced this problem before. What skills and capabilities are going to help them? What’s going to help them be better at supporting their team in development?

If they’ve never done this before, they will need some support to do it. They’ll need to use their manager and one-to-ones to talk through what they’re trying and what is working and what isn’t, and to openly acknowledge the bits where they’re struggling with it. Sometimes, you’re having that conversation with someone who is not good at doing that personal development with their staff. If that was me, it might be that my line manager was terrible at it, but I still needed to have a conversation with them. I still need to have a sounding board situation.

There are times when that has been my line manager. Regardless of whether or not they’ve wanted to talk to me about it, I’ve needed to talk about it. It’s my one-to-one. We are talking about the things I need to talk about. There are other times when I’ve got a friend who messages you. I need someone who knows what I’m talking about or knows the sector or the situation well enough for me to be able to go, “I’m having this problem. Where can I look to help me work through that?”

It is a confidence thing to somebody else about their personal development because you are fearful, or I personally have been fearful in the past. Am I about to offend this person by suggesting they might need training? That’s not where I’m coming from. That’s not the intention I have. Are they going to react in a way that is like, “Are you telling me I’m rubbish?” It’s like, “No.”

It takes confidence to talk to somebody else about their personal development.

You come to the conversation with that fear. I’ve never been challenged like that by any of my staff. I have line-managed around about 25 people in my career so far, which makes me sound older than 41. Trt’s never been queried like that, but it has always been my fear. The organization hasn’t been there long. It was still my fear speaking to those staff and saying, “Where are we from a learning and development perspective? What would be helpful to you?” None of them came back and went, “What do you think I’m terrible at my job because that’s not the truth.”

As I was asking the question, I was thinking about what we have in connected management because I was trying to go through which of the things we know are useful and helpful. I will come back every time to self-awareness. If you, as a manager, have an understanding of your own limitations and can articulate it to that other person, they will never feel like you’ve described. You’re a girl standing in front of a boy. You’re a person standing in front of another person saying, “Let me share where I know I’m trying to grow and how valuable I find it. Let me talk to you and hear about what you do. If you haven’t thought about it before, I can help you think about that.”

It’s almost like a hygiene factor. If you don’t have that self-awareness and haven’t worked to build that understanding of yourself, it’s almost inevitably going to come across poorly. If your manager has no self-awareness and is saying to you, “Where do you think you can grow?” I’m a less compassionate person than the average person, and other people are better about it. My first response is going to be, “I don’t know what are yours. You don’t seem to be aware of where you are not getting it right here. Why are you asking that?”

I went around that circle and suddenly thought, “Yes, it’s got to be for me. It’s got to be self-awareness.” The other thing is I love Carol Dweck’s work, but I don’t like the phrase growth mindset because, in itself, it feels specific. It feels like not a scaler. It feels much more like you either have it or you don’t. I think you have to believe that everyone has space to grow. I don’t know if that’s a scale, but I think you have to believe that.

I agree with the comment about the growth mindset. I’ve had a big debate on that. We had a debate about whether it was one or the other. No, but sometimes, you are faced with a situation where you know that that person can develop and be different. They recognize that this is an area they need to improve on, or they completely lack the confidence even to be brave enough to try that.

You have to, as a manager, think carefully about how to start them on the journey without saying to them, “This is an area you need to develop. I’m going to be doing these things.” You end up having to tactically try to shuffle and move things that are stretching and helping them develop without them realizing it. You have to say it until you get them to a certain point where they’re ready to have that conversation.

There are times when I’ve got that right, and there are times when I’ve got that wrong. It is worth it to be able to sit there and think carefully about that person and where I want them to be because, if I can get them there, my life and their life will become a lot easier. We do greater things. It is worth it. For those scenarios, it is slow and subtle. It is test and learn.

We’ve got time for one more question about the actual scenario, which would be my favorite question. If you could give this person one piece of advice, what would be Lorna’s advice?

Break it down and approach it tactically in terms of what you’ve got. Think about all of the different possibilities, work out which ones are easiest, start with those, and work towards the harder ones. Get yourself the scenario you want. If you haven’t got a budget, use the things that don’t require any money. Work with the people who benefit from that the most and start working and worrying about the others.

The World of Work Podcast | Lorna Leach | Developing People

Developing People: Think about the different possibilities, work on which ones are easiest, and start with those before working towards the harder ones. So, get yourself the scenario you want.


It’s okay for two of your team to be developing and getting that support first because they’re the ones ready for it and be slowly maneuvering the others into that place. What’s not okay is to not think about the others. Don’t feel you have to do everything immediately, all at once. Break it down, work through it logically, and take your time, but be mindful that you’re always working towards this final point of where everyone is on that development journey.

