Encore: What’s Possible When Leaders Own, Model & Drive Development

Catherine Allen, partner and co-founder of AO People Partners, recently joined Voice America’s Leadership Development News podcast hosted by Dr. Cathy Greenberg and Dr. Relly Nadler. As the co-author of “Conscious, Capable and Ready to Contribute,” Catherine shared insights about cultivating consciousness, enhancing core human skills, and embedding a culture of growth within organizations.  

At AO People Partners, we are passionate about inspiring and supporting the conscious practice of leadership and people development in the workplace. This interview helped illuminate some of the ways we help organizations and individuals achieve daily conscious development of their most valuable asset — their people. 

In this interview, Catherine talks about the vital role leaders play, and says leaders must own, model, and drive their organization’s development agenda. She outlines five key steps to embed a strong development-centered culture:

  1. Understand and own the leader’s role in driving the development agenda and fostering a growth mindset throughout the organization.  
  2. Model their own developmental journey. Actions speak louder than words; no amount of communication around development will make up for leaders who don’t show they value it. 
  3.  Align business strategy with people development initiatives. That clear line of sight is what will embed development into the growth engine of any organization.   
  4.  Define clear cultural principles around development; more than words, the value of development has to become the shared expectations that guide everyone. 
  5.  Embed development into the full employee lifecycle, rather than isolating it to certain roles, times of year, or levels of success. It has to be integrated into hiring, onboarding, training, performance management, and promotion processes. 

The key is making growth and learning an explicit, understood priority by creating a common language and making development part of the daily work rhythm. The key to “baking it in” to daily work is to start with the why: that an environment conducive to development also fosters productivity and business success.  

While many leaders would agree with all of the above, lack of clarity around the importance of continuous development is often the biggest obstacle. That’s why it’s crucial for leaders to develop a common language around and clear alignment for how the skills needed (critical thinking, active listening, empathy, emotional intelligence) drive business results. Leaders who personally embody a growth mindset and involve employees in co-creating developmental programs can establish that vital shared understanding. 

Thanks to everyone who tuned into the podcast last month. For those of you who missed it, listen to the podcast episode in full here (or click on video above).


Embrace the opportunity to grow your brand and reputation as a company that truly invests in helping employees grow their capabilities – even and especially during an employee off boarding experience. When viewed through the development lens, this is a valuable opportunity for employers to learn and improve organizational and people development practices, build brand ambassadors, and enable departing employees to reflect on gains in skills and capabilities.


Facilitate strategic conversations with senior leaders to explore and define ways conscious people development can be integrated into the culture and daily workflow to power your business, your people, and your employer brand. 


Incorporate learning and development objectives into retention activities to prepare employees for new roles and opportunities. This can be done through engagement and feedback surveys, recognition and rewards programs, promotion, succession planning, and more.

Social Contribution

“Build it so they will want to come, flourish, and stay, knowing that someday they may leave.

Thus, it is imperative to define what you want them to say about their growth experience with your organization and what you want the outside world to say about how you invest in and contribute capable people to society.”

-Ed Offterdinger & Catherine Allen
Conscious, Capable, and Ready to Contribute. (p. 173)

Integrated Capability Development and Performance Management

Integrate learning, growth, and capability development goals and activities into your performance management rather than relying on day-to-day responsibilities alone to create a more engaging, productive, and helpful process.


Adapt onboarding to set new hires up for success in a continuous learning environment through orientation activities that introduce the principles and practices that support everyday learning and development for each employee.


Integrate practices, principles, and tools to better evaluate a candidate’s orientation to continuous learning and development as a factor in their overall fit for a position. This provides:

  • Improved candidate interviewing, assessment and selection practices
  • Better candidate selections with learning and growth mindset
  • An early introduction to your company’s development culture focus


Embed messages about commitment to people development to attract your ideal candidates.