Do you want to make sure you and your team are ready for the future? The key is to develop your single-biggest and often most overlooked asset: The undeveloped talent of each team member. Here are 10 elements for developing people.

#1: Everyone gets development- If you have a department with sixteen employees, each and every one of those employees deserves individual development. On occasion I will have someone in my training programs object to this concept.  They may say,  “Are you suggesting that my administrative assistant should have an Individual Development Plan? “ Yes, that’s exactly what I am suggesting.  If you want an administrative assistant who is fired up and dedicated, with a high level of morale, then one of the proven techniques for getting that kind of commitment is committing to that employees’ development.  Yet many leaders don’t do this.

#2: Have an Individual Development Plan meeting.  Each year, you should schedule an Individual Development Plan meeting with each employee.  This meeting should take around sixty minutes, and should be a conversation between you and the employee to determine their future career goals. After the discussion in that meeting, the manager and employee should decide upon a specific and measurable Individual Development Plan to be rolled out over 12 months.  The purpose of the Individual Development Plan is to help the employee reach their career goals and aspirations, personally and professionally.

#3: Individual development should not be part of your review process.  In many organizations people in a leadership role will combine the annual performance review with an Individual Development Plan meeting. They spend fifty minutes on the review and ten minutes on IDP.  These two meetings deserve separate dedicated time.  I strongly recommend that you have a separate Individual Development Plan meeting with each employee that is distinct from the annual performance reviews. The review is talking about what they did, while the IDP is talking about what they want to do. It also shows that you care and respect them, and are investing in them.

#4: It should be their responsibility.  Once the individual Development Plan meeting has occurred I believe it should be the responsibility of the employee to make sure that the IDP is rolling forward.  It is their responsibility to take the actions that were decided on for the IDP and is up to them to schedule and set up meetings with you to update you on the progress. They have to own it. Your responsibility is to make sure that they’re following up with you to track the updates, and to provide resources and work to help them achieve their goals.

#5: Make sure there is a timeline. As we all know, people lead very busy lives. If the action items are not put into a specific timeline in the calendar, they won’t happen. You have to prioritize and “calendarize”. If you don’t, nothing happens.

#6: You have to care. I know this sounds like an odd statement but in a leadership role if you’re going to help people and coach them through their individual development plans then it is critically essential that you actually care about the results.  What do I mean by that?  Well if you as a leader are not truly committed to caring about the results they will be able to tell you’re not authentic and you’re literally just going through the motions.

#7: They have to care.  When you sit down with an employee to create their Individual Development Plan, they also have to care about growing and developing, and they have to be committed to the plan.  If they don’t care about the results it’s simply an empty exercise.

#8: Don’t discount people’s dreams.  There may be an occasion where someone says during their IDP meeting “ I would like to be the CEO” If someone aspires to a much higher level position, you may think it is not realistic, or may even be a ridiculous idea.  But it is not up to you as a leader to squash potential.  You are not and should not be a dream killer! Your role and responsibility in a leadership position is to build people up and to help them move towards their dreams.  So if I have a cleaning person who tells me they want to be the CEO, it’s not fair to tell them that it’s not possible.  Tell them that will be a long road to travel, and there will be a lot of work involved, but it ‘s not up to you to tell them that they can’t.

#9: Be flexible.  It’s also important to be flexible.  There may be times when an employee decides they want to leave your department. There may be times when an employee decides that they want to leave the company.  It will be frustrating because you’ve spent a great deal of time and energy developing this employee only to have them leave.  This is where flexibility can be an asset.

#10: They may not know what they want.  I am an executive coach and work with many high-powered executives coaching them. At least 50 to 60% of the time they don’t know what they want. So don’t be surprised when an employee says, “I don’t know what I want.“ It then becomes your responsibility to be a coach and a mentor to help them decide what they want to pursue in the future.

The entire idea is to get someone motivated and fired up about what they do currently and what they want to do in the future. Their undeveloped potential is your biggest and most well-hidden asset.