At a recent conference, a senior executive from a well-known international company spoke about how he and the members of his senior executive team make development a priority. They have group development sessions and regularly share their individual development. Each of them works with a coach on a regular basis, too. He then went on to share that he has come to realize this practice isn’t the norm. Too often, organizations’ senior executive teams promote development in word while no longer actively focusing on it for themselves. His company’s leaders realized they must model development if they want it to be a part of their company culture. They must open the door to ensure everyone treats development time as sacred time.

How can leaders at all levels in your organization similarly ensure that they are leading the way in making development a priority?

Speak About Development

While some leaders do a great job working on self-development, and it clearly carries over to the benefit of the people they lead, they often don’t talk about how they make it a priority. Some of the best development leaders I know have shared with me in one-on-one conversations how they block time on their calendar for reading, reflection and goal development. However, they don’t share with others for fear of someone judging them for doing these activities during “work time.”

How can we transition to making development part of everyday work? One solution is to start talking openly about it. Share with your team how you have brought development time into your standard daily work. Just like we openly talk about time spent on the budget or upcoming projects, we should openly discuss time spent on our dedicated development. Employees are craving an environment that openly allows all aspects of their lives, not just perceived business aspects. Show your team that it is OK to set aside time in their schedule for this vital part of work.

Give Dedicated Time to Development

Not only should we be openly talking about development in the workplace, but we should also be modeling it by dedicating time on our calendars for it. So many leaders have good intentions, but development drops to the bottom of the list, because it’s not built into their work week. Leaders should block out time weekly, monthly and yearly on their calendars and treat it like any other appointment.

Make development an appointment with yourself, and give it the same level of importance as any other meeting you have — if not even greater! Encourage your team to do the same, and when they say that they can’t make a meeting because they’ve scheduled development during that time, honor that “appointment.”

This approach has worked well for many people. For people for whom it has failed, they often say that they booked “real appointments or meetings” over their development time. Challenge yourself to develop the mindset that your development “meeting” is a real appointment … because it is!

Budget for Development

I went to a national conference last year and was one of only a few people who where there because their organization paid for them to go. The rest of the attendees paid out of their own pocket, because the development experience meant that much to them. The current workforce expects to be a part of an organization that invests in them, which starts with leaders’ budgeting for learning opportunities for their team and themselves.

I have seen organizational leaders go straight to cutting training budgets when the organization needs to pull back on resources, and it baffles me every time. The same organization that says, “People are our greatest resource” doesn’t ask the people how to help pull back and, instead, cuts back on investing in them. This response is not a long-term solution and will cause employees to look for another organization that will invest in them. If you can’t afford to develop your workforce in today’s climate, you will soon not be able to afford being in business. Be the leader who pushes for a budget that invests in people, and let the people suggest how to invest differently.

In his book “People Glue: Employee Engagement and Retention Solutions that Stick,” Ian Hutchinson wrote, “Employee engagement is an investment we make for the privilege of staying in business.” Engagement (a large part of which is development) is now employees’ expectation. How are you ensuring that your organization meets this expectation?

Development will lead to a greater partnership between leaders and the people they lead and to greater organizational outcomes. Lead the way by both word and action by making — and keeping — a commitment to your own development … today.