My advice would be to spend more time with other managers. I am always surprised by how little time is, even within organizations, but I spend loads of time with my team, like my boss. I’m like, “What about other managers outside of your team? What about other managers in other organizations or sectors?” It’s the way I learn. Every time I talk to you, I learn something new about how you’ve done something. That makes me go, “I need to change my thinking around that.”

I worry that some of the managers who care most about this prioritize their own learning the least and inadvertently hinder their team. They’re so busy thinking about their team and the organization that they’re not expanding their own horizons. When managers learn more, by nature, you almost can’t learn from that if they are a sharing person. Your point about breaking it down and not trying to fix everything at once and not trying to move everyone at once is that I would also say to go out and be a bit more external or engaged with others and learn how others do things.

The one that always shocks me is, Lorna, you are in an organization with all these brilliant people. We do workshops for a couple of organizations. They have all these managers sign onto these workshops, and they all come. Every time we say to them, our advice is that you could have 80% of these conversations without us. We always love helping you. Don’t forget to talk to each other when you get stuck. They don’t sometimes.

I have a network of managers across those different organizations and my own organization. I talk to them about what they’re doing and what’s going on. I ask them questions. Sometimes, I’ll ask 3 or 4 of them to get a view. I go to someone specific because I know the scenario they’re in. The strength you get from talking to other people is unbelievable and an easy way to learn.

That’s one of the reasons that triggered me. You were talking about the risk story. I love the idea that mentoring doesn’t have to be like some big, grand thing. It could be 30 to 40-minute chats, where you could explain this one thing from someone else in the organization. I don’t think we do that enough. That is all we’ve got time for in this scenario. That leaves me to ask you one last question.

We are passionate about personal reflection on the World of Work. We like to be a bit meta sometimes. We like to ask guests what they’re taking from the conversation. That’s the question. We’ve talked about management and personal development for managers. What are you taking from this conversation?

It’s the point you’ve made right at the end because I haven’t yet thought about that in my current organization in terms of asking my staff whether they connect beyond their direct pool of people. We’re a huge organization. There are people at their level across the entire organization who have different experiences and are facing different things. I’m not sure that they are connected in that way. I want to make sure that they have and are aware of that opportunity. I don’t think I’ve explored that well enough with them. That is a reflection for me. I’d like to go back and work through that with them.

That story about the risks stuck with me. In the world of paid programs, large interventions, and year-long mentoring relationships, I don’t think it needs to be that complicated, ironically. The academic evidence research shows us that development networks are far more powerful than one-to-one, but they are more influential than one-to-one. When we understand how we can seek lots of advice from lots of different people and support and mentorship, we are much more likely to benefit from it. That story is going to stick with me for a while. It’s going to make me look at everyone and go, “In 30 minutes, what can I learn from you? What problem am I could you solve?”

I used to do that with our interns. Someone in the organization that you’re curious about how they got to where they got to and what it is they do. They’d be like, “Yeah, there is. It’ll be whoever.” I’d be like, “Book a meeting with them. They’ll tell you. They’ll give you their life story and explain how they got to where they got to. Ask them for half an hour. Most people will give that time. They’re willing to. I’ve rarely met somebody who goes, “No, I’m too busy.” I’ve asked two execs of organizations before. I was like, “Could I have a bit of time with you to understand your view on where things are and what’s going on?” They’ve always been brilliant.

To understand your view on where things are and what’s going on will always be brilliant.

There was a guy who was my manager for a while. I was on the leadership team with him. He’s a lovely man. He used to message people on LinkedIn. Sometimes, he said yes, and sometimes, they didn’t answer, but all they could do was say no, yes, or not answer. “He was like, “If I did 100 and 1 comes back, but it’s a useful conversation, why wouldn’t I do it’s free?” He used to offer to buy them a coffee. He said, “I’ll come to you. I’ll buy you a coffee.” There’s something brilliant about that.

That’s all we’ve got time for now, but it’s been an absolute. It’s been like putting a cozy blanket around me chatting to you about this. It’s a topic I care about, and I’m passionate about. It’s a topic you care about and have done a lot of thinking around. That’s been a helpful conversation for some of the managers who are facing this at the moment. It’s time for me to say a massive thank you to you, Lorna, and goodbye from me. I hope to see you all again soon.


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About Lorna Leach

The World of Work Podcast | Lorna Leach | Developing PeopleLorna Leach has significant experience in non-profit management, has managed placed-based teams in the physical activity sector and currently works in a regional leadership role at a leading health charity.