Developing people beyond their roles is about helping them to thrive. It means thinking beyond our day-to-day tasks and job titles, towards the parts of our work where personal meaning and a greater sense of fulfilment reside. It’s the nexus where individual career development, high performance and an organisations vision blend into one.


Sounds great, but where do we find the time for this type of development in our already tightly scheduled days. True, it’s not always easy, so here are four simple approaches you can use that pack all the punch of a short, sharp, shot of espresso.


It’s the end of a gruelling workday, and you’re ready to unwind with friends over some well-deserved cocktails. It’s been a particularly busy one and while you met your targets you leave the office with an uneasy feeling that something important has slipped the net. However, work is done, and you know that on days like these, catching up with friends is just the salve you need.


As you return to your desk the next morning, pondering ways to make your net a little more robust, an email notification catches your eye. Your heart skips a beat, fearing a complaint from a client or colleague about that email you failed to send. To your delight, it’s praise from a client, commending your efforts that went above and beyond their expectations. A sense of satisfaction washes over you and with it the realisation that at the end of your emails are people. People for whom your input, suggestions and support really make a difference. It’s moments like these that remind us of the profound impact our work can have beyond our immediate tasks.


Identifying Impact:

Beyond the daily grind lies a realm where work transforms into something more profound. Developing people beyond their roles means helping them to recognise the ripple effect their actions create in the world. Consider the positive impact, no matter how small of your work not just on your immediate team, but on the broader community and society at large. Research has shown that embracing this perspective fosters motivation, resilience, and enhanced performance. Imagine the ripple effect in your workplace if each person were empowered to see beyond their role and recognize their contribution in this way. Amidst the melee of emails we all encounter on the average day who amongst us really gets the time to look up and see the wood from the trees. Help someone see the ripples they’re creating by asking about the positive impact their work might be having on others.


Personal Patterns:

Just as we each have our unique tea or coffee preferences (mine’s pretty simple; black coffee, one sugar) we also have distinct patterns that shape how we find meaning in our work. Helping people to identify what aspects of tasks bring joy or fulfilment—and what doesn’t—empowers them to tailor their roles to suit their strengths and preferences better. It’s akin to allowing someone to make their tea or coffee just the way they like it—personalised and satisfying. Working from their own experience, what would make their own daily tasks more fulfilling? How can they use this knowledge to craft their own approach to their work? One of the shifts in our understanding of meaningful work over the last twenty years is not only that the desire for it is growing but that meaningful work is both found and made. Helping people to identify their own personal patterns is not only a strategy that will make their present work more fulfilling but it’s a tool they can use across the entirety of their careers.


Supporting Development:

Unlocking people’s potential sits at the very core of helping them to thrive at work and goes far beyond mastering job skills; it’s about nurturing the whole person. Start by encouraging an interest in continuous learning—help individuals identify what the next steps in their professional journey could be. What subjects or skills are they becoming more interested in? What’s going to lead to greater sustainability in their careers overtime? What experiences or training do they see as expanding their own abilities? It’s this element of self-development that distinguishes people who are thriving at work from those who are satisfied with it. Imagine the impact of a workplace culture that actively supports your individual growth and development. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that it’s these types of workplace cultures that have the greatest retention. Why would you leave somewhere that’s helping you grow?


Making Connections:

Fostering meaningful relationships within the workplace is crucial for development. No one develops their career in a vacuum. Who do they already have a connection with? Whose approach in the workplace do they admire? Making connections to support people beyond their roles doesn’t have to be as formal as a traditional mentoring relationship. Research demonstrates that almost anyone can be an influential figure in the development of a colleague. One suggestion is to adopt the simple role of being someone’s witness—acknowledge and celebrate their strengths and contributions – this plays a fundamental role in their career development. Simply sharing what you notice about their unique qualities can ignite a greater self-awareness, sense of purpose and belonging. It also provides them with real world confirmation that the strengths they suspect they have are indeed theirs. Knowing your strengths and being able to communicate them clearly is the career-development gift that keeps on giving.


In the journey to develop people beyond their roles, let’s embrace the power of impact, personalisation, development and connections. By nurturing a workplace culture that values individual development, we not only enhance organisational performance but also create environments where all can thrive. So, next time you fancy a coffee break at work ask a colleague how they like theirs and add a teaspoon of development to sweeten the experience. Any one one of these approaches can be dropped into a short five-minute conversation with any colleague at any stage of their career to move their development beyond their role. In my own experience the quality of the coffee plays a big part in the success of the process so make sure you’re fully stocked up with the good stuff. I’m a bit of a coffee snob and while these development tips may be quick, they are not an excuse for the use of instant.


Remember, the journey to growth is not a solo endeavour but a collective adventure. Let’s embark on it together, one sip of quality joe at a time.

Spread the love