How to Develop Rockstars in Your Organization

Over the past few months, I have acquired a tremendous amount of lessons learned for the job hunt, finding an opportunity you love, and uncovering if you will be a cultural fit. I’ll document the best practices as soon as I am firmly landed.  In the meantime, I have observed one particular trend that is a bit unnerving:

When I ask potential employers, “Tell me about your associate personal development program[s].”, I typically get an answer similar to this:

“Our Training Program teaches our associates about new product releases.” Or “We train everyone for four weeks, then we put them on the phones.”

This is important: Training is not personal development. It’s an incredibly small part of personal development. If you only train, you will create some really good SME’s (subject matter experts), but you will not develop an organization full of rockstars or high-performing associates ready to deliver bigger and better results. Rockstars are the representatives of your team to the company. Rockstars go above and beyond on their own. Rockstars are your successors. Create Rockstars, not SME’s.

How do you create a Rockstar? (Tactical steps)

Step 1: Invest the time

Most leaders and managers make time for their associates, either weekly or bi-weekly, and most of these meetings consist of talking about what they are working on and status updates.  These meetings are important to accomplish short term objectives, but rarely look at the long term development of your reports.  My recommendation: Set up separate development meetings, which should be exclusively about long term career goals, providing behavioral feedback on competencies (or the “how” work is getting done), an open forum for your report to provide you feedback, and finally how you can interweave into their daily work life.  Make sure you prepare beforehand.

Step 2: Focus on the right things

As mentioned earlier, direct report meetings rarely focus on long term competency development.  It becomes really easy to focus on specific results and projects; do your best to be conscience and avoid it.  If your organization has specific competencies associates are measured against, they are a great place to focus, especially if you have discussed these opportunities in prior reviews or performance management sessions.  If your organization does not have a set of competencies to be measured, here are a few that make sense for any organization or direct report:


  • Interaction with peers, reports and management
  • Public speaking
  • Written, verbal and physical (time and place important as well)

Results Focus or Orientation

  • Meeting commitments
  • Delivery of consistent, high quality
  • How efficient are they in achieving results

Influencing Others

  • How to influence 360 degrees around
  • Formal and information socialization of ideas
  • Developing credibility

Integrative Thinking / Using data in decision making

  • Quantitative and qualitative (when and where to use)
  • Ability to pull the trigger and not have analysis paralysis
  • Look at the entire organization when making decisions


  • Interaction with peers
  • Working cross functionally
  • Building relationships outside of your company

Change Management

  • Getting everyone on board to change
  • Creating change management strategies

Customer Focus

  • Balancing the needs of the customer in their decisions
  • Understanding customer impact

By focusing on these types of competencies, Job Specific Learning or Training will naturally improve.

Step 3: Reinforcement and Tracking

I am a huge fan of the Learn, Practice and Feedback methodology of development (see Figure 1.1). First, create what is the goal of your report’s development (e.g. improve ability to influence across departments). Second, have your report identify ways they can learn how to improve this competency (i.e. books, blogs, webinars, conferences, training events, mentors). Then identify the resources that can assist them, and when they will have completed the activity. Do the same for practice and feedback. Practice should be the opportunities for them to safely try to use the new skills they have learned. Your report must also identify how they will receive timely feedback on their practice opportunities. Note: You should not be the resource for every activity.

Creating SME’s is a short-term fix, and that is all most trainings will accomplish. Look for long-term competency development to create the Rockstars that will lead your organization in the future. By focusing on competencies, you will suffer some short-term time loss, however, you are building a leader for your organization which should allow you to delegate more to them with confidence in the future. This will allow you to focus on more long-term and important matters, instead of short-term, urgent issues.

Do you have a strong associate development program?

If you have one, do you focus on competencies or short term results?

What are some of the challenges you are facing?




About the author

John Englund

John is a copywriter at Intradiem. He has a background in print and broadcast journalism and digital marketing with emphasis on technology.

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