Capturing the Full Human Capacity of the Workforce

Human beings have some astonishing capabilities. Just imagine, every time a DNA molecule splits, 2 billion digits of code is replicated and this happens 3 billion times a day. Yet every day, these amazing creatures are treated as simple units of production like interchangeable parts.


It was an astounding admission from an institution of higher education. A first-time manager received an eight-hour course in management. It was virtually all focused on the HR rules surrounding sexual harassment and diversity training, how to fill out the various forms that needed to be completed, and processes for hiring and firing. There was nothing that would ensure her success. Within a few months, she was accused of creating a toxic work environment

Unfortunately, this is not an outlier. It is more often the norm. Ken Blanchard reports that only 39% of all first-time managers receive any training, and fewer receive any mentoring or coaching. In an interview with a millennial, he reported that when his engineering firm accepted him as one of the emerging leaders, they gave him no training, coaching, or mentoring. A firm with $5 Billion in revenues could not spare a nickel on his success. Furthermore, reports by Gallup demonstrate that millennials are rejecting leadership training anyway. Besides, when they receive training, they go back to their organizations and cannot implement what they learn because of institutionalized systems.

The solution

In my research into how high-performing organizations approach the practice of leadership, I found that they first design a system of leadership. They create organizational DNA for their practice of leadership. Then they train, coach, and mentor every leader and manager to the requirements of the system. However, they do not merely coach and mentor their leaders for professional traits and attributes. These high performing organizations have learned that to capture their leaders’ full capacity, they must tailor their training and coaching to the whole person so that they can capture the full breadth of the human capacity and opportunity. There are several benefits to this approach:

  1. Training is designed for their specific organization. These organizations spend little on stand-alone lecture-based or even online training that does not directly connect to their particular requirements.
  2. Coaching is personalized. In one of my interviews, I learned that every leader is measured against their staff’s levels of engagement. If specific thresholds are not maintained, a coach will be brought in to assist that particular leader. Is it a surprise that this healthcare institution has received Gallups’s prestigious “Exceptional Workplace Award” every year that it has been in existence?
  3. Training is continuous. There is little evidence that one and done training has any organizational impact. In one of my case studies, I found a manufacturing firm that does training every day. From 8:00-8:05 every morning, training happens. Every job has been broken into five-minute increments.
  4. Training makes better human beings. Millennials are on record that they expect their value to be developed, which means they become better human beings in the process. They want personal development as much as they want professional development.

However, there is a caveat. This means that leadership must be understood as a designed organizational system rather than a collection of lone individuals leading based on personal values. “My team, my way, my rules” is no longer a valid way of leading. Deming said it best: A bad system will beat a good person any day.” Therefore, design a great system and add good people to the system.

Dan Edds is the author of Leveraging the Genetics of Leadership, cracking the code of sustainable team performance. He can be reached for comment at, and he is happy to take a personal phone call at (425) 269-8854

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