At this point, you’ve probably heard over and over again that “investing in people” is one of the greatest things you could do as a business professional and leader. This is usually followed by #business #invest #businessjargonthatithinklookscool. But, I find it interesting that after that statement, many times you’re left wondering, “so what do I do now?” Surprisingly enough, investing in someone is one of the easiest and most fulfilling things you can do. This is by no means an exact science, but I think investing in people can be broken down into 3 key points:
1. See It as an Actual Investment-I’m a big fan of Benjamin Grahm’s book “The Intelligent Investor”. In it he talks about investing in a stock vs. prospecting. He laments how many people who see themselves as investing are actually prospecting. Meaning that people “invest” and hope for an immediate return, similar to prospectors during the gold rush. True investment is a process that doesn’t pay dividends until much later.
People are the same way. We as humans are flawed individuals, but we also are adaptive beings-we are constantly improving. Often times, people will give up on an individual due to a flaw they see or a struggle they have. What’s funny is that we all have weaknesses at some point. If someone has a good core (hard-working, diligent, a natural leader, etc.) you should encourage them and help them overcome their flaws. When you decide to invest in people, try to see them for what they can ultimately be and not where they currently are.
2. Encourage, Encourage, Encourage-Life is rough. There is no doubt about it. Think about the times you were down and how someone spoke encouraging words to you. Remember how it made you feel? How did you respond after? If you see talent in somebody, try to give them motivation to continue to develop their talent. It’s not expensive and you’ll be surprised how your small token of encouragement can reward you in the future.
I love the story of Jony Ive. He is Apple’s head of design and was hired during Steve Jobs’ famous exile. He had passion and innate talent, but he was languishing in his current role because he had no decision making power. When Steve Jobs returned in 1997, he saw Jony’s prodigious talent and encouraged it/cultivated it. Ive rewarded him by bringing about a design renaissance at Apple, which coincided with the release of their most popular products and began their reputation as the company with beautiful products. In this literal sense, Jobs deciding to invest in Ive led to Apple becoming the giant that it is today.
3. Get Out of the Way-Often times, mentors forget to take off the proverbial “training wheels” when they’ve invested in someone. As Drake once said “I’m the big homie, they still be tryna little bro me, dog.” In other words, when someone has reached a certain skill level, let them test their mettle. Just like an executive can’t be “up and coming” forever, an “investment” you made in someone is eventually going to grow. Yes, they might make mistakes occasionally, yes they might falter, but just like an investment, if their foundation is solid, combined with your investment in them, they will succeed and reward you.