How to Optimize Your

The Elusive “How” of People Development

As a leader, there is rarely a more important job than coaching and developing our people.

My own skills were developed through on-the-job experience.  After twenty years, I have plenty of scenarios to draw on, which can guide me through most interactions.  But what about new managers?

I have worked across industries and companies.  They have all been similar – providing development and coaching tools (for tracking, monitoring, etc), but not much more.  Not one provided guidance for how to align different styles of coaching and development for the types of people we will manage.

I’m sure some companies do this and do it well.  Yet, most people that I meet say the same – they figured it out over time, through trial and error.

What if we didn’t have to?

Introducing Lead Inside the Box

When Mike Figliuolo reached out to me about his new book, Lead Inside the Box, I was intrigued.  We met a few years ago, when I first started my writing journey.  I was honored to receive a preview guide, and thrilled with what I found inside.

Lead Inside the Box provides a framework for how we can best invest our leadership capital (our time and energy) to our team members.

Think Inside the Box - Leadership MatrixThe framework advises measuring each person on three axes – input required (by the leader), output produced (by the team member) and behavior (of the team member).  Based on how each team member is evaluated, different types of coaching and development plans are recommended.

The result is a grid, with two types of team members in each quadrant.  For example, there are two types of Exemplars, or high output performers that require low leadership capital investment:


Rising Stars

These are our go-to team members that we first turn to with new challenges and opportunities.

These Exemplars require challenging assignments, empowerment, and space to accomplish their goals.  We should promote them internally, if possible, to continue expanding their contributions, or externally if that is their next growth opportunity.

Domain Masters

We have highly talented individuals who are not interested in moving on to the next, best thing.  Instead, they are happy to be the subject matter expert and recognized as such.  They quietly go about their jobs, providing a solid foundation for the entire team.

These Exemplars should also be given challenging opportunities and the freedom to do their work, with recognition of their contribution to the organization.

The Hidden Cost of People Development

As leaders, we are expected to manage all of our time and money resources as efficiently and effectively as possible.  What about our own time and energy?

Investing in all of our people equally is not effective.  Some individuals require more time and attention, potentially draining us if we give everyone else the same amount.  Others require less attention, like Exemplars, feeling micromanaged if we pile on the interactions.

While it may be tempting to provide equal attention to all team members, we won’t get the best return on our leadership capital.

Lead Inside the Box provides guidance on how to identify how much capital a given team member SHOULD require.  There are tips on how to wean them if they are receiving more than needed, as well as guidance as to who that extra energy should be directed to.

Common Sense for Uncommon Leadership

In all, the book is a practical and actionable framework that can be used by new and experienced leaders alike.  If you feel drained at the end of the day, or that you’re not getting all that you could be out of your team members, then this is definitely a book to consider.

As with any book or training, I will caution all readers.  Common sense, situational awareness, and personalization are still key to achieving maximum results with any new technique.

Our teams know if we are following a checklist or a script – we have to make it our own, applying awareness of the situation and individuals involved.  Otherwise, even the best approach can go awry.

Lead Inside the Box - How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional ResultsI’d like to thank Mike, and his co-author Victor Prince, for the pre-read opportunity.  I am coaching, and managing, new leaders frequently.  This simple framework has provided me with a great foundation for their learning, later supplementing the on-the-job experience they will develop.

To learn more, visit the Lead Inside the Box website, or order the book from Amazon (affiliate link).


Note that all opinions expressed in this post are my own.  While I was provided free reviewer’s notes, I purchased the book based on how impressed I was with the advanced read.  I have no financial stake in the book, just in the success of my teams.