Why Develop Your Team Members

There are those leaders, both new and old, that wonder why they should develop their team members. First off, I am glad they are at least asking “why” they should do it, rather than just asking “should I develop my team members?” The “why” shows that they understand that they have to do it at all.

When you understand why you are doing something, it is much easier to not only do what is needed but to also explain it to others.

REASON 1: You Utilize Their Strengths

By developing your team members, you can allow them to master skills that focus on their strengths. We all have things we are good at. And, we like to show off our talents. This is also true of your team members.

Talk with your team. Find out what people are good at and allow them to use those strengths at work.

One example that comes to mind is a staff member I had who liked to organize things. So, when things needed organizing, I would get her to take this on and allow her to coordinate the effort. This worked in my setting as I worked in a treatment home and we all shared one office. Her skills were used not only to organize the office but the home in general.


The great thing about her spearheading our organizing efforts was that she took pride in what she was doing and it also increased her sense of purpose which motivated her to do well within the team.

REASON 2: You Can Support Your Team Members to Embrace Their Areas of Challenge

When you are utilizing your team members’ strengths, you can also support growth in the areas that are challenging to them. As a leader, it is your job to help your team develop in areas that they are not strong in so that they can become better at their jobs.

Speak with your subordinates. Find out which areas of their jobs they struggle with and then challenge them to become better in these areas.

For example, if they are not good at organizing, team them up with the organizer of the group and give the two of them a project to tackle. This way, you are allowing the organizer a chance to mentor someone and showcase their leadership, while giving the “trainee” a chance to learn a new skill.

REASON 3: You Are Creating Subject Matter Experts

Another reason as to why develop your team members is that you will create subject matter experts (SME). By allowing a team member to focus on a skill to develop, you will be creating SMEs on your team, which can be very helpful.

When I worked as a frontline staff member in my agency, I wanted to strengthen my skills in regards to becoming better at managing clients’ behaviors. I went to my supervisor and spoke with her about this. She was able to get me on the Behavioral Support Committee.

From there, over the next 6-7 years, I helped revise and teach behavior management workshops to our staff throughout our treatment programs. This also deepened my commitment to both my supervisor and the agency as a whole.

So, develop your people into SMEs. This way, you can get the benefits of having a SME on your team and allow them to branch out by supporting other teams.

As a leader, I always look for currently existing SMEs on my team. I also look for those people I can develop into SMEs, even when the subject matter may be challenging for the person to learn.

REASON 4: It Makes Your Job More Manageable

As a leader, you have lots of responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is to know what task to delegate, when and to whom.

This is when your SMEs come in handy.

If there is a task that can be delegated to one of your team members, do it. You just need to remember, that you are still the leader and if your team fails in the task, you fail as well. Delegating does not mean relinquishing responsibility for the task. It means getting support from one of your SMEs.


How you delegate will depend on the level of skill your SME has in conjunction with how much you trust your SME. If you have a SME in a particular area and they are good at what they do, you need to give them a certain amount of trust so that they have the opportunity to succeed.

By giving them the trust and autonomy to do what they are good at, you will be creating a sense of job pride for your SME while at the same time also making your job as a leader more manageable.

This allows you to give attention to those tasks that you cannot delegate.

REASON 5: If You Are Suddenly Gone, the Team Can Move On

Even before I became a Team Leader, I would often have leadership conversations with people around me. A friend and I used to talk about how we could make our teams self-sufficient.

We would often say that if we won the lottery or got hit by a bus, the true test of our leadership would be whether or not our teams could move forward without us. If they could, we did our jobs as leaders.

To achieve that, we would develop those SMEs that would drive the team ahead. We would create cohesion within the team to the degree that they could function without us being at the helm.

So, can your team function without you? If not, your main task forward is to develop SMEs on your team so that if “you win the lottery or get hit by a bus”, your team can move ahead without you.

This is a tall order, but as a leader it is your job to create such a team.

“Leadership is not about the next election; it’s about the next generation.” – Simon Sinek

So, when you are pondering the question “why develop your team members”, I hope you will consider the reasons above. And, perhaps you can add to this list, by leaving a comment below. There are many other reason as to why develop your team members.

If you are interested in team development and in motivating and empowering your employees, also make sure to subscribe to our leadership newsletter. Just click here. In the newsletter, we teach you how to put all that leadership theory into practice.

John Maloney
John Maloney is a leadership instructor, a life coach and a contributing writer at Online Leadership Network. He has over 22 years of experience as a front line staff, team leader and program coordinator at a large non-profit organization, as well as a Masters Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with focus on Leadership in the 21st Century.



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