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Growing Great Employees

Turning Ordinary People into Extraordinary Performers

by Erika Andersen

Growing Great Employees
Buy this book at Barnes & Noble

From Bud to Blossom: A Guide for Employee Growth
Using a gardening metaphor, Growing Great Employees: Turning Ordinary People into Extraordinary Performers outlines human resource management essentials with easy-to-follow advice and explanations. At first glance, this approach may seem overly simplistic. However, Erika Andersen effectively uses it to break complex management essentials down into easily executable steps.

The result is a straightforward human resource management book that is anything but pedestrian. The metaphor and Andersen’s clearly outlined concepts help managers understand the complexity of seemingly obvious tasks. Thus, the book plots out a logical path to bring out an employee’s true growth potential.

Whether you need to hire new employees (plan your garden), correct negative behavior (prune your garden), or give staff more responsibility (let your garden spread), this book provides detailed instructions on tending to employees each step of the way.

It’s All in the Planning
In the same way you might pick plants that require little watering or that flourish in backyard shade, Andersen recommends having a clear vision of what you want from potential employees before you hire them.

Andersen breaks down this process into three steps: finding exemplars, looking for clues from the workplace and working from a list. She recommends first observing stellar employees in your organization and making note of their personality traits, skills and talents. Andersen also suggests creating a list of core competencies and responsibilities for the position, using detailed explanations of your desires. By spending time developing a list, you will have a clear idea of what you are seeking.

Playing to Strengths
Once on board, employees will require different levels of management. Like plants, employees will have different needs. Thus, Andersen refamiliarizes readers with the Social Style™ model developed by Dr. David W. Merrill. A fairly common management tool, this model demonstrates four basic personality types: expressive, amiable, analytical and driver.

Each personality type exhibits classic physical signs and patterns of behavior. For example, an amiable type may speak quietly and decide slowly, whereas a driver may speak loudly and come to conclusions quickly. Amiables generally are good at building teams, while drivers are good at getting things done quickly. The amiable’s team-building strength has a downside — indecision. In the same way, drivers may accomplish a lot, but they may not spend a lot of time thinking or gaining consensus. Thus, you may need to push deadlines and make sure amiables make decisions. With drivers, however, you must encourage getting more data and having them share input along the way.

The Art of Delegation
Inevitably, you will want your employees to take on more responsibilities. Andersen outlines basic steps in the delegation process: prepare, discuss/agree with the staffer and provide support.

Before you delegate, you must first carefully analyze a responsibility and match it with an employee’s skill sets. This means identifying the employee’s role, weaknesses and strengths. You will also want to talk to the employee about your plan, including how you see this rolling out, possible challenges and ways you can provide support. Andersen recommends getting the staffer to agree to the project and your support level, then writing a summary of the meeting. You can refer to this summary as you continue to provide support and feedback throughout the process.

Growing Great Employees provides details with actionable lists and worksheets to drive home obvious, but often overlooked, points. Reinforcing these ideas, Andersen also includes exercises at the end of each chapter, tables, decision trees and summaries of the “big ideas” to stress larger concepts.

Why We Like This Book
In her introduction to Growing Great Employees, author Erika Andersen admits she plans to “wring every last drop” from the gardening metaphor. Surprisingly, what she achieves doesn’t end up being a cliche. Rather, Andersen provides a smart and easy-to-read management book that offers logical advice and step-by-step instructions for most situations. Copyright (c) 2007 Soundview Executive Book Summaries