My first house came with a few strings attached. It was an estate sale “fixer-upper” that required a little construction to bring things up to code. We agreed to a new roof and wiring within 30 days of closing when we submitted an insultingly low bid on the place… a bid the bank quickly accepted. Although I had limited construction experience (and money), I remember thinking at the time, “How hard could it be?” (This was 25 years before YouTube.) Ah, youth…

Long story short, what was supposed to be an August closing turned in to a December closing. Now my construction promise had to be fulfilled during an Ohio winter. Funny now; not funny then. Let’s just say my roofing “learning window” was open. Therein lies the principle of Vested Mastery. I had a vested interest in an outcome (my roof) and if I couldn’t back up my hubris by mastering the skills necessary for a winter tear-off and new shingles, it was going to be a cold winter indeed (epic fail)!

The promise of imminent performance (and potential failure) in an unfamiliar arena tends to open us up to education, direction, and an experienced guide. Shouldn’t leadership development be the same?

Ever Googled “leadership development?” With so many solutions to choose from, why are we suffering from what Forbes magazine calls a worldwide leadership void? It ain’t for lack of content…

If you’re contemplating the growth of a few talented people in your organization, give them a REASON to get better! Put them in challenging situations (aligned with organizational objectives) that test their mettle. Let them experience the anxiety of depending on the performance of a team to accomplish their own deliverables. Give them a chance to fail, feel the pain, and ache for a remedy. That’s when you get serious buy-in for that leadership development initiative.

Vested Mastery; the process of acquiring new skills because they are NECESSARY for success. It requires the managerial courage to give talent a working laboratory to experiment with what does and doesn’t work, a chance to get real-time feedback, and the guidance of a coach on the sidelines to help them fine tune their approach. That brand of development builds individual confidence, organizational capacity, and a little marketplace swagger.

Being a product of my time, I resorted to quasi-knowledgeable (and willing) friends to help me with that roof and a young Boomer’s idea of incentive — beer and pizza. Thinking back, I should have provided the “incentive” after the work. But now I can put on a roof, wire and frame a house, and hang drywall. Pain is a good teacher. Now I know.