Julie Winkle Giulioni offers a bracing analogy for leaders who are truly interested in developing the potential of their followers – whether those followers are employees, volunteers or your own children.

Giulioni, coauthor of Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want, says developing others “is like brushing your teeth.” Her point is that to be effective, you have to do it every day.

“Helping others develop, learn and grow ... may be among the most fundamental responsibilities human beings have to one another,” she says. And yet, in workplaces and homes, the process of development can get pushed to the side by the pressures of immediate challenges.

In the workplace neglect of human development is often – and unfortunately -- rationalized by two assumptions:

  • that it’s an HR function rather than a leadership responsibility; and
  • that it can be addressed adequately in the annual review process.

Both assumptions are wrong – and they undermine both individual and organizational growth and achievement.

Leaders can no more leave personal development to others or to a single moment in the year than they can leave the task of brushing their teeth to others or schedule it just once a year.