Are You an Employer or a People Developer?

As a second-generation business owner, Dr. Danny Clarke remembers the day he realized he didn’t enjoy being an employer. Dr. Danny owns Clarke EyeCare Center in Wichita Falls, Texas, a company that was ranked on Entrepreneur’s Top Company Cultures list. They have also received an All-Star award by The Great Game of Business and were named the Family-Owned Business of the Year for the SBA Dallas/Ft. Worth district. Something just clicked one day for him, and he realized it wasn’t about being an employer, it was about being a developer of people. “I’ve got these employees to help me run this business, and what if I started making a difference in their lives? That’s when it really changed for me,” says Dr. Danny. Dr. Danny explains that the employer mindset would see employees in terms of how they can be used to achieve business goals. On the other hand, a developer mindset is a mindset where you look at employees as an entire person, both professionally and personally.

A developer mindset is focused on developing people, where you look at employees in terms of what you can do for them.

It’s no wonder with that kind of leadership approach, Clarke EyeCare Center has an empowered and engaged team of 30 professionals. Here are some of the ways you can adopt a developer mindset, too.

Designing Your Culture

To become a company of “people developers,” it takes some introspection and strategy from leaders at the top. What do you really want your culture to be like? What do ideal candidates look like in the future? What areas in safety do we have gaps in that we can fill by developing our people? “It requires being very intentional. It really almost influences everything you do, and asking, ‘Is this helping to develop our people?’”

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Look at Hiring Differently

Dr. Danny says that this mindset can start during the interview process with a potential new hire. For example, his team will ask a candidate to share a time when they really loved a responsibility or task from their last job. Asking this question opens up the conversation to get to know a candidate and to hear more about how she prefers to work. For example: a prospect may not have all the specific safety expertise you want them to have, but asking this question can help you know more about if she is willing to learn on the job. It will also tell you what situations they feel they can thrive in at work. It’s one more way you can look to find people who are a cultural fit. Ultimately, continuous, in-house training—another form of people development—can help someone develop that safety expertise you want them to have.

Give People Real Responsibility

Whenever you’re able, be sure to give your people meaningful projects and real responsibility that can help them grow. The great majority of your people do want to “own” something they are working on. “Everyone can be responsible for something, and it will be more rewarding for them that way,” explains Dr. Danny. If you really let someone own a project in an area they have interest in, that person won’t feel like it’s extra work either. If presented the right way, they can see it as an opportunity to grow.

Use Continuous Feedback

Feedback at Clarke EyeCare Center is constant and is an important part of being able to develop people. Feedback is used in everyday conversations and check-ins, but it’s also done during weekly, 2-hour development meetings. Those meetings are set aside to create space for feedback so that they can nip things in the bud and keep communication open and clear. “We want them to get better—so we want to know how things are going personally and professionally, and so we can be in constant discussion about those things,” he adds.

Give People the Data

If you want someone to develop as a safety professional, be sure you are giving them the resources (everything from education to tools), information, and the data that can help them to do just that. Dr. Danny says that kind of transparency is one of the greatest ways to empower your people and to see where their head is at when it comes to strategy and decision-making. Once you give them access to information, see what they can do with it. “If you give your people a little more than they can handle, with your support, they are going to rise to that challenge. With developing your people, that’s what it’s about: always giving them a little bit more.”

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